“Your hair’s on fire.”
“No, pants. You’re supposed to say pants.”
“What is this pants? When you say a lie there is the fire, yes? In the hair?” He’s smiling at me all teeth and snark. He’s trying to be cute. Trouble is, it’s working.
We’ve been doing this dance for three days, him playing Visitor From Somewhere and me playing Local Girl Guide. We met on a street corner when he asked for directions to “The Broadway, with the singing plays.” I looked up at him, squinting into the heat, and that was it. We walked up six blocks and over two, me getting into more and more trouble with each passing sidewalk square. I don’t want this, don’t have capacity for a summer flirt. But here we are.
“It doesn’t matter anyway, I’m not lying.”
“You lie, Querida. You are beautiful, but you lie.”
That’s what he calls me, Querida. I’m not even sure he knows my name. We’re on the subway, holding onto the same steel pole, our hands almost touching. We don’t talk much, the language barrier too great or the need too small. Mostly we walk. I show him the city and his arm brushes my arm, my shoulder. He smiles and smiles and looks at me. Watches me. It makes me nervous.
“Where now, my lovely guide? What place will you show me?”
He’s tall, taller than me, eyes bright and open like he’s surprised to be alive. I shouldn’t look at his mouth, shouldn’t think about his lips, but I do.
“You’ll see,” I say, wondering how long I can keep this up.
The cramped subway car lurches to a halt and his hand slides slightly, brushing against mine from wrist to thumb. I feel it in my fingertips and my ribcage and my kneecaps. I don’t want this, don’t want to be caught up in some ridiculous thing that has no happy ending. I need stability and commonality and grown-up life, not handsome foreigners with beautiful hands.
We walk up the stairs into the bright sunshine and suddenly his lips are on my lips. It’s hot, so very hot, the sun and the summer and the street and his mouth on mine. He pulls away, just enough for our eyes to focus, waiting for a reaction. I don’t know how long he’ll be here or his last name or his favorite movie. So I hesitate. Consider. Think too hard.
Then I smile.
I take his hand.