I held myself perfectly still as he approached as if movement might scare off or encourage him. He was now so close that I could smell the mixture of cologne, sweat, rosewater and sheep wool that scented his body. He took my sugar necklace between his fingers and lifted it to his lips. I could feel his warm breath on my cheek and he lowered his mouth to my necklace, kissing it.
He gazed up at me carefully and lowered his lips again to my necklace. This time his lips grazed my neck as he tore into the silken strands of sugar that lay against my skin. My scarf fell to my shoulders releasing my hair which fell loose around my face. It was the first time that Vahid had seen me without a scarf and he reached out and touched a few strands of my hair. When I struggled to fix my scarf he grabbed my hands and looked at me. “It’s ok,” he said. “It’s safe here.” He looked into my eyes and the pained, frustrated expression returned to his face. “Can I kiss you?”
He was 25 and I was 31. He was a Muslim virgin and I was a modern female from another world. “Can I kiss you?” His face was full of emotion as he stared at me.
I had all the vocabulary to reject him. I could do it quickly, even with tenderness. Tell him that he was too young, too intact, too perfect, that just as he occupied his parent’s apartment and slept on their floor I occupied another place where I had grown accustomed to kisses being nothing, an afterthought, strewn carelessly like the carefully ironed serviettes I bent to pull from my floor after classes.
But my hesitations were subdued by the temporary shelter of this alley and its safe distance from home. My skin bristled, excited by his nearness, excited my the feeling that our thoughts were quietly weaving themselves together.
He drew closer to me, still holding my hands. His first kiss was quick and unsure and he seemed scared of disappointing me. He kissed me again and I felt his lips soften. As his arms circled around my waist I could taste the warm, sweetness of his mouth. I could taste how vulnerable he was. I could taste how he didn’t trust me and that he was giving in to his body for the first time in his life. I felt his coarse Iranian hair through my fingers and it was strange and wiry. Everything about him was foreign to me and I felt suddenly foolish and unsure.
I pushed him away from me and he grimaced. “I don’t know why I was kissing you,” he said. He turned and leaned on the opposite wall. “I feel pain in my chest and I want to be free of this.” I watched him and said carefully “I think you wanted to kiss me because you like me.” “No, I don’t like you!” he shouted. “I don’t like you.”
I felt confused and embarrassed. The low sun was still intense and its heat burned into the navy fabric that covered my shoulders. “Maybe I should leave you alone for a while.” Vahid squatted along the wall, resting the weight of his body on his calves.
“No, come and sit beside me,” he said. “Don’t leave.” I crossed the narrow passage and crouched next to him. He took my hand and held it to his chest. “I can’t breathe and my heart is pounding. What is happening to me?” he asked.