As we got to know each other, we settled into a silly, little routine of seeing each other before class and after class and “having” to walk to his side of the campus (or finding an excuse to anyway, my best one was, “The water they sell on that side is always colder.” Right, Ana, right.) He had to do homework in the common room in my building, just because it was more comfortable than his own. He stayed later than he had to most days and we talked (and flirted) and talked (and flirted) and talked… until my bus came and I had to go home.
That Monday, we were sitting in our usual spot – a bench that stood in just the right place to get shade and sun (sun for me and shade for him) – and we talked. I think we were talking about some TV show or other. He was probably teasing me about watching Criminal Minds yet another time. I was teasing him about not having watched Criminal Minds at all. It was our normal.
Maybe, though, we were sitting a little bit closer than usual. Maybe talking a little bit softer. Maybe ignoring the world around us more effectively. But, for some reason, we were still keeping our hands off each other. Conscientiously so. In Mexican conversation it’s normal to lightly touch or tap your speaking partner, even when you’re in no way whatsoever flirting with each other. But for some reason, we were steadfastly avoiding touching each other. As if, when we did, we would just completely melt into puddles.
So, there we were, talking (and flirting and pretending not to) when the bus came, we got up and took our things and walked to one side of the street, to cross. And in an impulse I reached for his hand, his right with my left. I had exactly 2 seconds to revel in the warmth and strength and hard softness of it before I noticed how stiff he had suddenly gone next to me.
“I messed up,” I thought, panicking. He was standing up straight as a stick, tense as a guitar string, and looking at our hands in disbelief. But just as I was going to pull my hand away and run to my bus to hide and never show my face again, his hand wrapped around mine. He pulled me closer to him and looked up and around with the biggest grin on his face. His smile seemed to say, “Look, I’m holding her hand. And you aren’t.”
He held my hand as we got in line, running his thumb down the length of my finger, alternatively looking down at our locked hands with a smile, alternatively looking back up at me again with green. He kept me close, softly pulling me as close to him as our grasp would let him. He didn’t let go until I was on the last step of the bus, with a last goodbye squeeze.
And still, five and half years later, the first thing he does when he sees me, is reach for my hand.