Talking to Strangers

When you’re a kid, they tell you not to talk to strangers.

It seems like these days I do exactly the opposite of that. I talk to strangers. I go out, drive long distances by myself at night, and then dance with strangers.

Recently I went on a blues event on a cruise ship and I roomed with a stranger. We slept in the same room having only just met that day.

I took an acro-yoga class from a stranger. I then joined a group led by this same stranger to go wander around a strange country for the first time. On that excursion, I had lunch sitting beside that stranger. I ate the organs of a strange animal (I don’t speak Spanish, the natives tried to warn me, it smelled good, it was good, I ate it) on a taco.

I went to a tequila shop and a bar, and I drank a good quantity of liquor with that same stranger. When we kept accidentally uttering the same phrases as each other or finishing the other’s sentences; I stopped speaking my thoughts out loud because it was eerie.

That stranger asked me to dance that night (if you’re not familiar, I do Blues dancing, it wasn’t some seedy cruise ship club grind) and then spent a good amount of time sitting and talking with me in a dimly lit corner. We danced again.

And again.

And the last song.

It was the last night of the cruise and we took a “survivors photo” of everyone who made it to the end of late night dancing at nearly 5 am. The stranger tucked me in next to him and smiled.

I didn’t want the night to end.

Neither did he.

We had to be out of our rooms in 3 hours for checkout.

The stranger asked if I’d be up for roaming the ship instead of sleeping.

The stranger’s hair was purple, blue, teal, just a touch pink, and tied away from his face in a long unicorn tail down his back. His coat was gold brocade. His smile was soft and warm and I wanted to wrap myself in it. He didn’t feel so strange.

I said yes.

He followed me to my room so I could get a jacket. My dress was short, and thin, black linen with delicate puffed sleeves in lace.

I tucked my hands into the pockets of my hoodie and followed him back up the winding stairs. We glided along the empty, silent hallways of the ship together. For once there was no ambient noise. No frat boys falling off of deck chairs. No one smoking. No music.

We found our way into the balcony of the theater. There was large high-backed, circular booths overlooking a stage hung in gaudy glittering gold curtains that blazed appallingly in full light, but in the quiet hours, under the dimmed chandeliers, merely twinkled softly. We slipped into a center booth and sat side by side.

He tucked me under an arm and I leaned in, comfortable, tired, eyes still aglow. The day had been so full and lovely. I peeked at his face and our eyes met. There was no pressure in his gaze. Everything was soft, neutral.

I knew from our conversation at that dance that we had a good amount in common. I also knew this was the last night of a cruise in an event that drew people from all over the country and while he lives in the same state I do, he’s pretty far away. If he was looking for something in me, logic dictates that it probably wasn’t the start of something serious.

When I looked in his face, I saw no expectation but I also knew he was going to kiss me at some point. I looked away quickly and said something vague. I felt like the situation should scare me. I felt like I should distance myself. I felt like I should feel something other than the utter calm and peace I felt sitting so close to him.

He’s a stranger. He was a stranger.

I have a good amount of guilt in me. It follows me. It dictates a lot of what I do. For some reason, I felt like I should feel guilty or ashamed. I felt like I should feel that I was doing something wrong.

For the life of me, though, I couldn’t muster the guilt.

He read my palm.

This may seem like nothing to some people. Or hokey. Or occult. To me, it felt like home.

My childhood best friend used to read my palm. The library of our Junior High had a selection of nonfiction on fortune telling. We read palms and tarot. She bought me my first set of tarot cards and used to swear “Goddess!” instead of “God!”

As readings go, the one that took place in the theatre wasn’t anything to write home about, but when he finished with the love line and the markings of old loves that he said on my palm were thin and “fading away” (and indeed they are), I realized I wanted him to kiss me, just like I’d wanted him to ask me to dance,  and that if he didn’t do it soon, I was going to kiss him.

I just wanted a kiss. It didn’t have to mean anything.

I liked him, and I wanted to kiss him.

There’s this dumb quote I had on a piece of “room decor” in college which I secretly hold a firm belief in- the soul can be seen through the eyes and felt with a kiss.

I wanted to sip ever so slightly from his soul.

If we’re being honest, at this point in the night, I knew I wanted to know more about him. He’s too fascinating and too similar to me not to draw me in. The more we talked the less “strange” he became to me.

He did kiss me.

He leaned in slowly. That same soft, smile on his face. No expectation. No force. His movements were very clearly defined and so, so very slow. He gave me every opportunity to move away, give him my cheek for the friendly Europeanesque greeting that had become so commonplace on the ship among the dancers that weekend, or otherwise decline the advance.

I leaned in ever so slightly and my eyes drifted shut just as his lips touched mine for perhaps (not exaggerating) the softest, lightest kiss I’ve ever had. It was just a soft, drawn out, lingering brush of lips. Think of how you’d kiss something incredibly valuable but made of spun sugar.

I caught my breath and he backed up just enough to give me space to initiate the next kiss. When I leaned in, his hand came up and tangled in my hair.

We kissed for a while and traced each other’s hands. He traced the line of my cheek with his nose and traded me Eskimo kisses. It was peculiar and perfect.

The rest of the night (wee hours of the morning as it were) is a blur of talking, kissing, joking, lips brushing throats, laughing, kissing, his nails trailing over my calves, watching the light play through the ocean of colors in his hair, and kiss after kiss after kiss.

We were interrupted when the staff started walking in through the doors downstairs on their way to other parts of the ship. Music came back on through the speakers. We ducked lower in our booth and listened to the ship coming back to life.

We eventually decided we should leave the theater. It wasn’t that we weren’t supposed to be there, but it also wasn’t that we were allowed to be there. “American Pie” came on over the speakers and he offered me a hand to dance. We did until another staff member burst through a door and we guiltily broke apart giggling and ran for the doors.

I’m almost certain we weren’t supposed to be in the room overnight because only one of about 10 doors was unlocked. We’d been sealed in and hadn’t noticed.

The magic was over. If ever I understood how Cinderella felt at midnight it was that night. We walked apart from each other and I felt the distance. There had been enough talking and laughing through the night that I didn’t want it to be all there was.

I began steeling myself for it being a “cruise fling”.

He kissed me quite passionately in the elevator but stopped when the doors opened.

He said “see you at breakfast” and I agreed but only half believed it.

Oddly (and nerve-wrackingly) enough, I was wrong.

When the ship officially came into port and the wifi came back on, I was seated across from the man we’re now going to refer to as The Unicorn because (spoilers) he is very much not a stranger to me any longer. Our shoes were tucked under our seats and we each had a foot resting on the other’s thigh.

He watched me sleepily push scrambled eggs around my plate and winked or blew me a kiss each time I met his eyes.

He eventually made a friend of his switch him places so he could sit with an arm around me in the booth.

Six of us napped in the booth, waiting to disembark. There are a couple photos of me sleeping tucked under his arm, head cradled on his chest.

He added me on Facebook.

His last name is my first name.

When we disembarked, I wanted to cry.

We didn’t find a moment alone for a goodbye kiss between the booth and customs and when we tried to kiss each other on the cheek at the same moment at breakfast resulted in an accidental and public peck on the lips, I didn’t think he’d kiss me goodbye in the group outside the port. In front of people.

He did.

Hugged me, then pulled my face close and kissed me soundly.

Smiled and said we should keep in touch.

Yesterday, I bought the plane ticket for my second trip out to see him. [The first trip is a fairy tale for another time]

We have 2-hour conversations about food and 6-8 hour conversations about everything into the wee hours of the morning. He still reads my mind, and I still accidentally finish his sentences.

It’s still a bit early to say, as it could still all go to Hell in a handbasket, but at this point, it’s looking like talking to strangers is something I could stand to do more often.

Occasionally you might find a Unicorn.

 

Affect(at)ion

All of my chill is gone and we’re officially in trouble.

I THOUGHT I was in trouble but now I’m REALLY in trouble.

I almost kissed the Viking.

Unconsciously.

Without thinking about it.

I freaked out when I realized I trusted him without thinking about it.

Now I am absolutely climbing the walls from how uncomfortable I am with myself and my feelings and instincts and the whole weird situation.

It happened on Saturday.

He showed up at an event he’d previously said he wasn’t going to. It was Fusion, and so far as everyone knew, he didn’t really do the whole Fusion thing. Then as I’m working the door he came up the stairs. I put a wristband on him and when I managed to get the sticky bit stuck perfectly straight on the band (which is a FEAT let me tell you), grinned “Perfect!”

He sort of murmured “Wouldn’t expect anything less” with this tiny smile on his lips and glowing in those baby blues. He walked away and I hid under the desk (literally) while Kay fetched my (vodka-laced) Powerade from my bag so I could knock enough back to hopefully stop my hands from shaking with anxiety.

I am such a classy broad.

So I work at the front desk for my hour shift and then Kay and I go looking for him. But subtly because we’re adults (I think). We find him in the Blues room and he’s dancing with someone. I go back to the Fusion room because I actually very much enjoy Fusion. I dance and can’t manage to get away for a while but I see the Viking poke his head in now and again, always retreating to the Blues room.

Evan comes in eventually and snags me for a dance but drags me into the Blues room to do it where the Viking is dancing with someone else. Evan and I dance and he nods in the Viking’s direction before saying in a tone usually reserved for oh la la “You should ask him to dance, I think he’s been following you.” He then wiggles his eyebrows at me.

Now I told Evan a secret on Thursday. Long story short he knows about my crush.

[Long story, medium Evan was playing “pick a boyfriend for Kay from the dance floor” on Thursday. She rejected all of his picks and then later, dancing with me he asked if she’d be into the Viking at which point I jumped at the chance to confirm whether a rumor from the previous Thursday that the Viking has a long-distance relationship with some swing dancer from Canada was true or not. Evan seems to think they broke up but either way “they’re not married.” He pressed on with setting up the pair and I was then stuck making lame excuses as to why Kay wouldn’t be into Mr. Viking until I finally just told him she wouldn’t touch him because she knew I liked him. Evan then pronounced himself Switzerland in the whole thing and nothing more was said.]

So then the whole night was spent thinking maybe Evan had mentioned something to the Viking (they ARE friends) and that THAT was the reason for the unexpected appearance. But after dancing with him that once I never got the change to actually ask him what he’d done.

I slipped into the Fusion room to calm down leaning against wall of the dance studio like a coward and not ten seconds later the Viking appeared in the doorway and casually leaned against the pile of dance barres next to me. We chatted, he said he’d seen me flitting in and out of the Blues room but never really staying. I said something about looking for songs I like and then mentioned I did go in a few times hoping to snag him for a dance.

I asked him to dance, we danced. He thanked me and disappeared for another hour until he pulled something similar and I found him back against the dance barres watching the Fusion dancers.

The wall was more crowded than it had been when he’d joined ME there so there wasn’t a ton of room. I grinned cheekily at him and told him to “budge up” so I could fit between him and the stack of barres. There was just enough room for me, he didn’t need to move, but it would be close quarters. He grinned at me and said “no.”

I wedged in next to him. resting my elbows on the higher barre build into the wall where his were. The line of our sides touched. Just enough to feel the warmth, but not the weight behind him. We talked. I cannot recall what about.

He had to lean down a bit to talk to me because he’s tall and it was loud. It meant his face hovered over mine. I was practically tucked under his arm. He could have shifted away a bit but he didn’t.

At some point in the conversation I found myself turning from the dance floor, smiling, and looking up at him and he was smiling and looking down at me and I just felt this tug I haven’t felt in a long time. Like a knee jerk reaction I wanted to lean up those last couple inches and press a quick kiss to his face.

I didn’t want to make out with him. I didn’t even necessarily want to kiss his mouth. But in that moment I instinctively, unconsciously, FELT that I should kiss him.

My mind or body or some combination of the two feels affectionate towards this man I’m just barely getting to know. Just like my mind/body/hybrid knows he won’t drop me when he sweeps me into a fast dip.

It makes sense. I was naturally at one point a very affectionate person. Leaning over to kiss someone, or slipping my hand into someone else’s was easy as breathing.  Hugs. Shoulder bumps. Brushing an arm.

Then I dated someone abusive who didn’t allow me to touch him without permission and certainly never in public and a couple emotionally distant people who wouldn’t hold my hand or otherwise touch me around other people. I now have a learned habit of deliberately, physically distancing myself from people.

It helped me recognize the sensation and squash it before I did something awkward like lean in.

But a small (very small, miniscule, really) part of me wonders if it would that have been the worse thing I’ve ever done. It may have solved all our problems.

I know he felt some sort of pause and the pink that found its way into his cheeks when we broke the silence and looked back at the dance floor before I asked if he wanted to dance some blues with me says its something along the lines of my complimenting him, saying he’s handsome or talented or witty.

So I almost kissed him.

My unconscious tried to kiss him.

Which means the crush and our growing friendship has turned to some rosy shade of affection, for me at least.

I am horrified and more anxious than ever before. But it’s also exciting, and I still don’t understand anything on his side.