Define stupidity. Stupidity is still making that deciding move even when you know damn well that you will lose. Stupidity is searching a blank wall for a doorknob. Stupidity is looking into her eyes and seeing a possibility even when it is not there. Stupidity was what I did.

We just finished our meal, her and I. I wish I can say that that was one of many but it was not. That was our first meeting. Her nails were chapped. She wore too many bangles in one arm. She had the knobbiest knees that I have ever seen. There’s an ugly scar running up her leg to the insides of her skirt. She was not perfect.

I made a joke about how silly my friends were the night before. She laughed, the sound of her voice resonating out and into my skin. Her eyes disappeared behind creased lids and thick lashes. I could not help but grin, feeling smug about my sense of humour. Or maybe she laughs that easily. I would like to believe it to be the former. Of course, it was. I was chuckling when she tried to calm herself down. Yeap, definitely my sense of humour at play there.

She sighed, a semi-permanent grin was on her face when she looked at me. Large brown eyes were rimmed with black liner. I looked back at her and I knew. She was so fucking beautiful.

I did not notice that we were talking for hours already until she stopped looking at me to watch the sky turn from calm blue to furious red. I was content with just watching her admire the sunset. Then, she would not see me looking and hoping. She was smart. I was smart. So, I hid my hopes. Because, hoping was stupid and I wanted to be smart. For her.

I was caught off guard when she spoke up. “Uhm, what?”

She chuckled at that before repeating herself. “I said if you were just letting me win. I doubt that I am really that good in mind games.”

Oh sweetheart, you already won and you were not even trying.

I scoffed at her, scrunching up my face in mock distaste. “Me? Of course not! I really lost at some of them.”

She smacked my arm playfully, laughing and shaking her head as her hand rested there while she tried to compose herself. She smelled like lavender. I held her other arm to support her and she shifted, moving closer.

She calmed once more and looked into my eyes. Looking back, I blame that moment for making my stupidity rise up to the surface.

“I mean if I was going to give you free wins then that’s no fun. But, you can still be my number one.” Add a wink for that cherry-on-top charisma.

Her hand was still on my arm and mine was still on hers. I did not think she was aware. I wished she was not. She giggled and had the audacity to ask if I was flirting. She even winked back. Damn those eyes.

Next thing I knew, I was feeling smooth skin against my fingers as I stroked her cheekbone with my thumb. “Yes, I am flirting.”

Her eyes changed from innocence to apprehension and the skin beneath my thumb was starting to warm. She said nothing.

See? Stupid. I moved away, letting go of her entirely and awkwardly massaging the back of my neck. “So, allergic to alcohol?” I asked, trying to get things back on track.

She blinked more times than necessary. Large brown eyes rimmed with black liner were looking at me with things that I could not pinpoint what and all I wanted to do was figure them out. All I wanted was to figure her out. Asking about it would ruin everything so I kept silent and waited for her to answer.

“Umm… I used to drink. Started with red wine then vodka then mixes. That was when the allergies came up. Red splotches, itchiness, inflammation, the works. I tried to rest it off but it kept on coming back until I got sent to the ER because I could not breathe. So, yeah, never again.”

“I get Asian glow and end up looking like a lobster.” I chuckled at my own joke and she smiled. “In fact, I, too, get splotchy and if you were to kiss me on any part of my lips you’d probably draw some blood out.”

I noticed her eyes move to glance at my lips. “Something tells me that what you have is just not that. Is it more complicated? Or are you literally just allergic to alcohol and nothing else?” I asked her.

She was chewing her lower lip as she processed what to say next. I could not help but stare. They were full lips — just the way I liked them. The pictures were accurate. I wished they weren’t.

“More of a Spanish bloat than an Asian glow,” she answered. “My father is also highly allergic. I wish it was just a simple allergy but my internal organs can get swollen from alcohol intake. Of course, the higher the proof the more intense the effects but I think it’s just the alcohol.”

I never believed in that feeling of having butterflies in one’s stomach but, at that moment, I knew I needed to give a dime to every person whom I thought was exaggerating whenever they claimed that they had.

“Well, I’m enjoying my time with you without the needing for a buzz. But, I’m really glad that nothing serious happened to you at that time.” At that rate, I was feeling moths. “And if you’re wanting a buzz, maybe buzz your hotel doorbell later tonight.” I laughed at my own joke, purposely saying that to get her mind off the negativity. Thank God for my charm.

I would say that it was mission accomplished because all seriousness flew out of the window as she laughed out loud, covering her mouth with her fingers as her shoulders shook. The scene before me was infectious so I could not help but laugh along, uncaring of the stares that people were giving us. I watched her compose herself and was surprised by what she said next.

“We don’t do doorbells but I always carry hotel room keys in pairs.” She was flirting. God, she was even winking. The moths became dragons after that.

I really was not thinking anymore. “Maybe we can forego the doorbells and the keys altogether and I’ll come up with you, since I’m taking you home. What do you think?” I gave her the most innocent smile that I could muster as what I just said finally sunk in. I gave her an ultimatum that I was not ready to face the answer to. Despite knowing what it would be, all I could do was hope as I braced myself for the inevitable.

Her silence was answer enough. I could feel the dream dissipating. If only there was a chance that I could tell her what to do then I would grab it and command her to stay. Then again, it was not right. She had her reasons. She had her priorities. She had her inhibitions. I knew them. There was also that fact that she was leaving the next day and only God knows when would I see her again. She made it clear at the beginning that it would not happen. I wished for it to be otherwise. It was a treacherous wish. It was a stupid wish. I made it anyway.

She finally looked down at her feet and shook her head. It was a rush of blood to my own. I was not to give up, though. I did not realize how close I was until I saw her struggle to keep composure as I whispered close to her ear. “It’d be completely innocent.” I knew it was not but I had to say something, anything, just to make her change her mind.

It might have been just a moment but it felt like an eternity to me as she finally looked up and met my eyes. I wondered if she knew, as a millions thoughts raced through my mind as I was certain was racing through hers as well, how beautiful she was.

“I am so sorry.”

And just like that, my dream shattered. Reality came crashing back to me and the next moment after, I felt my eyes getting heavier. Fuck, I was not going to cry.

I looked away from her and watched the scenery before us. The sun had long set and the night was decorated with a million lights. They were pretty but they were just that, lights. I casually wiped the forming tears with my left sleeve cuff before dismissing her apology with a chuckle.

“Why are you sorry? Let’s grab some ice cream before I drop you off. But we both have to get two different flavors so we each try each other’s!” I cleared my throat and dared to look back at her, a jubilant smile plastered on my face, disappearing eyes and everything.

I could not stare back for too long for she was looking at me with something close to worried inquisition. “So?” I urged as I looked again at the lights.

I heard her take a deep breath and I glanced her way once more. She was smiling which eventually evolved to a grin then to a chuckle. “Okay,” she decided with a laugh. “Dibs on the mint chocolate chip, though.”

I wondered how she was able to shift just like that because there was no way I could just turn off my thoughts and suddenly make new ones. That last conversation felt so life-changing. Maybe, it was.

“Good choice! But of course, I’ll be getting the salted caramel.” I grabbed her hand and led the way. “Let’s go!”

I realized what I did a second after. I tightened my hold on her hand, uncaring of the consequences. Perhaps, I could claim her. She was mine even just for that night. It was a night I hoped that would never end. It was a night that I hoped I would never wake up from.

Published by M.R. Maximo