I wander out onto the small balcony, seeking a quiet place to get away from the earnest people gathered inside, people trying to make a hopeless situation better. It is more than I can bear tonight.

You, a stranger to me, are already out there, sitting on a deck chair, alone, in the dark. We nod, and you turn your gaze back to the still world outside. Wordlessly, we watch the rain and the lights in the distance, your eyes shining in the lamplight. We listen to the rush of the wind, the drone of tires on the road beyond, the muffled French music playing in the room inside.

I like your smell. You are drinking something with alcohol and some exotic fruit. You are well but not ostentatiously dressed, in red and black. The silence seems natural, comfortable, but I am looking for something to say, to acknowledge you. But I don’t know what. And when I turn to you to speak, you put your finger to your lips and shush me, with a smile. You point out into the darkness, cup your ear, inhale deeply, and nod gently. You rise and stand beside me, arms on the railing.

And we just stay there, together, silently, taking in the view, the sounds and smells of the wind- and rainswept night. We point out things rustling in the distance in the mist. I am smiling, hoping no one comes out to disturb our innocent flirtation. We are like two birds on a wire, having met by accident, nestled together. You brush your arm against mine, pushing your hair back. You touch your fingers to my hand, and turn to look at my face for acknowledgement whether this is too forward. I nod and smile so you continue, eventually leaving your hand lightly on mine.

I point out the leaves shimmering in the rain, in the wind, in the patio light below. We stay like that for what seems a long time, senses alert, silently. You are sighing. Your glass is empty but you shake your head when I point to it as an offer to go for a refill. The wind picks up and you shiver, and when I turn toward you, you step forward into my arms and wrap mine around you, smiling and then nestling your cheek in my collar, your arms under mine and your hands curled over my shoulders.

I am overwhelmed by the sensations of you, the feel of your breath on my neck, your hair on the side of my face, the complex smell of you, the strength of your grasp, the slight quiver in your body in the wind gusting around us. I want to wrap you up. I want this moment to never end.

Just then someone opens the door to the balcony, and seeing us, says “Oops sorry!” and retreats inside. You laugh, the first sound I have heard from you. I hold you tighter, but you’ve sensed the tension in my body, and you draw your head back, look in my eyes, and then point at the side of my head and repeat your “shush” signal, and then, to my surprise, put your hand on my heart and repeat the “shush” again. Then you nestle back into my arms.

What am I supposed to make of this? Of course my mind has been racing, and your shush was to tell me to stop thinking, imagining, and to just be in the moment without thoughts about what it might mean, or lead to. But what of the heart gesture? Was that to say to calm my heart, that this wasn’t anything to get emotional about? That I should not be falling in love with you? I am such a fool for love.

So I just close my eyes and drink in the sensations, and try not to think, or feel. Impossible, of course. I imagine kissing you, and more. I imagine who you might be, behind this mysterious silence. Who we might be, together. Madness. Why can’t I just be in this moment with you? Why do I have to spoil it, worry about it, imagine it being other than all it is?

But I’m already in full flight, preparing for the fall. I imagine that you’re already living with someone, who you’ll be rejoining inside and leaving with, soon, hand in hand. I imagine how awful you might be — a dangerous and damaged person who does this with everyone, just for thrills, to incite confrontation. I imagine my broken heart, and how I can shield it, recover from it.

And then you laugh, gently at first and then uncontrollably, your body shaking in my arms. I wonder if I’ve missed something, if something in my body language has given me away, if I have done something wrong. But as you lift your face to mine I can see you are laughing with me, not at me. So I start laughing too. You sense — you know! — that I was unable to just be with you, that my mind and emotions had destroyed the spell, the magic of our — how long was it, minutes or hours? — moment together.

You touch two fingers to your lips and then to mine, and then, stepping back, you hold my hands, and then, releasing them, give me a little bow and a huge, generous smile. Then you point me to the railing of the balcony, and flash your hand three times — 15 minutes? — and move to the balcony door. I watch you leave, and then stand at the railing, like a zombie, incapable of thinking of anything. Fifteen minutes later I wander inside, where you are nowhere to be seen, pick up my coat, and head outside.

(vignette partly inspired by listening to torch songs; photo by Marian Jaslovsky, CC0 on the wonderful Pixabay)

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