I slept intermittently. Between his arm around me and the broad daylight cutting through the curtains, I couldn’t fall into a proper sleep, despite how tired I was. I was in a kind of stupor—deliriously exhausted and deliriously happy to be within this moment—with Dan draped across me, the faint breeze of his snore stroking the nape of my neck.
We were still partially clothed—the morning had been a delirium of touching and intimate exchanges, but we still hadn’t had sex. After only a few hours of this strange half-sleep, I came to, and so did he. I could feel him coming to; pressing into my back. And there, in the filtered light, he pulled himself onto me, and I was lost in a feeling that I hadn’t felt in over a year—the power of wanting someone desperately, and them desperately wanting you back.
He was passionate and gentle. The way he touched me was a like a relic from another life—something that I had forgotten all together in the violent spitefulness of my previous relationship. It felt like affection the way I remembered it in my fondest memories. It was soft and hard at the same time, consuming and safe. There was nothing abrasive about it, even in the awkward moments. It didn’t seem like a grating chore that would end in tears moments later—it was natural and wonderful.
We lay in bed, ensconced in each other and the heady smells we’d created, for most of the afternoon. Finally, ravenous, we ventured out for breakfast and I felt shy and awkward as we beat the pavement to the café. And there, in the tree lined streets of North London, on an innocuous, cloudy day, Dan reached out and took my hand in his, and walked with me just so. As I blushed at him I felt my heart flutter for the first time.
So we had breakfast in the afternoon. We strolled around the Camden markets. We laughed a lot. We kissed when the lights at the pedestrian crossing were red. We forgot to walk when they turned green. We went back to bed and we did all the things we’d forgotten to do the first time, and then some (he had an exercise ball in his room. It became quite the point of interest).
The next week (or 10 days, as Dan would correct me) was idyllic. We visited museums, went to shows, saw friends, drank, ate and snuck off at every opportunity to a private corner where no one could see. I met his childhood best friends. I met his mother. I was welcomed into his life by all the wonderful people in it, and I felt like I might explode in a cacophony of trumpet music, rainbows and technicolour confetti at any second.
The first time I thought I might love him was in the British Museum. We were walking around aimlessly, holding hands, staring and cooing at the wonders around us. Every now and then he would pull me to him and kiss me, as though we were a real couple. From time to time he would look at me and smile, and all my insides would stop functioning and for a split second, I’d die.
As we were wandering, an idea came across his face the way ideas come across Dan’s face—he’d ponder for a moment, look curiously serious, then a flash of his own brilliance would appear like a bright, almost blinding light upon him before his whole face would become animated and his wide smile would widen further. He’d hold his body in tense excitement like a child.
“I know what I want to show you!” he proclaimed. Pulling me by the hand he led me to a wing of the museum filled with curiosities, in resemblance of an eccentric old library. He took me to a quiet corner, and knelt in front of a low glass cabinet. “In here,” he said, pulling me down, “it’s a mermaid!”
As I looked at the shriveled thing in front of me (a monkey torso sewn to the tail of a fish—the Japanese would send them to the English telling them it was a real mermaid as a joke which is probably the best joke ever) and listened to Dan telling me stories, I got a feeling of intense happiness. Inspired by his enthusiasm, the way he made me laugh and the touch of his hand, ever so lightly, against my spine as I squatted there, I thought that maybe I could fall madly in love with this man.
The first time I felt that I was definitely madly in love with this man was during a very small, brief argument, when I had my back against the wall and he was sitting on the bed staring up at me with his beautiful, penetrating eyes. I had decided I didn’t want to fight, that it didn’t matter, that he would be gone in 3 days anyway and that we should just spend our time being happy together.
He frowned at me, very serious, in fact, the most serious he had been all week, and he said, “but Kat I need to know if you’re upset, so I can learn how not to upset you and we can be better together,” and then, the clincher, “we’re a team.”
My heart overflowed. I melted. I let myself cry in front of him and I let him hold me, and again, as always, I felt him rise and before I knew it I was spent again, naked on the bed and blooming out of myself with an overwhelming sense of contentment.
I never told him how I felt—what would the point have been? I knew that he cared about me but I also knew that he didn’t feel the same way. And besides, we only had 10 days together before we were to part indefinetly. Strangely enough, it wasn’t as bittersweet as it sounds. I was so happy that almost nothing mattered, not even us being apart, although I cried a lot when we parted ways.
When we said goodbye he held my face briefly in his hands as heavy drops rolled down my cheeks in quick succession. “Don’t cry Kat,” he said, kissing my face “it’s not the end, really. It’s just the beginning.”
I cried anyway. He went off to visit his family and I stayed on at his house with his roommates, until it was time for me to go to New York, not knowing when I’d see my Dan again.