Of mice and unicorns

I always liked Steinbeck and those old men whistling.

You never know which men will turn out to be unicorns.

Talkin’ in the mission
Over coffee, this is my utopia

“You’re in luck, I’m actually still here this week,” I text him, several days after he was supposed to connect with me. “Not under the best circumstances, but I’ll explain later.”

We sit in the fanciest bakeshop in town. We sit across from one another and sip lattes, sometimes awkward, sometimes avoiding eye contact, sometimes getting too excited and wrapped up in one another’s stories to remember to be awkward. He interrupted me so many times I didn’t know if I should have written him off right then, or find his inability to contain himself endearing. Now I realise he just couldn’t contain himself because he was so excited to find another one out there, passionate like him, balanced like him, but real, sitting there, right in front of him.

Love is dancing on my finger
He got to the heart of the matter and lingered

We talk about having parallel lives on the opposite ends of the highway. Every time he drives south for a holiday, I’m driving north to see my parents. Every Sunday night, we go in different directions. We grew up with similar upbringings. We found ourselves passionate and involved in the same things. We found careers that we love. We found toxic people who didn’t love us back.

He tells me he feels different in this city. He feels more free, like he can be himself. I scoff when he tells me that everyone in his hometown recognizes him and he feels like a small-scale celebrity. I almost roll my eyes at the narcissism that’s already coming out on the first date. Although, to be fair, he’s one of the few men that warrants the air of confidence that he walks around with.

The buzz, the buzz of the city
As we settle in its majesty

It wasn’t until he took me around his hometown that I realised he wasn’t exaggerating at all. He truly was a celebrity; recognized, respected, loved, greeted. Handshakes, hugs. Polite head nods towards me. What was I in this case? The groupie?

Then, I’ll be your lady
As the ocean rises, the sun is fading

“Why do you keep taking me to these high profile places?”

He had already been recognised countless times. At the halal pho shop, at the skating rink, in the candy store, in his car at the edges of the city, for goodness sake. He always made the polite introduction on my behalf. We can’t give each other titles, of course, but the knowing looks on others’ faces make it painfully obvious.

The one time I was recognised in that city, I didn’t handle it well. I felt my cheeks flush, I rushed up to hug the girl, pretending I wasn’t sitting across from him having dinner in plain sight. I couldn’t muster up the introductions. She politely ended the conversation saying, “Well, I’ll let you get back to….” and trailed off.

To him, again, I demand, “Why do you keep taking me to these places where you know you’ll be seen with me?”

I finally understood his struggle, of wanting to respect me enough to make the introduction but knowing our tradition, our cultures, didn’t have the words for that. Knowing that others would talk. Knowing that despite the fact that we weren’t doing anything wrong, there would be talk.

“Maybe I want to be seen with you.”

We’re back, and you tell me I’m home.

 

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