The next two weeks after that last meeting were by far the longest.
Good thing was that at that time the engineering school where I studied had already opened for yet another new semester. This means that I had the opportunity to leave the big city where I live with most of those bittersweet memories behind and back to the almost forgotten little mining town where the campus was located, and continued with my life. Like always, the beginning of the semester at the engineering school was rather tiring and full with daily activities that I managed to forget a lot of things that occurred to me previously, particularly about my unfortunate events with the famous lady behind the counter. Back-to-back classes, hours-long laboratory sessions and so many other things to catch up with during daylight made me way too busy to even think about my own self then, let alone her, or even us, in which I have to say that I quite enjoyed it – I was free from troubling thoughts of my wasted heart.
But then again when night came and there was nothing to do, I always thought about Min.
The glimpse of her shadows caught my attention every time I brewed some good mugs of coffee for myself using my automatic coffee drip machine at night. Perhaps the bittersweet caramel-and-bark aroma of the steaming hot black beverage in the air had been associated with her since the first day I saw that face, that with every breath I took while brewing the perfect blend constantly reminded me of her. As I watched the coffee dripping drop by drop into the transparent kettle at the bottom of the machine, I’d swear that I saw her affectionate reflection in every drop. And almost as automatically my mind would travel back in time, thinking about just how wonderful she was. Her charming eyes and long lashes, her fair skin and her reddish cheeks, her luscious and pinkish lips, and of course, her ever captivating long and wavy hair that, when blown by the evening breeze, gave the most fascinating sight a man could have ever wished for in his whole life.
I’d do anything, anything at all, just to see that face just for one last time.
Come to think of it, it was funny that Min and I didn’t have any closure after that final evening. But then again, we never really had an opening at all in the first place. Everything happened so quickly, almost like a dream. Everything seemed to be so perfectly imperfect, and imperfectly perfect, depending on how you see it. As I sat down by my window and threw my view outside into the dark, open grass plain while enjoying my ever-bitter mug of coffee, as bitter as my arctic-temperature heart, I saw a couple of lovebirds walking down the long alley, holding hands and exchanging glances with meaningful smiles on their lips.
And it reminded me about that one night.
* * *
“Have you ever kissed someone?”
She placed her palms on top each other on the table and rested her chin on them while pulling a long smile. She raised her eyebrows a few times as if provoking for an answer. To me, she looked like a female cat acting all out cute, especially with that bold, large eyes that splendidly shone out by the reflection of dim, yellow lights in that coffee house. I was in still my casual sitting position in front of her; my left hand resting on my left hip while the fingers on my right hand tapped on the table gently, making a continuous tap-tap-tap sound as they went. I cleared my throat a little to ease my speech.
“Why do you ask?”
She raised her eyebrows twice, still smiling. My tapping stopped.
“Simply,” she said, “just being curious.”
“Well,” I replied. “You think?”
“Hmm,” she let out a thoughtful sigh while pushing her body to lean against the posh rattan-made chair again. She placed her palms on top of each other again and her elbows on the armrests, and her chin sat on her palms again. She stared at me right into my eyes, as if trying to dig out the hidden secret from the deepest, bottomless pit of my heart. She should have tried harder - her stares didn't even move me.
“I guess,” she said before pausing for a while to test my curiosity, “I guess you have.”
I replied her with only a short smile. “Incorrect,” I said.
“For real?” She looked surprised. “I don’t believe you.”
“Yeah, for real,” I said calmly, though I could feel my cheeks were thickening for a bit. “I have never kissed anybody before.”
She crossed her arms together and blew her fringe up and away from blocking her eyes with her mouth. She stared at me in disbelief, and that annoying smile was still there.
"I don’t believe you, Eddy.”
I took the grande mug of hot caramel macchiato that Min previously made for me and took a few large gulps. My, I said to myself, this is embarrassing. The thick and creamy drink was heavily sugared, again. I deviously hoped that I was to receive a major shock from the sugar rush and that I had to be taken out from the premise into an ambulance or something just so that the subject of discussion could be dropped to no further continuation. I took another large gulp and swallowed with much difficulty – my throat, for obvious reasons, was locked together. It’s time to think for a smart comeback, dear me.
“Why,” I said while giving her the bold stare. “Do you wish to be kissed by me then?”
“Wow,” she let out a big laugh. “That was uncalled for, I suppose.”
I just stared at her; a confident smile was fairly constructed on my face. The card has been drawn; let’s see who’ll game first. She finished laughing with some small chuckles in the end and she took a strand of hair and rolled it around a finger before pushing the finger down slowly. She just looked at me for some time. Not even a word was spoken. The atmosphere around us that night was a little bit way too intensely-charged. Both she and I were playing the calculated game of sensuous dart.
“It was just a mere question, dear Min,” I said after some time passed.
She nodded in agreement.
“A mere question indeed,” she said while playing with her hair again. “And I suppose every question deserves an answer.”
“Precisely,” I said before taking another gulp of the macchiato and placed it back on the table in between me and her. "And I'd be waiting."
She was still leaning back on her chair, her body slightly tilted to the right, showing her curves clearly, wrapped in her plain white tee and dark blue jeans. She didn’t say anything at all but instead kept a preying eye contact. She looked as if she was looking for the ever-anticipated riposte. She then bit her lower lips slowly and smiled naughtily.
"And the proposer didn't even answer my question," she said.
She got me there but I didn't reply. Instead, I gave her a quick nod and that was it. I let her to continue, for the course of the game really depended on her reactions.
"What made you think I wanted you to kiss me?"
"I had a simple hunch," I replied.
"Acting on a hunch again you are, my dear you."
"I definitely did."
"You know you shouldn't have," she said and tilted her head, provoking my ability to counter her argument.
"Never made the mistake of correcting the enemy when they are making mistakes," I said self-assuredly.
The table was turned. She was having trouble to keep up with the game of exchanged semantics.
"Well, do you want to kiss me?" she asked with poise.
"That was out of the argument."
"Perhaps the limit of the argument has expanded."
"Perhaps me as the opposing party opt for the otherwise."
The situation grew more intense. The game got more exciting.
"I don't bow to other's requirement," she responded boldly.
"And neither do I," I countered her statement right away.
"And therefore I do not have the necessity to directly answer your question, dear Eddy."
"My sentiment exactly on why I didn't reply yours previously, dear Min."
"And I thought every arrow has a target, and so does a question."
"It does, indeed."
"Well you should have aimed better, darling," she said, thus putting an alternate end to the conversation, since I didn't quite know how to reply. Damn, she's smart alright. I smiled bitterly.
She was giving me some mixed signals. I wondered what was going on in her beautiful mind. She looked so tantalizing at first but vicious later on. She pulled the rope, and then she let it go, and then she pulled it again. She had cultivated an air of unpredictability. I couldn’t interpret her right anymore. What game are you playing, Min?
"Perhaps you're still waiting for me to answer your question, no?" she asked casually. Her finger was still playing with her hair. I could see the fair skin of her neck from beneath those thick and wavy long hair.
"Well maybe if..."
I wasn't able to finish my sentence when, almost as instantly, she extended her right arm to the mug of macchiato at the middle of the table and lifted it up before bringing it to her lips and drank the delicious drink up at exactly where I placed my lips previously. I was entirely taken by unforeseen surprise. She then placed the mug back on the table.
“There,” she said before wiping the leftover cream on her lips with a piece of serviette. “I just kissed you. So sugary.”
Completely dumbfounded by her action, I turned completely into a full retard. My upper and lower jaws were as if made from magnetic materials of the same polarity, pushing each other away as far as possible. My brain was having a massive electrical storm. In no time she pushed her chair backward, stood up and stretched herself up.
“I need to go to the counter for a while,” she said. “I’ll be back, alright.”
I looked at her walking towards the counter before disappearing into the back kitchen. My eyes returned to the lonely mug of macchiato that still had a quarter to go in it. I stared at the mug, my head blanked. I wasn’t quite sure what I felt, but for sure it felt like swimming in an all-you-can-drink ocean of creamed-top caramel macchiato with petals of blood-red roses raining endlessly from the bright blue sky surrounded by ships made out of chocolate chip and pecan nut cookies moved about cheerfully. A rainbow of seven colors of coffee made a perfect background. Before I was getting way too indulged with my imaginations, I came back to the real world and saw a lipstick stain on a side of the mug where she placed her lips just now. I had no idea about what was in my head when I took the mug, placed my lips on the lipstick stain, drank up the entire satisfying brew and swallowed it slowly in small but very pleasing gulps.
It tasted damn awesome.
* * *
It was almost midnight.
I turned to my bitter mug of coffee after the couple of lovebirds I spied on previously disappeared at the end of the alley. The mug was of the similar size I had with Min that night, only which inside it was a different type of coffee. I closed my eyes for a while and opened them back again, recalling all the memories from that night, especially that stain of pale-red lipstick on the white wall of the mug of macchiato. I brought the mug in my hand closer to my lips and downed all its content in one go. I placed the empty mug on my table before I examined the aftertaste of the coffee in my mouth with my tongue.
And I tasted that lipstick.
...To Be Continued.