To September, with Love
The bell at the entrance of the coffee shop rings behind me. I pay attention at the footsteps that get louder and louder as they approach my table. I can smell the light masculine musk scent just before I rise and turn my body around.
September is here.
The mahogany in his eyes are still deep as I remember. His smile is always wide but unreadable. I extend my hand but his arms are welcoming as always. He holds me in his tight embrace. Chest to chest. Cheek to cheek.
"That is not how you greet an old friend," he teases me. He kisses both of my cheeks in the most platonic fashion, but I swear my heart skips a beat as I feel his lip line brushes the edge of my mouth.
"Look at you," he examines me from head to toe. "Look at how much you have grown."
I know he will say the exact words. He sounds like my uncle and other condescending elders, but I refuse to think of him that way. At the same time, I observe the lines on his face that are getting more obvious. His chestnut hair is still as dark and his skin reminds me of my favorite cream coffee candy. He is still charming as I remember him, always in his favorite grey t-shirt and fitting checkered shirt. He gains a little weight, which makes him looks healthier and less-boylike. Still, he looks like someone who refuses to grow old.
"You get old." I comment, teasing him back.
"I am old" He takes the seat in front of me and orders his regular cup of joe to the waitress. "So, after spending a month, living under the radar just 500 meters away from my apartment, you call me. Don't you have something better to do tonight?" He says, sharp.
I gasp. "September."
"No one really? No hunky guy for a date?"
I shake my head. "You are my date."
"Ah, come on. My youth was expired 10 years ago. You should be exploring. You are finally here in New York City, the pulse of the earth. Seriously no one at all?"
I blush at his question. I know I can tell him the truth but something makes me hold back.
"Hunks do me no good. In fact, dating game is exhausting." I watch as his grin gets wider, almost looks like a satisfactory smile. "So What? You do have something better to do tonight, don't you ?"
"I have my family."
Oh, right. I throw my gaze down to the bottom of my coffee cup, admitting the truth.
"But it won't hurt to see an old friend. How many years it is? 8 years, isn't it?"
I nod. I have tendency when I am nervous, I tuck my hair behind my ear as I gather my courage to look at his face again. Apparently, he looks down at the menu. I see no purpose of him reading the menu, unless he feels somewhat intimidated by the dead air surrounding us.
"I am surprised you still remember how I look."
"Don't be silly."
I look at my reflection on the glass wall. I have lost some of my baby fat but there are circles underneath my eyes. I don't have a really nice posture, as I tend to slouch and I have not cut my hair since last December. Now it grows few centimeters below my shoulder. I cannot even hide the fact that I look so pale and cold too, I am definitely in need of warm tropical Sun.
I am thinking I should wear something less boring than this grey sweater and faded jeans. Something skin-tight, that shows a little print of my female curve. Or at least I should tie my hair back, the look will elongate my neck...
"Autumn," he shares me one of that look again. His eyes twinkle, looking at me with such admiration. "You are a woman now."
I don't know what brings me to that Delicatessen in one raining evening. It could be heartbroken and resentment. I don't feel as much as beautiful when I am around September. He knows how to treat and welcome me.
I live in modern Generation Z, but I prefer the old fashion way. I appreciate the breakfast he used to cook, his mixtapes and guitar-playing before there was technology, and his random calls just to check on me. He runs to see me, while other boys try to keep me at bay.
He sees something in me that I don't see. I keep him crazy and I ask why. He doesn't really answer but proceeds to brush my neck with his lips and let his fingers dance to lift my top. Everytime we make love, it always feels sacred. Like he worships every inch my body, even the parts I always conceal. Those scars and love handles, he embraces them all.
As a woman who values self-independence, it surprises me that it is so good to be wanted this much, not just by another man, but it is September.
I take another sip from my dry cup, cringing at the fantasy and washing it away. I really do not know what I am doing here, but it is kind of dangerous.
The familiar clove scent fills the air. I don't tolerate cigarettes, neither does September.
"But I just have to," he says then brushes his lips against mine.
I see his towering figure resting against the railing of the balcony. His back muscles appear relax and strong as ever. While I am gathering all my sense with my heart beating fast, my body bare and glistened.
This seems so good and hellish to be true. Rekindling an old flame. September turns his back and looks concerned at me. I wonder if that's because of the saltwater than drenches my cheeks. I become so nauseated as he steps closer and cup my face with his cigarette-smelling hands.
"Hey, tell me what's wrong?" He lowers his voice.
"This!" I rise my voice above the sound of my crying. "This is wrong. Can't you see? I am not supposed to be the other woman and you are not supposed to be the fling whom I hide overseas. We are not meant to be something confidential. What are we doing?"
"The other woman? You are THE woman."
"Oh, please." I roll my eyes and steps out of the bed, unaware by my nakedness and uneased by the fact-checks. I grab my undergarments that are laid on the floor. I wear them despite my body still wears September's strong scent. "Now you are just going to walk away like most of them."
"What are you talking about?"
"People. Men. Grown-men who still behaves like children, who are intimidated by my profession, my views, my aggression, my self-maintenance... almost my everything. Well, at least, you have a strong reason to walk right to the door. Even better, I am walking myself out right now. That'll help you out."
I am fully clothed now while September is only dressed in his boxer brief. It sends me unease. I flinch as he tries to grab my chin.
"8 years and I haven't given up the fight."
"Convincing. Look who's settling down?"
"It is not what I want."
"Then why did you make the decision?"
September pauses. "I don't want to start a fight. I never want to." I reach for the doorknob but he stops me. "Sits down Autumn, you are overreacting."
"You don't know the half of what I am feeling right now."
"You are right!" He raises his voices, almost sounds like he's dropping the fight. "I have never known how you feel. For 8 years, you shout me out and erase your tracks. How am I supposed to find you? If it wasn't for your call this morning, I wouldn't know how to find you. You always feel like you are the victim who is hold by the strings, but it is you who holds the strings."
I see my reflection in the glaze of his eyes, and I feel the heat coming from my eyes. They swell with new tears.
September turns his face and body away from me. I watch him picking up his t-shirt from the floor and corners himself, directing his anger away from me. I have never seen him upset like this before.
Half of my body exits the door. "You know what, love, I wish this is less difficult to handle. I really do. Somehow things get complicated with me, it almost feels like a curse."
I swallow the hot lead in my throat. "I want nothing more than you, staying close with your family. It'll put me at ease. Can you promise me?"
September stays silent. His body facing the wall, his arm over his hot temple. I begin to walk back again and close the door behind me. I hook my arms all around his waist and rest my face on his broad shoulders.
Slowly, breathe to follow his tempo, furious and broken. Borrowing what's left from his strength to build my wall back again.
Some of my friends call me a delicate flower, to which I disagree.
I keep my personal matters in private. They do not to see how my relationship grows. To some, I may seem like a late bloomer. At the age of 25, my ideal date is a dinner or a movie. But I have tasted the waters when September was with me.
It started in my high school. He was not my senior, but a 26-year-old guest native speaker who made a living by wildlife photography. I was just a curious 16-year-old who wanted to practice better English, to become an international writer, just like J.K Rowling.
September laughed. "I am no British, Missy. Can't teach you British English."
But he taught me to dream. Wild enough. We talked for years. Then before I knew it, I was an expert in handling timezone differences and all sort of glitches in a long distance relationship. I wasn't afraid of it, I loved the challenge.
September was always busy, making a life and continuous explorations. Jumping from one rainforest to another sahara. While I was busy making life decisions. So I decided to spend less commitment to entertain him.
He was one of the most difficult decision to leave out.
I noticed my life expansed ever since I didn't talk to him. I landed my internship and graduated. I actually function as a real adult. I have left my home and have a full-time job at a local English newspaper. But, there is no luck in love so far.
September has been shadowing and clouding me. He makes it hard. Like there are larger shoes to fill for other guys who want to come close. No one has ever been good enough.
Except this one guy who makes it the other way around, who always keeps me at bay, who makes sure there is a right amount of distance between us in the newsroom, coffee shops and movie theaters.
I thought Robin was gay, but after assessing his old blogpost about his first oral sex, I am pretty convinced that he is not. It is just that he has a beautiful ivory skin that throws my complexion to shame. He is nothing like September.
I love his composure and his contentment. I see him on the prayer mat, I see September meditates. I love to see a spiritual guy and he is one of them. I love the blank expression in his face that is almost too cute to ignore. I love the way he always smiles despite our deranged editors (plus his crazy estranged father) always chasing his tail. I love when he opens up to me about those things. I want to know more.
But then he always writes ambiguous message I have to mentally-encrypt in his social media. I sense most of them are about his paramour. Maybe about his "September" I don't care how he's calling her. He can call her "April" or "June" or "Sweetheart" but it hurts to look at his past even deeper.
I refuse to look at it. Maybe I should feel content when he leaves me enough space to be myself. But I tried and I won't.
Before I take off, Robin leaves a message. He asks me when I'll be landing on Jakarta. I answer if I'll arrive somewhere after midnight and advise him to just stay alert for our editor's surprise late-night text message.
I safely landed at one in the morning, I don't bother to notify anyone because I don't really have anyone to be told.
Until I see a shivering Robin at the corner of my eyes at the arrival entrance, he just misses to write my name and flight number on the plank.
"What are you doing here, man?" I am guessing he is here to pick up a very important guest.
"I am picking you up." He answers with the same blank state on his face.
It is one in the morning, of course, I take his offer. I hear his sniffing sounds louder as the cold air hits us. I keep asking him if he is okay and if he'd like to take turns driving.
"No way, silly. Mind your jetlag." He says.
"Okay, Robin. Tell me where are you going to take me? Are you going to take me to straight back to work? Going undercover to examine's Jakarta night life and do some investigative journalism?"
He looks startled. "Am I that mean to you?"
I hide my giggle. "Sometimes you do."
"Jesus, Autumn." I can see his expression changes, his eyebrows frowning, making lines on his forehead. I cannot resist his charm.
Then I smile. Looking away from him and ahead at the changing cityscape. It feels like entering a new beginning. One baby step at a time.