“I have a gift for you.”
I couldn’t quite tell if I was happy or scared. She refused to tell me what this gift that was chained and secured with the most sophisticated lock was as if it was caging a yet-to-be-known creature. Even I, the greatest locksmith of the heart, wasn’t able to crack it. I guessed and guessed, but I still couldn’t hit the jackpot. I was the boiling water in an ordinary pot, continuously bubbling. Just couldn’t swallow my chagrin. But at the same time, while I was concerned about the gift, I couldn’t believe how much I cared. I was shocked at how much I have changed from the beginning.
We met at a bar in November. That day, in dim lights, I saw that fire of desire in her charcoal eyes when she asked me if I was alone. Fleetingly, I saw minuscule shining stars floating. But after five seconds of playing catch, she diminished them. I hated the way she spoke. Her personality was spiky like a sea urchin. I was so sure that she was only going to be a one-night-friend who I would never get in touch with again. All of these thoughts formed at the speed of light the moment she tossed back the ball to me with a “Holy Shit!”. Where the hell were her manners? Unbelievable. We were total strangers a few seconds ago and still sort of were..
I walked home that day in the quiet late night. No cars, no bikes, just serenity. By the time I separated myself and the world with my lids, ready to commit to my dream, I had already erased ninety-five percent of her from my mind. But she was not a quitter. From the bottom of the valley that her first impression threw herself into, she climbed up to where I was resting with just a backpack full of sorcery. And cast a spell on me. Was I mad that she was a witch? No. I was teleported to a new world where I couldn’t see anything but her. And I couldn’t help but falling in love with it. Yet every night, just before I lay to rest, I awoke to the old world I grew up in, and the accumulation of this routine had my fear grow in me like the mold in a humid bathroom. I couldn’t tell if I merely adored the new world alone with her or if I was fond of her. Standing at an awkward and tilted place on the hill together, looking into each other’s eyes, I didn’t know which direction to set my next footstep.
On the day she promised to hand me the gift, I was a broken retro metronome. In a taxi, on the way to her place, I spared no effort to control the unsteady swing. But there was no way she didn’t notice. She was a musician by nature—me being even a bit off-tempo would have caught her attention. Fuck. However, time never waits. We soon arrived at our destination. It was winter but I was sweating like the sun had grilled me for hours. As she slowly walked into her room, I dashed into the restroom. I was not ready. I wasn’t ready for whatever she was planning. What if I like the gift a little too much? What if I don’t like it at all? My concerns were like tangled hair and I was attempting to work it out with a wide-toothed comb so carefully to avoid any tears.
As I finished fixing my hair and made my way to her room, the metronome cured itself and ticked at a simultaneous pace as the second hand. Sixty beat-per-minute enlarged and thickened the fog in my brain. I gripped the knob and twisted my wrist. And there was light. And through the light, there she was in front of the piano. The gift was a live performance of an original song about us. My heart soared high up into the sky and my arms gave her an inescapable sudden hug. Then, her being a competitive person, gave me an inescapable sudden peck in return. I sat beside her on the duet bench, gazing at her silhouette and feeling the rhythm while she sang. It was pure happiness. That realm we were in blocked every worry that may exist. But just when she played the last note, time froze. All the noise vanished except the faint sound of her breath. As she looked into my pupils trying to study them, I saw that fire of desire in her again. My body turned into a magnet and my mind turned into fuel. I dragged myself onto one of her legs. My hands caressed her shape while hers gently wrapped around my waist. Our moist lips interlocked, and during our hockey match, she began to shake the leg I was perching on. I couldn’t resist knitting my brows. The unruly yet delicate cries that were encased in gasps broke our silence. Her devilish grin made me melt on her knee. My mind caught on her fire and we were together in flames.
The night blazed a little too hard that left me a good burnt. I can’t help but laugh at how I was simulating again and again in front of the restroom mirror how to perform a perfect reaction when she presents me with the gift. To me, the heart-piercing gift wasn’t the song or the frantic yet beautiful interlink we had. The greatest gift was her and only her. On the hill, affirmation grew in our eyes. Fuck locksmiths. Simmering love was what uncaged our untamed and tender creatures of heart. As they merged into one in the air, I looked up at the distant tip of the mountain and held her hand. And there we took our very first step up the hill, sure and firm.
Written by Aimi Otani