Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First Dance

October 2005

“Namiko? Wake up.”

She had dozed off in the car as I was driving her to the Caltrain station after our seventh date (and I considered all of our outings together as dates, even though she would not). She had been yawning from the moment I picked her up at the Ferry Building earlier that evening, apologizing with an explanation that she hasn’t had enough sleep. I was content with cancelling our plans so she could get some rest, but she insisted she wanted to spend time with me that Friday evening. So we continued the drive to the Kabuto restaurant in Richmond.

Tired as she was, it was up to me to keep up the lion’s share of the conversation through dinner, and I had done my best — even though I knew she was paying as much attention to me as she was to her entree, eating only a small amount of the sashimi teishoku in front of her and gently prodding the rest of it with her chopsticks. While I always enjoyed Namiko’s company, and was glad about how much she wanted to be with me, I could see her struggling to smile as she half-listened to my monologue of recent life events, and I felt a twinge of guilt with each listless look she gave me with her very dark eyes.

This was a mistake.

Namiko reluctantly agreed. We decided to forgo our plans for dessert at Joe’s Ice Cream and call it an evening.

“Please wake up.”

Namiko's lovely body arched as she stretched herself awake in the passenger seat. Then she immediately sat bolt upright when she realized that we weren’t at the Castro station, but in front of her home.

“Wait. How did you…?” She suddenly seemed more alert than she had been all evening; I wasn’t sure if it was due more to her surprise or to the fact that she had slept soundly through the hour-long drive to Mountain View.

“People Search. MapQuest. Luckily you weren’t unlisted.” I helped her out of my car, reassuring myself that my research into her home address a few weeks prior was not an act of obsession, but preparation for a situation such as this. There was no way I would allow Namiko to travel alone by train when she was more than half-asleep. Nor was I going to let her drive home from the Evelyn Avenue station. “I trust you can get your car from the carpark in the morning?”

Namiko’s beautiful eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Yeah. I can manage that. Thought of everything, didn’t you?” She looked at me intently. “You know, I’d invite you in, except…”

“It is all right, Namiko. You are tired. And I didn’t expect…”

She shook her dark, wispy hair. “It’s not that. I want to invite you in, but… well, I should tell you something first.” She glanced quickly to the narrow walkway to the door. “You see, I have a baby. A son. He’s almost a year old. His father was… well, he was a big mistake.” Her voice was suddenly faraway.

My heart was beating a little faster, yet I didn’t seem too surprised by the revelation. Perhaps I had unconsciously suspected it when she first mentioned her inability to travel. At the moment, I was more astonished by my inability to respond. All I could do was quietly look at the beautiful face that was still turned from me. I was suddenly filled with wonder about what it was like to raise a child, alone, while still maintaining her professional career. It made me respect — and love — Namiko all the more.

“This would be the part where the guy would turn tail and run,” she commented flatly, as if speaking from experience.

I finally found my voice. “I’m not going anywhere.” I said, pulling her close in an embrace. She stiffened.

“What are you doing?”

Surprised, I loosened my grip. Was I being too forward? “Sorry. I was only…” my heart seemed to catch in my throat as I saw Namiko’s rich chocolate eyes lock on mine. Our lips met… and danced together as time seemed to slide away.

Upon release, her gaze followed her finger that she playfully ran down the center of my chest. She looked up and smiled fetchingly at me. “So, was that like biting on foil?”

“That’s me all right…”

“Far from it,” I replied.

“…the ‘Tinfoil Girl.”’

“Good manners,” she said with a playful smirk. Her smile widened. “Well, I was right about you. You do…”

“And you, I bet you…”

“…melt in the mouth.” She immediately giggled at that, just like she did at the Tadich Grill weeks ago when she kept that phrase to herself.

Her laugh was infectious.  “So, when do I meet the man of the house?” I grinned.

My arm was suddenly locked in Namiko’s elbow. “How about right now?”

She was even more awake and alert now, and excited. She literally pulled me by the arm through her front door, through a breezy introduction to the babysitter, and into a modest nursery.

Her baby boy was in his crib, but still awake, and squealed and kicked with delight upon seeing his mother.  He had Namiko’s eyes, which locked right on me with such stark familiarity, as if he had known me for all of his then-short life.

“So this is what has been keeping you up at night,” I mused. I reached down toward his swinging hands, one of which suddenly became a tight tiny fist around my extended finger. He giggled appreciatively.

“He’s beautiful,” I said. “He’ll be quite the heartbreaker someday.”

Namiko’s smile failed to stifle a yawn, indicating her fatigue had returned.

The teenaged babysitter poked her head in the doorway. “I guess I should be heading out since you are home early,” she began.

“If I may,” I interrupted. “I don’t suppose you could stay as planned to watch over this little guy so Namiko can get some much-needed sleep?”

The teenager eyed me carefully in response to what I then realized was a very presumptive question, then looked at Namiko quizzically.

She nodded. “It is a good idea,” she said, “if you don’t mind…”

“Oh, no. No,” the babysitter reassured with a warm smile. “It’s fine.” The babysitter disappeared down the hall.

I turned to Namiko. “Her extra hours are on me, okay? You rest.”

“It’s all right. I was ready to pay her in full anyway. I should at least see you out.”

Namiko noticed that her son hadn’t let my finger go. “He likes you,” she said, her face shining with relief at my smile toward the boy. “So what do you think about being a dad? Because that’s what’s going to happen if we keep going forward with this.”

“I’m not really thinking about that,” I responded slowly, “but more about the three of us being a family.”

Her eyes widened. “You mean it?”

“I do. We can start by bringing this little guy along on our da—outings… if that’s all right with you.”

Namiko almost laughed. “If that’s all right?” she smirked.

“Have any plans for tomorrow?” I asked immediately.

She looked at her son tugging on my finger. “We do,” she sighed in mock-disappointment. “Guess you’ll just have to just come along.”

Namiko leaned her very warm body against me, as her son released my hand so I could envelop her in my arms. Our lips danced together again, while the baby boy in the crib below gurgled with approval.

Not the end.

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