The trace of blind jealousy that was crowned by my bashful smile and my unstoppable tears formed an instrumental ensemble for imparting openly to him, and beyond any doubt, what my shy love had been withholding. Such exuberant proclamation amounted to turning the light to an out-and-out green for him, allowing him to haunt my office for as many times as he wished and on various pretexts. First, it started with him increasing the number of his visits to two or three daily. Soon they rose to as many as five, some of which were meetings with other advisors, which he would designedly orchestrate so that they took place in my office. Or he would drop in more often than not for casual collegial chats, in which he would position himself in strategic angles that allowed him an ideal view of me. There was for me the unutterable joy of seeing him pop in for tasks he could simply achieve over the phone. But most wonderful of all were those visits that he would resourcefully fix up at those times when the offices would be deserted by all but me. My assumed icy exterior would encase a fluttering heart that would be yearning to race out of its cage, and a pleasant shiver, similar to the one I sensed on our first meeting, would surge through me electrifying my whole body every time I would see him walking through the main entrance, or run into him down the hallway or in the vicinity of the building. Whilst his scarce absences became all the more trying and nerve-wracking, the sense of him being around was a thrill in itself, even though he’d be meters away. I was getting so hooked on his presence and basked so gloriously in the warmth of the affection with which he surrounded me, that I would be filled with restless anxiety if those visits were somehow delayed a bit longer than usual. I was like a fish; he was the sea in which I swam. My overpowering bashfulness, however, never abated or waned, but held the upper hand, sequestering from view my passionate attachment to him.
His morning visit would often coincide with my arrival at the office. It seemed as if his day would never officially start unless he ensured my thereness. And if my arrival were delayed for a few moments, I would see him endeavouring his hardest to put on a patient face, behind which lay stifled disquiet and fidgetiness. “Lady, work starts at eight”, he would remark sarcastically; or it would be something like “Hey, you’re early today”. Such would be the greetings through which he would signal his chafing at those few moments of delay which were mostly caused by the frequently mercurial mood of the establishment’s bus drivers.
I would often arrive into the office to find him sitting down in my chair, in spite of the availability of other places, chatting with Jack or the others. It was as if he were drawing warmth and affection from my belongings until I arrived in flesh and blood. Despite being a busy beaver, he would usually find the time to make a last visit, even if only for a few moments, before I left for the day. God, how I loathed those painful partings. Even though I would be endeavouring my hardest to hide it from him, there were times when my wonted self-restraint was knocked out dead by my unruly emotions, and my eyes reciprocated with the same sadness that I caught in his eyes, especially on those days when the opportunity for an exchange of words or some secluded time alone eluded us. To explain the situation in a nutshell, all the enthusiasm and rapture of the morning would dissipate by the end of the day, leaving a sense of glum dispiritedness in anticipation of our parting.
Having been raised in a culture in which the members of the stronger sex demonstrated their virility through the control exercised over their emotions, I was simply overwhelmed by the loving attention with which he encircled me. Iraqi men, notwithstanding their chivalrous, good hearted nature, would always be neophytes at conveying their emotions and feelings to their other halves. They would consider love-talk a triviality, which would be derogatory to and incongruent with their treasured manhood. Besides, they lacked the flair for such talk. Unlike the Egyptian variation of Arabic, for instance, the cacophonously coarse Iraqi dialect, so fitting a medium for conveying valour and bravery, would seem outrageously inappropriate in the arena of emotions and love. Just the mere utterance of “I love you” on the lips of Iraqi men would sound so bizarre, if not funny, that Iraqi women would much rather that their husbands mimed their affection and love. And so, being in love especially with someone who was so attentive and loving was just sensational. I would float on cloud nine every time he uttered one of his wonderfully articulated remarks, not to mention his tender gazes, which communicated an inexhaustible store of love for the slowly awakening female in me and no less reverence for the little girl who was still dwelling deeply in me. Notwithstanding the dangerous environment, everything around seemed just rosier and more propitious. Life could have not been happier, and I just adored him more with every passing day. He was becoming my man in every sense of the word. His overwhelming warmth and his boundless love, his appealing manhood and his dashing charisma, his incredible self-confidence that was increasingly boosting mine, not to mention his vast knowledge of various aspects of life, which my fledgling sapience would find all the more dazzling, captivated more and more of my heart. His stunning merits were slipping by the minute into my blood, and invading my thoughts.
Amidst all his arduous duties I occupied a vital portion of his daily thinking. He worked in an extremely demanding job with enormous responsibilities, but I was never starved of his attention. He was always there for me, always around, always making the time, inventing the means, inundating me with his utmost love and care. Despite the fact that he’d be silently standing or sitting to the side, his loving eyes would chase me in every move that I would make, or trail me like a child would after his mum around the nearby offices or to the copier, where he’d stand at the other end, with his eyes set on me while sipping a cup of coffee or tea, but always only for a few moments and always from a distance of about two metres. Those moments, nevertheless, were his bliss. They were what were available in this land freighted with prohibitions, and for these small stolen moments he was most grateful.
His only means for conveying his love and satisfying his desires were his looks. Whilst I’d be busy working, he’d be no less busy too, his discerning eyes exhaustively surfing over my face and my body to the extent of reckoning the exact sites of the three moles dotted around my face and at the side of my neck, or poring over the shape of my arms or my legs, or scrutinizing the features of my face and my hair, which would draw from him the most unreservedly affectionate and daring comments. He would be a ready wit with some uniquely and elegantly extemporized remarks that would be perfectly fitting for the occasion. He would compliment me openly and gracefully, express enchantingly his fascination. Such utterances would not only carry their touch of magic, intoxicating the virgin mind and naïve heart of the romantic female that I was, but they were also fit to elate the heart of the most unfeeling woman. Even the mere morning greetings that other men would perhaps find monotonous and tedious, he would exploit perfectly in order to proclaim his emotions, and also to enthral his heart as he watched the smile of feminine gratification drawn broadly on my face. The ubiquitous hovering love talk, his affectionately warm gazes, besides his conspicuous pining would just dazzle the inexperienced little girl within me, and send her high to the seventh heaven.
Early morning one day, I ran into him along the hallway on my way to the office. It was a Saturday, following one of those ‘nasty’ weekends that stood between us for a whole day. it must have been the wistful aloofness next to the thrill of fortuitously meeting me some distance away from the office that gave his heart such a fillip to have him remain silent, staring lovingly at me. I initiated the talk. “Good morning”, I said, smiling. Following a momentary silence, he replied with another question that twinned itself to the most wonderful smile I would have wished for. “How’re you, sweetheart?” he asked tenderly. My reply, however, would not stretch itself beyond the usual “Good”. At this moment his face glowed and his eyes sparkled, and I realized something was being cooked up, perhaps small, yet sufficient to be the condiment for the day for both of us. When I reciprocated his courtesy, asking, “How’re you?”, his reply was a broad meaning smile and a captivated look that devoured my face. He shook his head slightly, and whispered: “BEAUTIFUL”.
His Achilles' heel and the clink in his armour came from his susceptibility to my eyes. Much as he longed for my nearness, he avoided any direct contact with my eyes. I was engaged amidst my daily photocopying task one day, when I overheard him arriving. It didn’t take him long to realize that I was in the storeroom; in an instant he was standing beside me, to my right. I was working, head down, but I had a palpable sense of being showered with his tenderness. When I lifted my head up to him, smiling excitedly, our faces were less than a stretch of a hand away. He must have had only a fleeting glance of a pair of dark eyes that were abundantly lined with kohl and lashes brushed with mascara. The moment our looks touched, he swiftly turned his head away from me in shock, murmuring, “OH GOD… NO… PLEASE… DON’T”. That one look sufficed to make him falter out of the room.
To Be Continued.......