(Continued from Crowded Room)
I push the door open with my foot. Its trajectory is blocked by a sewing box which usually lives downstairs. ‘Coffee?’
‘Would you like milk?’
‘Err – if you’ve got it.’
His costume is back in place, and he looks a little uncomfortable. I go back downstairs, add milk to both mugs, and linger there a moment in case he follows.
Flatmate’s step on the stair makes me start. I wait until he’s passed the entrance to the kitchen, before making my way back upstairs.
Ben takes the cup. ‘Thanks.’
I sit down on the bed. He follows suit, perching on the edge. This is foreign territory. I’ve never been offered coffee at a guy’s place after staying the night. On the contrary, it’s usually a race to leave before (God forbid) he notices my presence. It’s why I don’t do it anymore: that feeling, like you’re nothing; and on his side, a palpable desire to erase you from his life as quickly as possible.
I don’t know if it’s Ben, or my desire to civilize the whole thing, or the fact that I want a coffee so naturally make one for my guest; but here we are, nursing mugs which are still too hot to drink, making polite, if not entirely relaxed, conversation. It’s like a date in reverse.
We discuss our plans for the weekend; he tells me about his parents’ work; we exchange restaurant recommendations. There’s no suggestion that we might at some point visit one of them together, which saddens me a little, but not too much.
‘Well, I’d better get going,’ he says, rising.
We both have trains to catch.
My hand on the latch, we kiss.
I close the door on his retreating back. He didn’t ask for my number; I have no expectation that I’ll hear from him again; and I feel… OK about it.