“THE MARK-MANIA: THE STRANGEST FIRST DATE AND THE PASSIONATE FIRST KISS”

For the first time in like ages, I finally got myself a date.

I’m one of the admins of the writers’ club. It was one of the rarest nights when we had more foreign visitors than usual. Ari’s boyfriend George from The Czech Republic. Farida’s boyfriend Robbie from The States. Vladimir or ‘Vlad’ from Bulgaria (with Nina, who later became her boyfriend.)

And…Mark L. (I have to put his last name’s initial here, since I’ve known so many Marks in my life.) A Russian, freelance photojournalist and sci-fi writer. A Darwinian Jew. One of a kind.

So, how did I end up going out with him?

It was completely out of the blue. I happened to sit right next to him that Thursday night, while he was reading his sci-fi story to us.

After that, Nina drove him, Vlad, and me home. On the way there, Mark and I were sitting on the backseat and talking, while Vlad was sitting next to Nina.

So, what did we talk about that night?

I can’t remember. Mark had asked for my number earlier back at the gathering.

“You said you had a family?” he asked me, sounding surprised, curious, and slightly amused. “As in, marriage?”

“No.” I laughed. “As in mom, a married sister, a brother, and three kids I call ‘nephews and niece’.”

“Ahh.” He nodded, as if he understood. “I don’t know why. You strike me as…odd. Not normal.”

“’Not normal’?” Excuse me? I glared at him, but his dark brown eyes under his glasses looked serious – not mocking at all. In fact, his face lacked expression. “Hmm, I don’t know, Mark,” I said slowly with a careless shrug. I somehow decided to play along. “I usually just let people speculate about me.”

“Speculate, huh?” He raised his dark, thick eyebrows. “That means I’ll have to see you again.”

I didn’t take him seriously that night, until a couple of weeks later.

He asked me out.

When I told Robbie about it, he told me that he’d sensed something ‘off’ about Mark. Somehow, I decided to trust his instinct and ended up giving him Mark’s ID. (So far, I’d only got his last name and a website where he’s officially registered as a freelance photojournalist, along with a picture of him there.)

Robbie promised me that he’d look him up through his investigator friend. Then he warned me to be careful. He said he’d be around the same area nearby with Farida that Saturday night, just in case something ‘went wrong’ and I needed to be rescued immediately.

Okay, I know that I could’ve cancelled the date altogether at the last minute, lying about sudden illnesses or anything people normally do when backing out of a date.

However, I keep my word. My strength? My stupidity?) So I did catch up with Mark at Kopi Oey that night. Ironically, that’s also one of the spots where the writers’ club sometimes hangs out.

How did it go?

It went normal at first. You know, a guy and a girl sitting together, talking over coffee. The topics were varied and most of them were not the typically ‘light’ stuff people normally discuss on a first date. (“So, how do you like Jakarta so far?” , “Do you travel much?” , “Where’s your family?”)

In fact, here’s the list we’d mostly talked about that night: science. Sci fi. Fiction. Authors. Philosophy. Darwin. Religion and his skepticism of all. His travel stories and other adventures. His scientist mom and his craziness and troubles when he was much younger. His ex-girlfriends. His drunken nights and experiments.

How to make napalm and Molotov cocktails. No, I’m not pulling your leg.

Okay, so I mostly let him do the talking. Why? Was I not bored?

Well, I didn’t really care much that night. First of all, I wasn’t that interested in him, but I was still a curious cat. I could still study him for future character references in my next writing project(s).

Secondly, I don’t think he’d be that interested in hearing more about me. I’m not good at this, but some of my best bets would be: Asperger’s syndrome, schizophrenia, or just socially-challenged. He claimed to have lived like a savage for the past 18 years of his life. A Nomad with no emotional attachment nor connection – not even to his own mother. (His dad has never been around long before he was even born.)

He doesn’t believe in empathy or the purpose of it. Basically, he doesn’t even follow social norms. He is what he is, like a stray cat who roams around wherever his heart desires. He never stays in one place too long.

How do I feel about him? I don’t know; it’s kind of hard to tell. I don’t despise him or anything, but I don’t fancy him that much either. I’m not that afraid of him, but I don’t feel completely safe with him either.

There’s a feeling there, but I’m not exactly sure what it is yet. Undefined.

However, I’m not sure about the kiss, though. The kiss? Yeah, you won’t believe if I tell you this:

Thirty-three years of my entirely sheltered life, and I’ve finally got my very first kiss. (No joke.) It was from this really weird guy I barely know.

At first, I didn’t see that coming. Back at the cafe, I’d thought he was getting up to go to the restroom or something. Then suddenly, he bent down quickly and placed his lips on mine. I blinked in surprise and he was already back on his seat, grinning at me.

“Sorry.” Mark giggled. “I can’t resist doing that. You’re so cute, so tiny.”

I raised an eyebrow at him skeptically. Somehow, I surprised myself by remaining rather…cold. Stoic, to be exact.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” I told him. “I don’t normally do this.”

“Do what?” Is this guy for real?

“Uh, let a guy kiss me in public that way?”

“I’m sorry,” Mark said and giggled again. For a while there, he looked more like an overgrown boy instead of a 37-year-old man.

We went for a walk outside after that. I’d decided to let that go as we talked and joked and the night drew on. I have to admit, though. Mark is not a boring conversationalist. He’s very smart and funny. He seems to know loads of stuff and tends to think outside the box…a lot. Or perhaps thinking as if there is no box at all.

Then he suddenly stopped and we stood face-to-face on the sidewalk. The bright lights from the theatre building behind his towering frame just silhouetted him…beautifully. I don’t know why. Maybe I was slightly…enchanted by him. After all, Mark is indeed one of a kind.

His hands were on my shoulder before gradually moving up to my neck and cheeks. He was smiling down at me.

“You’re so cute, so tiny,” he murmured, gently stroking my neck and cheek. I felt myself all shivery at the touch of his each fingertip and silently hated myself for it. “Would it be awkward if I kissed you in public?”

That’s when it happened…for real.

It wasn’t a question. He wasn’t asking for my permission; he was simply letting me know what he was about to do next.

And most of all, it felt like Mark was challenging me too, not just flirting. Was I afraid? Would I slap him in the face after that, or just bolt out of his sight for good?

A part of my brain was screaming: “RUN!” Another part said: “Hmm, this is getting more interesting. Let’s stick around longer and see how this goes…”

Of course, it was too late for me to decide. Mark had already bent forward while pulling me towards him and I – dumbly – automatically closed my eyes.

How was it?

It was weird. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was also nice. He was a good kisser. I felt his gentle tugs on my lips.

When we were face-to-face again, Mark was grinning at me. I tried to grin too, but all that came out was a cringe. It was not because of the kiss.

It was because I’d imagined Steel Blue Eyes while kissing Mark. That’s right; guilty as charged. Not only that, I’d also given God one more reason to put me in hell in the afterlife.

We’d parted at two. Mark had wanted me to stay the night, but I told him no. No way, and it wasn’t just because of the first date.

So we hugged. Once again, he murmured softly into my hair:

“You’re so tiny…so lovely…”

Then I quickly caught a cab home before he tried to seduce me some more.

Duh!

R.

(Jakarta, 6/10/2015 – 8:42 am)

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