I had an inexplicable feeling that someone might be walking towards me, from behind. Instead of turning to look, I began imagining it was the attractive guy I’d seen a minute or two earlier, with whom I’d momentarily made eye contact before I bashfully retreated into the park where I now sat alone. I then heard the sound of footsteps, which gradually came closer and proved my suspicions correct.
I suddenly saw tan feet in sandals, under a pair of blue sweatpants, beneath a silver-gray hoodie, as my bowing head turned left towards the person who stopped before me. I looked up to see the face of the person who was saying hello. Much to my surprise, it was actually him — the attractive guy from minutes ago.
“Hi,” I responded cooly, attempting to keep my astonishment concealed.
“I can sit with you?” he asked.
“Of course,” I replied.
He sat down next to me on the small bench. There wasn’t a lot of space between us. He was close enough for me to gather that I liked the way he smelled.
“Where are you from?” asked the guy.
He spoke English slowly, with careful pronunciation and an accent.
“I’m American, and you?”
“I’m from Morocco.”
“From this city, or…?”
“Not here. I come from a small town in the south of Morocco. It is close to Agadir about 100 kilometers. Have you been to Agadir?”
“You must visit Agadir one day if you can. Many Americans go there. It is a nice city. What are you doing in Morocco?”
“I’m on vacation now. What are you doing here?”
“I’m staying with friends. I look for work here.”
“I hope you find something.”
“Thank you, brother,” he sighed, “Me also. I hope.”
He asked, “Do you visit Morocco alone?”
I said, “Yes.”
“No boyfriend? I mean girlfriend, sorry, my English.”
“Just me,” I said with an awkward grin, “How about you?”
“About me? Oh, you know how they are. Girls… if you have no job, no money, they don’t even want to speak with you,” he said, gesturing with his hand as if shooing away a fly.
“I’m sorry, I understand.”
“Don’t be sorry. Listen, brother, if you want a Moroccan girlfriend, it’s more easy for you. Guarantee. They like your skin, your eyes…”
He looked in my eyes directly as he said ‘eyes’.
“Very easy for you to have a girlfriend here.”
I laughed nervously before saying, “I’m not looking.”
There was an awkward pause and both of us looked away from each other as I wondered what either of us would say next to break the silence.
“I understand you,” he said, “I don’t look either. Why should I care?”
“Mmm-hmm,” I replied, lost for words.
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Derek,” I answered, “What’s yours?”
“My name is Ayoub. Nice to meet you, Derek.”
He shook my hand, then added with a smile, “It’s a handsome name, I think. For an American.”
Eyebrows raised, I said, “I like yours, it’s nice.”
I chose the word ‘nice’ because it felt safer than saying handsome out loud. I didn’t want to reveal any attraction. I’m a terrible flirt because of my shyness. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to give me any hints or not. Maybe it was just his friendliness, or simply a curiosity about foreigners.
“It’s been a long time I didn’t practice my English. I’m happy to speak with you. I hope I don’t disturb you,” Ayoub said.
“Not at all. I have nobody to talk to, so…”
“Derek,” he said.
A warm gentle smile spread over his face. He appeared as if fascinated by something, but what? Me?
“Derek, do you have a girlfriend in America?”
“No,” I said.
“How is it possible for you not to have one?”
“Um, I don’t know,” I said with a shrug, while inside my brain I heard myself shouting the answer: because I’m gay.
“You are too beautiful. Handsome, I mean.”
“No, I’m not. You look better than me. I think Americans would like you.”
“You really think so?”
Ayoub began to speak with less confidence in his voice as he said, “Derek, I don’t know what is the problem with me. I am crazy.”
“Crazy, how?” I inquired.
“Crazy because I feel that I want to kiss you,” he said, lowering his voice almost to a whisper as he said the word ‘kiss’.
I drew in a deep breath and replied, “That’s not crazy.”
I looked at him and tried to tell him with my brain that is was alright to kiss me. He looked around in all directions quickly, the whites of his eyes catching the pale light of the moon as he checked to see whether anyone might be watching us.
Then, he placed a palm against my cheek and leaned forward, pressing his soft lips into mine. Our noses touched as we kissed. I could feel his excitement and nervousness, or was it mine that I felt? When we pulled away from each other, it was like there were magnets in our lips compelling us not to separate as we did. His hand left my face in slow motion, his fingertips seeming desperate to hold on for that extra second.
“You make me want to have more of that,” Ayoub said, with one hand covering his crotch, “You wake me up”.
“Me too,” I said.
“I just took a risk,” he said, beginning to speak much faster than before, “I was crazy. I saw you before you entered the park and I thought I will just follow you and see what’s gonna happen. I never did this before in my life, I swear to you. I am afraid to disturb you.”
“You were smart,” I assured him.
“Do you know why I am shaking right now?” Ayoub asked me.
I put my hand over his.
“I know it is pathetic,” he said, “But all my life I never kissed someone that way. You are my first. Oh, my God. Don’t judge me, Derek!”
I didn’t — and couldn’t — judge him. My heart was pounding so fast in my chest as I studied his wonderful face and smiled, before giving him a second… and then a third…