A first not-date in Brussels

“So are you his girlfriend”, the photographer asked. “No no, she’s just a friend” He quickly answered. “Yeah, just friends” I confirmed. “Oh okay, I see”, “anyway, could you hold this please?” he asked. He handed me the reflective screen and showed me where to stand. I was forced to look at him now. Which I had been avoiding before because I knew it made him uncomfortable. His green-blue eyes swiftly looked in mine, I could read that he was nervous.  

Where it all started

A few days before he asked me to come along on this shoot. It was just a test shoot so that his agency could have some pictures for his portfolio. We were just friends and we both had no intention to move further than that. But somehow, as I was positioning the screen so that the sun would hit him perfectly, I wondered if maybe it was dumb of me to think that we couldn’t be more. We started talking about a month ago. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. As we started talking more frequently, we did really click. Finding common interests and personality traits. On the other hand, there were also a lot of opposites. I wasn’t in the right headspace to start something new on a romantic level and I also didn’t think he wanted that. So, we stayed with being just friends. Sometimes though, all it takes to change that is a swift touch or look. 

In the middle of a busy road, next to central-station in Brussels, he had to pose. I could tell he felt awkward, as did I. People rushing by in their cars turned their heads, far from subtle. He’s so attractive, I caught myself thinking. Whenever he looked at me, I blushed. Be subtle. I didn’t like it, this feeling. I had been so set on not getting into anything romantic, for at least three years. I know it sounds dumb and naïve but I’m sure some people would understand that after getting out of a hurtful situation, you want to protect yourself. You start to subconsciously push every possibility of romantic interests away but sometimes you just can’t. If you can’t or don’t want to, that’s up for discussion of course. It depends on your vision of love. Maybe you believe there’s one true person for you, and when you meet them everything will seem straight out of a fairytale. Or maybe you believe there are multiple people right for you. I personally don’t believe in ‘the one’.

I believe that people, relationships and situations change and all of that affects the outcome of your future. 

‘Local’ tourists

When the shoot was over, we said goodbye to the photographer and went on our own way. I was so curious to see how the pictures turned out. As we walked next to the giant copper replica of King Albert the first, we discussed what we wanted to eat. A discussion that wasn’t easy, since we both are unable to make decisions. “AAAA” we both turned our heads to see who the hell was yelling so loud at 2 in the afternoon. Turned out to just be a crazy dude, nothing new. When I first started going to school in Brussels, I was actually still scared of people like that or at least surprised but now I don’t even notice it anymore. “Brussels is a weird place man,” Abdul said while shaking his head. We both did like Brussels though. The mix of tourists and locals, cultures and types of people was something we loved. Following the flood of smiling tourists, we stopped at the Grasmarkt, grabbed a burrito (a choice I did make in the end) and walked along.

We sat down in Café Capitale, a coffee shop right across from the police station. A few hours had passed, while our conversations were getting more and more interesting. Somehow, we ended up on the subject of types. He asked me what mine was, but since I didn’t really know because I tend to fall for guys who aren’t my ‘type’, I asked him what his type was. “Preferably brown hair, intelligent, funny, not a push-over,…” “So, me?” I asked jokingly, whilst having a little spark of hope inside me that it was actually true. Don’t even try to flirt. I couldn’t read his grin, was he thinking “You wish” or “Yes but I am not going to admit that”? I didn’t know which one I preferred to be honest. “You wish” would make this easier but the second one would make me happier. It hadn’t been awkward between us since we met but now, I felt weird even just looking at him. I was trying hard to come across as confident but inside I felt insecure. I think it was pretty obvious though. I usually am incredible at hiding what I feel, if I do say so myself. Which may not seem like a good trait but honestly, it makes a lot of situations easier. Right now though, I probably look like a tomato. It was hot though and the sun was hitting my face, so maybe he assumed my redness was the result of that. Abdul, on the other hand, is the kind of person that always seems confident, which also makes him so much more attractive. Except when he had to pose in the middle of busy Brussels of course. Sometimes he was annoyingly confident though, I wished he would show me more of what he actually felt, like if he was nervous or something. So that I wouldn’t feel like such a dork for being nervous. 

“Zoe” I snapped out of my inner dialogue “what are you thinking”, he asked me. Sometimes I get in my own head and just get into this spiral of thoughts. “nothing, I just zoned out for a second, sorry”. He laughed and I wondered what he was thinking. He sipped his coffee while keeping eye contact. I couldn’t stop staring at him, stop staring you weirdo, but he’s cute, but this is really weird. 

The evening arrived, it was about 7 when we both realized we were really hungry. We decided to just be a true tourist and go to one of the restaurants that are located in the epicentre of the tourist neighbourhood. The dark brown woven chair squeaked as we sat down. Anyone who would see us right now, sitting on the terrace of this Italian restaurant, would think we are together. Honestly, at this point, I had a feeling that he was into me too. His stares became longer throughout the day and his smiles brighter. “what can I get for the happy couple?” the waiter cheerfully asked us. “oh no, not a couple, just friends” we both laughed. This is something I would see in movies all the time and find so cheesy but apparently, they do it in real life too. We ordered and returned to the conversation we were having before being interrupted by the eager waiter. 

Almost goodbye

A passion we both shared was music. We loved listening to music and luckily, our tastes were very alike. So, on the train ride home, we listened to music. The train wagon was almost empty. I was sitting next to him, sitting sideways on the weirdly patterned blue chair so I could look at him. He handed me one side of the headphones and I scooted over, closer to him. I was tired and for some reason, at that moment it felt right to just lay my head on his shoulder. I glanced at him and saw a smile on his face. My whole body felt weak, adrenalized and at peace at once. It’s a small gesture but it made me feel way more than I thought it could. We sat there listening to the Weeknd, his favourite artist. One of mine too, but as I said before, I can’t make choices.

My eyes drifted to his hands. Should I just grab his hand? I kind of hoped he would make a move. But he didn’t and I didn’t either. I think we were both still doubting everything. We had quite a few friends in common, and also not-friends. Making a move like that would probably put things in motion, which we both knew. Maybe our friends would think it’s weird? Us, together. I for sure knew they didn’t expect it. 

The train conductor announced the next stop. Half asleep on Abdul’s shoulder I shot up, it was our stop. “I had fun today,” He said. “Me too” “we should hang out again soon”. Since school hadn’t started for me and Abdul was in his first week of school, we both had loads of time. He is the same age as me but he’s behind in school because he moved here from Chechnya when he was about six so, he had to learn Dutch first. We looked at each other, I could feel his breath. “I’m free this weekend,” he said while scanning my face. “Me too,” I said softly. I wanted to kiss him, to be honest, but it was too soon. I could feel he felt the same way. The train stopped and we got off. “So, I’ll see you this weekend right?” I asked. “Maybe even before the weekend.”

“I think I’ll miss you too much”.

Abdul said while hugging me. I felt weak again and I didn’t want to let go. He’s 190cm tall and I am 156cm short so my ear perfectly lays on his heart when I hug him. His heart was racing, just like mine. “Bye”… “yeah, bye,” We said while locking eyes. I dropped my head “okay I’m going to go now” why do you have to be so awkward? We said goodbye one last time and I finally left. Everything inside of me was telling me to go back and kiss him but of course, cautious as I am, I suppressed the urge and walked home. Even though nothing happened yet, we both knew where this was going. 

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