I opened my laptop for him, exposing 25 of my latest posts for him to scrutinize.
He commented on my writings, and after a pause, he said,
“Your men,” he said, , “They’re confused.”
I heard my heart clunking at the bottom of my stomach “Huh?”
“You tend to become attracted to fragile men because of your instinct to protect as the oldest child. Yet, as a woman, you also long to be protected, so you’re attracted to the dominant aspect of their personality too.”
Something else clunks, maybe it's my pride.
My uncle continued, “Men who are both domineering and fragile are – in reality – very confused men. They father and preach you in one scene and ,in the next, they’ll go berserk if you express individuality. That’s why your relationships with them never last, because their confusion added to your own, is exhausting.”
For once, a lot of people would agree with me; that his charisma and social skills were outstanding. That women would flutter at his feet and men would follow his whims. That he is matured and beautiful and hold the kind of grace preserved for aristocrats, and the kind of power preserved for conglomerates. We know this. He knows this, and he takes it for heartbreaking granted.
That afternoon, we sat over coffee and donuts, over elaborate monologues centered around his amour-propre, over the submissive want to indulge in his captivating presence.
I gave in to him, to his detailed description of his extraordinary affair with a princess, to his childlike ideas about God and utopia, to his weakness for praise and my need to please him. I needed to give in to every possible second and thought and breath filled with his miniscule details: the way he breathed, the way he mouthed my name and nickname and endearments, the way his palm felt on mine when he accidentally allowed as much, leaving me bothered and conflicted.
I yielded to his every command; I am a nodding dashboard puppet when he stated his ideals, I am a vehement provocateur to his subjects of disapproval, I am the muse to his whims and fancy, and I am the fool with my soul bared for him to pick.
I wanted him and I wanted him to want me, while trying to keep myself afloat in a pool of handsome candy, tuck inside a thundering rollercoaster of lust. Sweet. Intoxicating. Rush.
I managed to get away right before anything that could disappoint me and God and my parents happened between me and that very beautiful charmer.
I reached home and slumped into the majlis, exhilarated and exhausted, combing my consciousness through layers of sensory overload.
Barely noticing it served.
Barely noticing it brought to my side, by someone who is worlds apart from the man-whore in the café.
Barely noticing the second man at all, when he closed the door behind me as I walked into the house, when he replied "Wa'alaikum Salam", when he brought the tea, and every time he is in my presence. Keeping his eyes and voice and limbs strictly within propriety's range. Dutiful. Quiet. Efficient.
Somehow the old fear of abandonment allowed me to catch the sight of him walking away, leaving me staring inquisitively at the cup he brought, for as long that it took for us to converse: "Did I ask for you?"
"No," said the cup, "but your manservant thought that you might like me here."
It was the warmest, serenest and most fulfilling tea that could possibly fill a cup.