I Want You to Want Me by Jennifer Anthony

5 June 2008

Te quiero.

The words ran through Allison’s head. First, soft, and lazy. Then fastandbreathless.

When she really wanted to torture herself, she said the expression aloud and added in his name: “Te quiero, Juan.”

But the words sounded funny aloud. For starters, her southern accent seeped through. Secondly, his name was really John, not Juan. And there was that little matter that she had only met the guy at the cheese shop over a month before and therefore couldn’t possibly know if she loved him.

Of course, as Graciela had pointed out, te quiero had two meanings: I love you and I want you, and she was sure that she wanted him. But technically, she also wanted the man with the slightest hint of a Russian accent at the gym, the guy she saw walking his lazy basset hound every other day down her street, and the suit she’d spotted working his way through the classics on his lunch hour in Central Park.

Graciela, Kyoko, and Noelle all found it incredibly ironic and funny that Roxie –the most cynical woman in the world – was secretly mumbling I-love-you’s to Javier, while Allison, the true romantic, wasn’t feeling much more than lust with her new beau. So Allison had hatched a plan to test John’s RQ – Romantic Quotient. She had invited him over to her apartment early in the afternoon, when the light still streamed through the open blinds and demanded a little more honesty, a little more languidness, than a frenzied night after cocktails. He would bring the cheese and she would provide the wine.

He was knocking on the door now, a steady, self-assured knock that sounded like he meant business. She liked that.

When she opened the door, he was holding a bag from the cheese shop in one hand and a bouquet of gerbera daisies in the other. The yellow, pink, and red flowers screamed cheerful friendship, not romance, but nevertheless, she couldn’t help the big goofy smile she felt spreading across her mouth. He was still wearing the tee-shirt from work.

And then he handed her the bag, shrugged, and said, “Pecorino. The hardest we had.”

She barely heard the door slam as she tore off his clothes. She did hear the thin cotton of his tee-shirt ripping, a yawning sound that meant it would be beyond repair.

He didn’t seem to notice.

The bag of pecorino fell with a thud onto the floor. She jumped at him, and he caught her with both arms, holding on firmly to the back of her thighs. He walked over to the couch with her attached to him, simian-style, and plopped her down on the pillows.

John liked to kiss her entire body, starting from the crown of her head to the teeny silver ring on her right pinkie toe, and had just made his way to her eyelids when the phone on the end table rang. Allison tightened her grip around his back, silently willing him to ignore it. The phone continued to ring two more times, and then her voicemail picked up.

They heard the din of clattering dishes and the hubbub of many voices, and then Graciela was speaking, loud and clear.

“Allison! Are you screening? Come join us!”

Her friends had invited her for a late lunch and beverages but she had begged off, mumbling excuses about housework.

Now Kyoko was shouting into the phone, “You better not be there with John!”

Noelle interjected, “Je t’adore, Jean! Je t’adore!”

Allison scrambled for the phone with her right hand, but not before Graciela could cry, among the laughter, “Te quiero, Juan!”

They hung up just as Allison’s fingers were curling around the receiver. She knew she should have ditched the landline like just about everyone else she knew. But the old-fashioned rotary phone made such a statement. And now her friends had made a statement of their own.

She turned slowly to face John, unsure what to expect. It was altogether possible that he had studied German in high school.

His grin reminded her a little bit of a blond cocker spaniel her family had had growing up. “Hey, I understood all that,” he said.

Allison began to kiss his bare chest, stopping only to say, “Oh, ignore my friends. They’re just being silly.”

But he pulled away and his face was somber. “I can’t ignore them. Because the truth is, Allison, je t’adore aussi.

Allison felt a nauseous tug at her stomach. She couldn’t fathom what he was talking about. She made like she was in the Tower of Babel, and forced herself to stare at him with a blank, slightly confused expression.

“I’ll translate,” John said. “Te quiero. I love you.”

As weird as the words sounded when Allison had said them, they sounded thousands of times more bizarre when spilling from John’s mouth.

She froze. John’s romantic quotient had rocketed sky-high. But all she wanted to do at that moment was to rewind the relationship back.

Back to when te quiero simply meant I want you.

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