But it might have started way later than I think without my noticing anything at all. You see someone, but you don't really see him, he's in the wings. Or you notice him, but nothing clicks, nothing "catches", and before you're even aware of a presence, or of something troubling you, the six weeks that were offered you have almost passed and he's either already gone or just about to leave, and you're basically scrambling to come to terms with something, which unbeknownst to you, has been brewing for weeks under your very nose and bears all the symptoms of what you're forced to call I want. How couldn't I have known, you ask? I know desire when I see it — and yet, this time, it slipped by completely. I was going for the devious smile that would suddenly light up his face each time he'd read my mind, when all I really wanted was skin, just skin.
"Can you just play the Bach the way Bach wrote it?"
"But Bach never wrote it for guitar. He may not even have written it for the harpsichord. In fact, we're not even sure it's by Bach at all."
"Forget I asked."
"Okay, okay. No need to get so worked up," I said. It was my turn to feign grudging acquiescence. "This is the Bach as transcribed to me without Busoni and Liszt. It's a very young Bach and it's dedicated to his brother."
I knew exactly what phrase in the piece must have stirred him the first time, and each time I played it, I was sending it to him as a little gift, because it was really dedicated to him, as a token of something very beautiful in me that would take no genius to figure out, and that urged me to throw in an extended cadenza. Just for him.
We were — and he must have recognized the signs long before I did — flirting.
How could anyone intuit the manner of someone's thinking unless he himself was already familiar with this same mode of thinking? How could he perceive so many devious turns in others unless he had practiced them himself?
What struck me was not just his amazing gift for reading people, for rummaging inside them and digging out the precise configuration of their personality, but his ability to intuit things in exactly the way I myself might have intuited them. This, in the end, was what drew me to him with a compulsion that overrode desire or friendship or the allurements of a common religion.
And yet, about two weeks after his arrival, all I wanted every night was for him to leave his room, not via its front door, but through the French windows on our balcony. I wanted to hear his window open, hear his espadrilles on the balcony, and then the sound of my own window, which was never locked, being pushed open as he'd step into my room after everyone had gone to bed, slip under my covers, undress me without asking, and after making me want him more than I thought I could ever want another living soul, gently, softly, and, with the kindness one Jew extends to another, work his way into my body, gently and softly, after heeding the words I'd been rehearsing for days now, Please, don't hurt me, which meant, Hurt me all you want.
And why wouldn't I show him how like butter I was? Because I was afraid of what might happen then? Or was I afraid he would have laughed at me, told everyone, or ignored the whole thing on the pretext I was too young to know what I was doing? Or was it because if he so much suspected — and anyone who suspected would of necessity be on the same wavelength — he might be tempted to act on it? Did I want him to act? Or would I prefer a lifetime of longing provided we both kept this little Ping-Pong game going: not knowing, not-not knowing, not-not-not knowing? Just be quiet, say nothing, and if you can't say "yes", don't say "no", say "later." Is this why people say "maybe" when they mean "yes", but hope you'll think it's "no" when all they really mean is, Please, just ask me once more, and once more after that.