tagRomanceHow Do I Know

How Do I Know


(This one's for you, baby. I love you.)


How will I know, I asked my Momma.

You'll know, she said. That was when I was a lot younger.

You, you did me a favor. It was a small thing for you. It was a big thing for me. I'd made a mistake at work and you caught it before it made it to the boss. I could have lost my job. You helped me fix it and I told you I would do anything you wanted out of gratitude.

Like anything a woman tells a man she's interested in, my declaration was a test. I realized the risk I was taking, that you might ask me to do something I don't want to do.

I mean, later, after we know each other better, okay, but we're just acquaintances, right?

It gratified me that you asked for time to consider the possibilities. I said, "Okay. Take as much time as you want." We work together. It's not like we don't see each other every day, right?

Again, it was a test. I was curious how long you'd take to formulate your response. Just the time it would take, would tell me a lot about you. Are you frivolous with such a gift? Are you impetuous? There's no right answer, so you could say whatever you wanted.

You came back the next day and asked to speak with me privately. I did my best to look disinterested, even bored, but I was thrilled. I was so excited I couldn't wait to hear your answer. Would you be cruel? Would you be funny? Would you be imaginative or unusual in your taste? I don't give this power over me lightly, but I"d already promised myself I would do anything you demanded.


You said that first, I had to have drinks with you after work.

We hadn't been on a date before so I thought that would be fun. I just had on work clothes but they would dress up just fine. I had a scarf in my purse, and a bracelet. Some perfume, just in case. I wondered if you would find me cute?

After the drinks, you said, you would tell me what you wanted.

That's not fair, I argued. You have to tell me now, when we're both sober. I was scared, but I didn't show it. Mostly I was afraid of being disappointed.

You said, you wanted to go out with me, again, more than just drinks tonight, but...

What? I said. But what?

You told me you were afraid I wouldn't like you after you told me what you wanted. I was so glad you cared if I liked you or not. That made me happy.

I told you I would go out with you one more time even if I didn't like what you told me to do, just so we could have one real date, after the drinks tonight, I meant.

So, I told you, go ahead. I told you it was time for you to tell me.

You told me that to cancel the obligation, you would require me to model for you to photograph.

I didn't know you were a photographer.

Like every girlfriend I've ever had, I have parts of my appearance that I don't care for. Pictures scare me. I mean, I don't even know how good a photographer you are, and a bad photograph is forever.

I told you I would do it, anyway. I didn't even know if you meant just pictures, or some kind of nude pictures. I didn't know and I said, "Yes," anyway.

You smiled. I took your smile to mean that you were glad I agreed, not that you were happy that I was falling into your trap.

I think you like me. I wasn't sure, but when you leaned over and kissed me, I kissed you back. It was a 'hello' kiss, thanking you for being sweet, not a 'okay, you can kiss me anytime and maybe more' type of kiss.

The drinks were fun. I acted like I didn't know what to order, just to see what you would get me. I hadn't had the thing we had, but it was good. Not too sweet, not too sour. You were funny to talk to, complimenting me on my scarf and then making me laugh about something that had happened at work. You didn't try to get me to drink too much, but you did offer to buy me dinner.

"No," I said, pausing. "We agreed on drinks."

I said this much too seriously and you looked hurt, so I quickly added, "Maybe." After the pictures, I meant.

At your apartment (it was a studio apartment - that was funny), you showed me some of your work. Abstract. Fashion. Relationships. Still Life. Finally, some artistic photographs of nude women.

"Are these your girlfriends?" I asked.

You told me, 'No' that you'd always used paid models until now.

"Oh," I said. I didn't know if that was good or bad, me being 'not a paid model," but I didn't say anything. What do you want me to do, I asked you. I was genuinely curious by now. Here is what you said.

"I fall in love with eyes," you said. "I love your eyes, they're so bright." you said. "So, beautiful." you said. "I want to photograph your face." you said.

"So, no naked pictures of me?" I asked.

"No." you said.

"Not ever?" I asked. That was mean, putting you on the spot.

"Not until after you fall in love with me, too." you said.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"It means that I love you." you said, "But, I don't expect you to love me back."

"I don't love you," I said, "but you may photograph my face now."

You turned to your camera to start setting up. I interrupted you, tapping you on the shoulder. You turned back to me and I kissed you, softly, gently, my eyes on yours.

"I don't love you, yet, I mean." That kiss meant 'I like kissing you and you kissing me and I hope we get to do it again.' Oh, and 'Soon.'

I'll never forget your smile. I photographed it, in my mind, I mean. I keep it in a very special place.

You took your pictures and showed me what I looked like on your camera. Under your lights. I told you that I think you are a good photographer. You said that you think I am a good model. Afterward, I told you I was hungry.

There's no obligation, now, you said. We're even. You don't have to go out with me.

I told you I wanted to be with you without obligation, because I wanted to.

"There's a good Italian place, just a block over," you said, "Let's eat."

"No," I said, "Make love to me, first. Then, we can order takeout."

You did.

You are good at that, too. You kissed me this time and by the time you finished, I didn't have any clothes on. I'm not sure, but I think we both helped with that. I stood before you and let you get a good look. I was scared but I needed to know if you liked what you saw. I watched you, the photographer, look me over and then you kissed me again and by the time you finished that kiss, we were more than friends.

Those ladies in the photographs may not have been your girlfriends, but I could tell I wasn't the first one you'd had.

I got a good look at you, too, and decided I liked what I saw.

When we woke up in the morning, I asked you if you wanted to take some pictures of me, naked.

Yes, you said, but I won't.

Why not, I asked.

Because I want to see the real thing from now on.

It won't be easy, I said. You'll have to make me happy, every day, or I won't let you.

I will, you said, and then, you smiled again. I keep that one, too.

So far, you've kept your promise. Thirteen years.

That's How I Know.

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