It took exactly a week, a week of forgotten appetites and disregarded pleasantries, for Dalia to realize she was in love. They spent every single day together that week. It was Dalia's first trip to New York and so Ahmed, who had adopted New York fifteen years prior, spent the better part of the days showing her around. Mornings at Washington Square Park, lunch in China Town, moments of silence at ground zero followed by a couple of Gray's Papayas. It was during that week that they both found out that the other was a Kuwaiti. Ahmed took the information in stride, the way he seemed to take everything with such ease. Dalia was a bit more shook by the revelation. She had her reputation to think about after all, but it only took a couple of days for her to realize that Ahmed was not your typical Kuwaiti.
Ahmed had never felt more alive. Dalia seemed to make the city sparkle. The snow was just that much whiter. The air, that much more crisp. The people, that much friendlier. He couldn't remember New York before her. It seemed like she had always been there. She fit into his life as perfectly as she fit into the nook of his body at night. She was only in town for a few months and he planned to make the most of it. She wanted New York Glamour, the kind found on Sex and The City and he didn't disappoint. He took her to every Broadway show he could get tickets to, every museum opening and cocktail party he got invited to. She was unlike any Kuwaiti girl he had ever met, but then again he had not spent an extended period of time in Kuwait in the last fifteen years, so he really wasn't one to judge Kuwaiti girls.
"I have this medical convention in D.C. that I have to attend this weekend, but I was thinking...."
"Medical convention?" She asked in surprise, reaching for another piece of sushi. They were having dinner at one of the many sushi bars that peppered Downtown Manhattan. "Why would you go to a...." She stopped with her loaded chopsticks halfway to her mouth. "Are you a doctor?"
"Pediatrician." He replied reaching for another soybean.
She sat there, staring at him in awe. It suddenly occurred to her that in the week they had spent together, she had not found out a thing about his day to day life. Where he worked, what he did, where he had gone to school. She knew the story behind every scar on his body, she knew every sports team that he rooted for. She knew that he brushed his teeth in the shower, that he put on his deodorant at night before bed rather than in the morning. She even knew that sometimes he didn't flush the toilet if it was just pee. And yet, at that moment, she realized she knew nothing.
"What's wrong?" He asked, breaking her train of thought and causing her to drop her piece of sushi.
"Nothing. I didn't know you were a doctor. Why didn't you tell me?" She replied, in a somewhat accusatory manner.
"You didn't ask." He answered, flashing her one of his more charming smiles.
"Well, you got me there." She said, scooping up the disheveled sushi and plopping it in her mouth.
"Anyway, like I was saying. I'm gonna be out of town this weekend, but I was thinking we'd go to this gallery opening on monday."
"Yeah, my friend is opening an art gallery in Chelsea. Modern art, crystal sculptures, lasers and stuff like that. I thought maybe you'd be interested."
"Yeah, that sounds like fun." She replied, cocking her head as she watched him eat.
"So, I'm leaving pretty early in the morning, but I'll call you when I get back into town, ok?" It was Friday afternoon and he was sending her off in a cab back to her apartment.
"Ok." She said, wrapping her scarf tighter around her neck.
"And don't forget about the gallery on monday."
"I won't." She said, moving past him to get into the cab. She stopped with one leg in and turned back to him. "How fancy is this thing gonna be?"
"Pretty fancy, I would think." He replied with a smile, lighting the cigarette in his hand. "I'll be in a suit, but wear whatever you want."
"Ok." She said, nodding. She leaned over the cab door towards him and he bent down to give her a kiss. "Bye." She turned and got into the cab.
"Bye." He said, shutting the door and watching the cab pull away.
"You can't smoke here, sir." An officer appeared at his side. He started pulling out his ticket book.
"Relax. I'm going back up to my apartment." Ahmed said, backing up into the buildings lobby.
The officer flipped his ticket book back shut and continued down the street. Ahmed poked his head back out the door once the officer had passed and turned his head just in time to catch Dalia's cab turning the corner.
"Have I mentioned how painfully beautiful you look tonight?" He whispered as he came up behind her, wrapping his arm around her waist. She was looking at a crystal sculpture in the shape of a burning bush. The name plate at the bottom of the sculpture simply read 'Moses'. She smiled at his words, lowering her head to one side so he could have access to the right side of her neck. He bent down and planted elegant kisses on the exposed nape.
She knew she looked good. She had spent the entire weekend scouring uptown stores for the perfect 'gallery opening' dress. She had finally settled on a beautiful black and white, knee length cocktail dress. It hugged her curves perfectly. She wore her hair up in a bun to maximize Ahmed's exposure to her neck and collarbone. It was those areas that sent shivers up her spine whenever he kissed them.
It had been an infinitely long weekend. She had done nothing but long for him. She needed him in a way that was almost perverse. Like an addict itching for his next fix, he had shown up at her apartment at dawn that morning, looking cold, tired and deliriously happy. She met him at the door in her underwear and a cheap gold satin rode she had bought at Chinatown. He took one look at her, stepped into the apartment, scooped her up and carried her back to her bed. They had spent the entire morning re-acquainting themselves with the other's form. It was amazing how much you could forget in a weekend and how much you could remember with a touch.
"Champagne?" The waiter's voice pulled her out of her reverie. She began shaking her head no when she saw Ahmed reach for two glasses of the bubbly liquid.
'Oh, for the love of God and all that is holy.' She thought to herself as he turned to offer her a glass.
"Inta tishrab?" She deliberately asked him in Arabic if he drank alcohol.
"You don't?" He replied in English. His hands frozen in mid-air.
"Of course not." She said incredulously. "It's 7aram."
He cocked his head as if to say that it was a little late to start talking about 'forbiddens'. She shook her head and looked at her feet.
"Don't you think that's a little backwards, Dalia? Besides everyone here drinks. What's the big deal?" He asked shrugging his shoulders.
"The big deal is that it is expressly forbidden."
"And premarital sex isn't?" He challenged her.
"I didn't say that and I'm sorry if it sounds contradictory, but there are some things I am flexible on... in that I'll do it even though I know it's forbidden."
"Well, isn't that convenient." He said, amused.
"When I had sex with you, it was because I felt something strong for you." She said, taking a step closer to him. "What I felt was stronger than my conviction that it was forbidden. I bent that time because I felt that it was worth it. That you were worth it. But alcohol... there's no reason to bend on it because I know that it isn't worth it."
"Well, is it ok with you if I don't share your convictions?" He asked sarcastically.
"Look." She said, touching her fingers to her brow in resignation. "It's not my business what you do with your life and it's certainly not my business what kind of muslim you are, but let me tell you this..." She leaned forward and pulled him in closer by his lapel. "You will not get any kisses from me so long as there's alcohol in your system which by my 'backwards' muslim math would be about forty days. It's your choice."
'God, that's ballsy' He thought, staring into her chocolate brown eyes. He nodded and took a step away from her. He turned to the side and placed the glasses down on the tray of a passing waiter. He turned back to her and lowered his face back to hers.
"I choose forty days of kisses." He said, his eyes dancing. Her face broke into a smile as she moved her hands up his torso and wrapped her fingers back around his lapel..
"Good choice." She said, nodding her head and pulling him in for a kiss.