Since she feared several things—heights, subways, planes, enclosed spaces, crowds—it took me a while to figure out where to start. But by the time the grade came in, I was ready.
That’s how I ended up in the granola aisle of Trader Joe’s.
I wanted to ask the sales clerk what she recommended, but what exactly would I say? Excuse me. I was wondering if you could recommend some light fare that might compliment trapping someone in an elevator and torturing them?
I second-guessed my choices as I stood in the checkout line, but it was too late to go back since I was already running late.
Prime example: hummus. Nothing like garlic breath in a small, enclosed space.
Unsure of how she was going to react to my plan, my heart was pumping the entire way home. It was really more out of excitement, because it would be the first time we’d hung out together outside of the apartment.
Okay, apparently, I had no clue what I was really getting myself into.
Nina wouldn’t even look at me as we walked side by side down Lincoln Street. She was really freaking out about this, and I needed to assure her that everything would be okay. I stopped suddenly while she kept walking ahead of me oblivious. When she noticed I was no longer beside her, she turned around.
“Why did you stop?” she asked.
I walked toward her and placed my hands firmly on her shoulders, causing her to wince. I wasn’t sure if it was because she was nervous or because it was the first time I’d ever touched her outside of our initial hand shake. It was colder out than I anticipated, and neither of us were wearing jackets. The wind blew the blonde strands of her hair around wildly. She had some beautiful hair.
I rubbed my hands firmly along her shoulders to warm her. The need to comfort her was enormous, but I’d recently studied up on cognitive behavioral and exposure therapy and knew it was necessary to be firm today so that she wouldn’t back out. “Nina, I can tell you’re going through all these little scenarios in your head right now. It’s not helping. The only thing that is ever happening to you is what is happening in the moment, not all of the disastrous possibilities in your mind. So, cut the shit, okay? I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
When we arrived at the DeKalb Avenue subway station, it took some prodding to get her to descend the stairs. I stood down a few steps into the dark stairwell looking up at her as she stayed on the sidewalk. The fear in her eyes was palpable. My heart began to beat faster, and I wasn’t sure if it was because I was nervous for her or because of how heart-stoppingly pretty she was as she looked down at me with the sunlight in her hair.
Lifting my hand toward her, I willed her to come to me. “Nina, come on. I’ve got you.”
I continued to silently urge her forward with my eyes.
I’ve got you.
When she slowly moved toward me, the second she was close enough to touch, I took her hand and wrapped her fingers inside mine. I couldn’t remember the last time holding someone’s hand triggered that kind of reaction in me, a sensation I could feel from my head to my feet and everywhere in between.
My hand squeezed hers tightly as I led her down the stairs. Even though I didn’t want to, I had to let her go in order to pay the fare.
The faint smell of urine lingered in the air as we sat down on a bench to wait on the platform. The sounds of a man playing the saxophone echoed through the station. When the approaching train screeched to a halt, I grabbed her hand again and led her into the crowded car.
It was the middle of the evening commute, so there were no seats. Her body started to shake as soon as the train doors slid closed. I wanted to hold her, but that probably wasn’t the best idea for multiple reasons. I had to constantly remind myself of the boundaries that needed to be set for my own good. Instead, I simply rested my hands on her shoulders to keep her balanced.
“It’s okay to feel nervous, Nina. You’re not supposed to be comfortable. Stop trying to fight it and just let those feelings be there.”
As the train swayed, I kept my eyes fixed on her face to make sure she wasn’t going to hyperventilate or anything. She wouldn’t look at me. Her cheeks were flushed, and her body continued to tremble in fear. I could only take so much before I placed my hand on her chin and forced her eyes on mine. “How are you doing?”
“Fine. I just want this to be over.”
My stomach sank. She had no clue what was in store for her next. I felt bad but reminded myself it was all for her own good.
“Our stop is next.” I smiled, and for the first time since stepping on the train, she returned it.
“Eighth Avenue,” the announcer shouted over the loud speaker.
She seemed to calm down a little after that. When the train stopped abruptly, my body accidentally pushed into hers, and I could feel her soft breasts against the hardness of my chest. An unintentional moan escaped from under my breath. She looked up at me, and I smiled down at her.
Leading Nina out of the train, I joked, “You’re still with us. Was that so bad?”
“It was about what I expected, but I’m glad it’s over. Can we take a cab home now?”
Crap. She really did think that was it; she was going to friggin’ hate my guts.
If it were anything but a crowded city, we would have attracted a lot of attention. Nina looked like I’d taken her hostage as she reluctantly let me lead her through the sidewalks of New York to an unknown destination. Picture this: A tall, tatted and pierced dude dragging around a little innocent looking thing who was practically shaking in her boots. It must have been like watching Marilyn Manson and Laura Ingalls heading toward you down the street.