Suhaib isn't a big believer in barriers. Whether he's skinny-dipping on the clock at his hotel job or spilling uncensored details of his life story just to make conversation, he is who he is and he doesn't care who knows it.
Elijah plays his hand a little closer to the vest, and Suhaib can't get his head around Elijah's reckless plan to drive through the worst blizzard to hit Oklahoma since statehood just to meet his sister's new baby.
When the storm that brought them together picks up and keeps them together, key elements of Elijah's life story are forced to the fore, and Suhaib learns a good man is more than the sum of his parts ... and there are more roads to uncle-hood than he ever considered.
Emotionally I felt more like I was stuck in a phone booth with an electrified floor. There was no safe place to put my feet, and nowhere else in my heart to go but the new, shoddily built compartment marked Elijah. He kissed me! How desirable and handsome I must be! He basically dropped my face like it was a hot rock; how repulsed he must have been by our chemistry.
And boy, was there chemistry. The first brush of his lips filled me with a golden peace like honey. He'd taken me in his arms like something precious, gifted me with his kiss. He hadn't "taken what was his" -- not that I wouldn't gladly have bent over and let him -- but rather he'd offered to share a part of himself. And then revoked it just as I was reaching to accept it. Without explanation and without any real indication that the offer might be renewed. And if I'd grabbed for it greedily? Had I smashed it in my enthusiasm to get it in my hot little hands?
Whose fault was it? And why did it have to be anybody's fault? Why had he kissed me at all? Would I rather he hadn't? I paced the room. Each question was good for about five steps, whereupon I'd turn and ponder another, until finally the room -- smelling of him and our lunch, sounding like his Pandora station and our dance-couldn't contain my giddy disappointment. I still felt wanted, even as I felt rejected; lucky and special, even with nothing against my lips but the unquenchable thirst of anticipation. These warring pinballs eventually ricocheted me into the hall, and I went downstairs for some hot chocolate and a change of scenery. I'd go back for my backpack in a bit, but I'd slept in 208 for the last time. If Amira would let me, I resolved to brick over the door. Not that I'd know how, but I didn't really know how to feel all this mess at once, either, and apparently it was something I was about to learn.
In terms of changed scenery, the move was a bust -- three days in, snow continued to whirl and pile; white on white sprinkled with white was all there was to see out any window in any direction. I'd been in a blizzard or two in my day, but three uninterrupted days of falling snow seemed excessive. Desperate for something to think about that wasn't Kissing Elijah, I briefly pondered sending Miranda Chen-Singh a complaining email. You're a meteorologist -- do something! If this was some sort of cataclysm that would spell the end of mankind -- or the Oklahoma branch of the family, anyhow -- when would we find out? Would we live for weeks together, Elijah and I, as we worked our way through the last of the M&Ms? Or would the snow just keep piling up until the hotel caved in around us? Was this how the dinosaurs felt when an afternoon of meteor-watching suddenly took a horrible turn? If we were the last men on Earth -- or in the greater Tulsa area -- would Elijah at least kiss me again? Egad, not this subject again ...
When the opening notes of the familiar theme cut through my reverie to announce the beginning of a new episode of The Golden Girls -- that was still on? -- on the lobby TV, I seized on the opportunity for distraction. I whipped myself up a hot chocolate and plopped down on a divan, and I was laughing before my butt hit the seat. Blanche's amorous exploits would make me feel less ridiculous for taking rejection from a stranger quite so hard, and if they didn't, well, at least I wasn't the complete romantic disaster Dorothy was.
I wasn't even hardly thinking about Elijah when the elevator announced his arrival in the lobby with a ding. The doors slid open, and he lurched out, drenched in sweat, cradling his belly in his arms like maybe he was worried it was coming off. Maybe I wasn't the one whose exposure to ham had needed worrying about; beyond the fact that I was starting to feel a little snackish, my tummy was undisturbed.
"Are you okay?" I asked. In case he lurched about perspiring profusely on some kind of regular basis.
He said, "Yes," while shaking his head no, then said, "No," while nodding his head yes. Having sampled both responses, he seemed to decide on a clear favorite; "No," he said again, holding onto that big ol' stomach for dear life.