The only other men I cooked for were the Frugens and B, well, formerly. The Frugens usually occupied themselves happily kissing or sniping at each other like naughty puppies, and B would either hover round me chatting or watch tv nearby to keep me company. I was surprised to realize that I'd actually been cooking for B for almost a year, he used to tell me he was the envy of the office break room as colleagues leered drooling at one of my artfully packed leftover lunches. It was a sweet thought of curious belonging.
He takes another bite with a groan,"If I keep eating here I get FAT, sooo fat," then another bite,"but this, meat is delicious, crust is perfect." He smacks his lips against his fingers in homage. I find myself not at all worried at the prospect of him falling asleep shortly after. Since that last stint in the boudoir, I wasn't exactly rushing to it no matter how coyly feminine he made me feel when he shot things or threatened to defend wild animals. Yet it seemed the entire thing proved too seductive, and my hair was still wet from the bath when Dragan pounced.
I was consoled to find him better, not quite there yet, but a definite improvement. Certain things helped but still, an education was due. I'm thinking about this as we get into bed. I expected a pensive slide into sleep, maybe riddled with a few awkward words but Dragan is unexpectedly cuddly and chatty that we end up having a conversation deeper than I thought possible. As time went by, I knew some form of discussion would arrive. But certainly not one this candid or this comfortable.
He tells me that after meeting me, he realized how little he knew English. I laughed and tell him not to worry about the language, fluency would arrive soon enough with practice and that thankfully, he was smart. "Better smart in one language, than stupid in five," I quipped. He laughed, delighted at the compliment - Arieans live on them, tipped the Golden Venus wisely and I'd not forgotten. But for all his shortcomings with English, Dragan actually could communicate well. He attacked (yes, that really is the operative word) topics with gusto, erring more on the side of candor than tact.
"Because," he explains,"it happen to me TWO times with different ex-GF, when we talk about green card, they just say nothing, walk out and leave me. Just like that, just go." I'm incredulous,"You serious?"
"Is true, da!," then for emphasis, he adds, "I swear. Always, 'oh, you not love me, you only want papers', no woman believe me. They leave, we talk next day, is end." I'm a few steps ahead of him and decide to avoid that altogether, "Well, I'm not leaving, it's my bed." He laughs,"I know, is why I worry you make me leave."
"I'm not kicking you out," I reassure him,"but do you want to know what I think about this green card situation and us? The truth, I mean." He leaps on this,"Da, you tell me truth because I telling truth also. I unique."
"But I don't care if you not Serbian," he counters. "I like who I like, is not must be Serbian." I'm glad he doesn't profess to a strength of feeling obviously not yet there, even while for all intents and purposes, I'm addressing precisely that. "Yes, I know," I say, "You're not a racist by any means. But you also have to see that your culture is hard to penetrate. I don't speak Serbian, and there will be challenges that would be hard even if we DID have very strong feelings for each other."
"Da," he sighs resignedly, "is true. We all bossy." I giggle at this. "I see the wives not Serbian in church and da, I feel bad, they cannot understand, always on the side. I see what you saying. You really think about this?"
I recall Carmen San Diego sternly warning me just the other day, her voice still ringing in my ears from both volume and sharpness, "WHY would you even consider the Serb for more than fun?? If you're ACTUALLY thinking of marrying him, Missy, then I'm telling you RIGHT NOW, you get that thought out of your head! You've been through WAAAAAY too much already. You do NOT need this. Remember? Sewerage?! Pluto?? The Meat Hook???"
And here was Dragan asking me the same question. "Yes, I do," I tell him, "I think about it because any relationship you have will always be related to this. Your life issues can't be separate from your relationships. And you need it. The green card. For a better life." He squeezes me closer in appreciation, "Da, I am stupid though, I always honest but I have no choice, this true. Is pity no one believe me."
Now it was his turn to feel me smiling dangerously in the dark, "The truth, Dragan," I say in measured tones,"is not something that is believed in words, but proven in time and action. It's something that always finds me. You need to know this. I'm talking to you now, so you can tell me exactly that. What you need is a serious thing. But all of it starts with your commitment. You cannot ask someone to marry you if you're not prepared to mean it."
"Of course, I mean this!," he reacts, I think completely missing how deliberate I was, "who marry me and do green card is oof, like God. I always grateful, loyal. You never forget who give you life." I digest this statement with how just earlier in the day he'd told me he didn't much care for his mother, preferring his father over her and reasoning that she was a small-minded village woman whom he never felt improved herself or really ever guided him or his sister. Yet she was his mother, and she'd given him life. If he couldn't see the tell, then no amount of table pounding adamance about honesty would ever be convincing.
"I know," I whisper sleepily and give him a palliative kiss to usher him to sleep, "just think about what I said, ok? Because I think about it." And the truth is I did. Much as I hate to admit it, I really did.