But I Didn’t

It was summer. Hot and humid. It made breathing a little difficult if it wasn’t for the fact that we grew up with it.

You turned to me and said that you wanted to go to that cat café you’ve been eyeing up for weeks. I smiled and said okay. You loved cats and so did I.

The café was small and it was filled with cats. I wondered if it might have been too small. We washed our hands and took off our shoes at the door, and the waitress let us in.

She handed us a menu. It was single-sided and it didn’t have much on it.

We ordered our food and the waitress took the menu away from us.

I turned to watch a cat lying by the windows. The sun was shining through the glass, and the light is yellow and bright. It was like a scene from the movies. I could hear the sound of the city through the window, and the blinds blow a little in the wind.

The cat stretched along the windowsill and continued to sunbathe. I turn back to watch you. You had a cat on your lap, her nose pointed up at you. You were taking photos of her.

The waitress came back with our food and reminded us to not let the cats eat any of our food. You were being extra careful, but the cat was interested in our meal. I watched you repeatedly push her head away from the plate and I thought, “I love you.”

You look up at me and smiled and for a moment, I thought I was brave enough to say it. But I stared too long and the cat reached for the food again, and the moment passed. I took out my phone and took a photo of you with the cat, pretending that was my intent along. You smiled again and I knew I wouldn’t be able to live without seeing that every day.

The cats wandered closer to us, interested in the food. They meowed and you stopped eating to play with them. I watched you because there was nothing else that I would rather look at. You looked up and saw me watching, and you smiled again, asking me what was wrong.

I looked at you and thought, again, “I love you.” I wanted to say it but it wasn’t the right moment, so I didn’t. I just shrugged and said that the cats were cute.

You laughed when one of the cats decided to climb up onto my lap, sniffing at the edge of my plate. I pushed her nose away and scratched her between her ears. You took a photo of me and I grinned at you.

I picked up the cat and held her paws, drumming them on the table and waving them at you. You laughed louder and the cat near you jumped away.

The cat in my hands hissed and I let her go. We laughed and smiled at each other and I didn’t want to be anywhere but here, with you. I wanted to tell you that, but I didn’t.

On our way back to the train station, you told me that you wanted to go here again. I said that we can come here anytime. You showed me the photos you took and I wanted to reach for your hand, but I didn’t.

There were many things that I wanted to tell you, and to do with you, but I was too afraid to. I was not brave enough, so I never did. You would point things out or laugh at things, and I would think, every time, “I love you.” But I never said it.

Before we parted ways, the streetlight covered you in its too-strong orange glow. You looked beautiful and I wanted to tell you, “I love you.”

But I didn’t.

And you walked away from me.

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