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      Love Keeps Dangling the Carrot

     


We met a little over four years ago, she and I.



I was settling in at a table under the only available light bulb outside of a coffee shop, preparing to get some writing done. I was 24 and, at the time, I smoked like a chimney.



It was night time, not many people were around, just a girl and a much older, balding fellow who looked like his best years were at his back. They were chatting away at the edge of the light and eventually, the mustachioed bald man made his exit.



The girl turned, spotted me and asked for a cigarette. I gave her one. We talked. She was magical. I don't need to mention her name here, save to say that it is one of the simplest yet most deceptively beautiful names I've ever heard. After a talk and a walk we had finished off my pack of smokes and so I swung by the nearest convenience store to grab a second pack. She waited outside because, in a desperately cruel twist of fate, she was only 17.



Gee. Great. Perfect. Simply perfect.



Even if she had been older, she still had a boyfriend, and so I relegated myself to the role of friend, which was not easy to do. She changed boyfriends as often as most people change socks and it was difficult to watch a motley parade of guys filter through her life.



The time did come when we expressed our feelings for one another, and then we kissed and then I felt like a villain and decided that this was something that would never happen again. And so it didn't, really. Almost, but not really.



She eventually went away to college, thank Christ, because despite her lifestyle (which one would describe as "sordid") she was brilliant in ways that she probably doesn't fully recognize even to this day. We stayed in touch. Sometimes we would see eachother and those times were like living through the world's most comfortable, safest hug. Usually she would have a boyfriend. Sometimes I would have a girlfriend. Things never fell into place the way they should have but she was my girl who never was, no matter who else was in the picture.



Eventually, she stopped visiting and just stayed up at school. Eventually, I moved away... far away.



I always thought she would marry her last boyfriend.



Before I moved away, she visited one last time, with him. He was an okay guy. He and I would have been friends and we very well could have been friends, if things had worked out differently. If things had worked out differently a lot of things would be different, now, I'm sure. They were together for the longest time. So long that my heart cracked whenever I thought of them. Their ever after was an inevitability.



I talked to her, recently. She's 21, now, done with school. I'm 28, now, and even though I'm older and wiser I still feel like she's more mature than me... and, most likely, always will be.



She's single. She's visiting here, soon, where I am. After that, she's off to France for another lifetime. I don't know how she feels about us, these days. I know how I feel. I know how great it would be. I don't know what will happen when we see one other.



But...



I'm with someone, now, even though she isn't.



Of course, love keeps dangling the carrot.



I don't know what the future holds. She's my girl who never was and she may never be. But I love her and, sometimes, in a strange way, that's enough.



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