The One Who Ran Away

The memories of him and I linger on to this day. I still think of him every so often when driving to work or seeing the cafe he introduced me to. I can’t go in there anymore. The painful memories of him still haunt me, and I fear I will never exterminate them.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw him. He wore a tight-fitting polo shirt and cargo pants that exposed his tanned, muscular legs. He worked in at the bell station and dispatched calls from a tiny cubby close to my department. So I got to see him every day that he worked. Of all the men who worked valet, he was by far the most attractive. I even caught other women admiring him when they thought he wasn’t looking.

Before I took the job at the resort, I worked retail and rarely had the time to write my never-ending book. Working guest services made things a little easier. But I was able to write and finish my book. I’m not sure how it happened, but we started talking at random times, and he asked to read my book.

“You wrote a book?” he asked as I hung out in the doorway of his tiny office.

“Yeah. Took me forever, though.” I laughed girlishly.

“Can I read it?”

I hesitated, surprised at his eagerness. We barely knew each other.

“Yeah, sure!” I grinned.

The manuscript was shit, but he was so excited to read it that I printed it off anyway. I would print off a chapter at a time, and he would tell me his thoughts. It was always overly positive, of course. I wasn’t born yesterday. When someone gives you positive reviews about something you know is bad, they like you. This went on for a few weeks. I printed off a chapter or two, he read it, we flirted, I printed the next one. The more chapters I gave him, the more we talked. The more we talked, the closer we became.

I soon found out he was involved with someone. She worked at the hotel too. I knew about her and saw her around his office, but I acted ignorant. All we did was talk. With all the talking we did, he eventually opened up to me.

“We actually broke up a while ago,” he admitted, staring at the floor.

“Oh you did?” I asked. Meanwhile, my stomach and heart did cartwheels.

“Yeah, she still hangs around me though. I’ve told her to stop. She’s been… obsessive.”

“That’s not good. How long did you date?” I asked.

“About a year.”

“Wow, that’s a long time…” I faded off. I hoped I didn’t cause them to break up. I didn’t ever want to be that girl.

He struggled with the breakup too and needed someone to talk to. I was that person. Then he told me he wanted to talk about it outside of work. To say the least, I was elated. Not because he was going through something rough. Just knowing I would get one on one time with him made my heart race. I rarely hung out with coworkers outside of work. And even more rare, someone I liked.

I had an interview at a restaurant later and we decided to eat there. Despite getting to see him every day at work, the environment stifled me, and I wanted to leave it. We met at around eight in the morning to have breakfast and talked almost non-stop about his ex. I’ll admit it was awkward, but I already committed to it. According to him, she was crazy. Stalker-like. I felt bad for him. Here was this great looking guy having to watch his back and change his number because of one person. Her loss.

The longer we spoke, the less we talked about her. I learned he had a son, not with her but with another woman. I think this is something most women would not want to deal with, but I was all for it. A single dad–an attractive single dad–who needed the company of a friend in hard times. How could I not? He was in a custody battle with the mother too. So broken, in need of comfort. I cut the light, fun conversation short because I had an interview to get to.

The whole time I sat there with my future boss, all I could think about was how much he smiled at me.

The time that passed between then and the next time we hung out outside of work was a blur. Being around him was so simple. He suggested going downtown and walking around. He wanted to show me a cafe he frequented. It was the first time I had gone in there. Most guys I’m interested in don’t go to coffee shops, especially local ones with organic and local items. He was more like myself than I thought. We sat outside of the cafe under trees and shade. The weather never felt more perfect. I wore a dress that day, something I rarely do. But I wanted to dress up for him.

Once we felt we explored enough, I drove him back home. He invited me inside, and I delved deeper into who he was. He had a very small home. Maybe 300 square feet. It only had a bed, a table, a counter with a sink, and a bathroom. But it was the coziest and safest place I’ve ever felt. Everything looked clean and organized. The air smelled of incense, filling me with peace of mind. Several hours went by since we met up in the morning, so I thought it best if I went home, even though I really didn’t want to.

As I walked out to my car, he said the words that still send a shiver down my spine.

“Would you just kiss me already?”

For lack of a better word, I swooned.

I slowly walked back to him with my heart beating faster than sound. Yearning to kiss him all day, I felt relief that he wanted the same thing. Normally, I overthink everything, but in that moment, all I saw was him. Waiting. Waiting for my lips to touch his. So I did. And I lingered.

I can still feel it. Because the world stood still that day. I held that kiss above every other kiss. From his reaction, I could tell there was a spark.

“I’m gonna be on cloud 9 the rest of the day,” he said with a grin that wouldn’t quit.

I laughed because I didn’t think he was expecting such a long and tender kiss. Maybe just a peck. But he was asking for more than that. I watched as he faded from my rearview mirror. I couldn’t stop thinking of him the rest of the day.

Needless to say, we saw each other every day after that. I would go to his house, but we just sat in my car and talked. It didn’t matter where we were; everywhere felt so comfortable and easy. In the middle of a spiritual conversation, he would stop mid-sentence to lean over and kiss my lips. No tongue or anything. Just kiss and moan. I’m sure my face turned fifty shades of red that day. These were the most tender moments I had ever witnessed, and it was happening to me.

We were never “official”. Didn’t date, didn’t call each other boyfriend or girlfriend. Our relationship was different.

We just were.

Together. Content. Familiar.

A few amazing weeks passed by, and by that time I knew. I was in love.

I had been in love before but nothing like this. I had to tell him. I would regret it if I didn’t. Even though he told me he didn’t want to be in a relationship, I felt wrong not expressing how I truly felt. And I knew he felt it too. The way he looked at me, kissed me, held me, made love to me. It was obvious.

I invited him over to my house, and we sat on my bed and talked.

My heart pounded so fast because the “L” word was hanging over my head like a cloud. Although, the pounding wasn’t so much from excitement as it was from being terrified. Despite his warning of not wanting to be a couple, I ached to say the words.

“I love you,” I confessed just above a whisper.

He looked away and sighed heavily.

My jaw clenched and foot shook as tears began to stream down my face.

“I told you from the beginning… I don’t want to be in a relationship right now.”

I thought I changed his mind. But I fucked it up. Royally fucked it up.

“So we don’t need to be in a relationship. We can just keep doing what we’re doing.”

He sighed again. I could tell it was hard for him, but he didn’t budge.

Then he said, “I could tell you I love you too, but you would just take it the wrong way.”

Flabbergasted. “You do?” I said, trying to smile but confused by the last part.

“I knew you’d take it wrong,” he said, still not looking at me.

All I could do was sob. My fairytale dissolved into burning ashes at my feet. I never felt so emotional in all of my adult life. This man who clearly loved me, and admitted it, wanted to end everything just like that. My poor heart felt like it had just gone through the shredder.

He left, and I wanted so much to take back what I uttered so foolishly.

I am not a person who lets go easily.

I texted him almost every day, trying to convince him to change his mind. I even told him I would come to his house so we could talk. I drove by his place several times after that just to relive the memories. He was never home.

I quit my job at the hotel and took the job I interviewed for. I never saw him after that. I stayed in touch with some women from my department and asked how we was and if he ever talked about me. He didn’t. I was gone from his life. I wrote him a letter and put it in his mailbox, apologizing for what happened and wanting everything to go back to the way things were. No answer.

I emailed him, several times, confessing that I felt like an obsessed ex, much like his ex we talked about once upon a time. Love made me do stupid things. It soon became clear why his ex girlfriend treated him the way she did. I realized I was like her and understood how she felt. She wasn’t the bad guy. It was him. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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An outgoing, introverted writer who likes to lie about being outgoing. Talking to your cat at all hours of the night does not count as outgoing; but it doesn't stop her. She is also just as comfortable being at the beach as she is standing in a pile of cactus. If you want to really impress this unique specimen, offer her a box of your best wine.

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