She was seventeen when we met. I was in my mid-twenties, and working at a convenience store until something better came along. She worked there part-time. Afternoons and Saturdays. Our paths would cross occasionally.
She was tall, with sandy-blonde hair and green eyes that tried to hide behind slightly-nerdy glasses. There was a whiff of not-quite-fitting-in at school. She called her mom ‘Wilma’ because of a certain coat she wore.
Conversation flowed like a river—easy and deep. Her company was elevating. And I fell hard. But however wildly my heart was beating, I was wracked with guilt.
The eight-year difference felt like twenty. I imagined outraged fathers—with shotguns. Many nights were spent talking to myself. “This isn’t the hot flash of lust. You really like her. And if you really like her…”
Only I never quite convinced myself it was okay. I couldn’t outrun the feeling that I was some vile, heinous cradle-robber.
Late one afternoon, I was checking in the week’s shipment of cigarettes. She asked me out. Did I want to visit a college campus she was thinking of attending? It was inexpensive, informal and a nice, long drive away.
I put the last carton of Winstons away and looked up. I was an encyclopedia of neuroses. The expression on my face said everything I couldn’t.
Later that day, she approached me from behind and tousled my hair. I looked up. Her flawless vanilla-caramel skin; her searching eyes. I was speechless. God how I wanted to kiss her.
I’d like to say I did, and that it was the beginning of a passionate, life-changing relationship. But I didn’t. I'm not sure I ever saw her again.
In memories, we are ghosts. Forever frozen and endlessly looping. Remembering unrequited love makes possibility permanent, even as it remains out of reach. It is regret and longing lightly dusted with powdered sugar.
Cue the languid country and western song. Do I ever cross your mind?