I met him my very first day in Milford. Seventeen years old and eager to work, I had taken a seat in a popular local restaurant to simultaneously eat lunch and peruse the jobs section of the paper. He was sitting at the bar, an arm's length away from me, eating his lunch wearing, of all things, biker shorts. I hadn't noticed him until I heard him speaking with my waiter - They were laughing about something that had happened over the weekend in the restaurant, recounting the tirade of a disgruntled diner. His conversation suggested that he, too, was employed there, so I asked him where the little girls' room was. He smiled and directed me around me the corner. I was sure to stand straight and swing my hips as I walked away from him, certain he was watching. He was my type exactly, except for the biker shorts, I could tell immediately. I was smitten, and he had only told me how to get to the bathroom.
Upon my return to my seat, he turned his back on his meal and asked me if I was new to the area.
"Yeah, I could tell you weren't from around here," he said, taking a French fry from his plate.
"Is that good or bad?"
"Oh, it's good. If you were from around here you'd probably be missing a tooth and wearing overalls."
"Or biker shorts."
He smiled. "Touché."
For ten minutes or so, our conversation straddled the distance between my table and the bar. After the third or fourth interruption, we decided he should join me.
When he sat down across from me, the dialogue was effortless. We talked about our families, Milford, Las Vegas, the ability to speak French. He explained to me the concept of email (hey, it was '98. It was new to me.), he told me about his college career, I told him about myself. We laughed like old friends, comfortable and easy. We completely lost track of time. We didn't even notice when lunch menus were replaced with dinner menus, paper napkins replaced with linens. We didn't notice that the neon "Open" sign was illuminated, or that the street lights were bathing Milford in an artificial glow. It was only when my lunch waiter said "You've been here long enough, are you going to sleep here, too?" that we realized how much time we'd spent in those wooden booths, revealing ourselves to one another.
"Well," he said, standing up, "you should give me a call sometime. I'll give you a tour of Milford. It should take about fifteen minutes."
We laughed and he left, but he didn't give me his number.
I grinned all the way home. He was a nerd. He was confident. He was smart. He was so funny. I officially had a crush on him.
I knew the nights he bartended and the days he worked lunch. In a town as small as Milford, it's not that hard to glean all the information you need through the grapevine alone. I showed up from time to time, sure that I looked my best. I flirted with him and he always flirted back. The chemistry between us was palpable.
It took him weeks to finally ask me out. I was all sweaty palms and jitters by the time he picked me up. We went to Wal Mart.
"I hate coming to this place," he sighed as we pulled into a parking spot. He gave a facetious shrug, "But I need clothes."
I laughed till my stomach hurt.
That was almost seven years ago now, and I still smile when I think of that moment.
I built snowmen with him, I trespassed on state land in search of waterfalls with him, I smoked my first cigar with him, I made out with him in my house when it was still just a foundation and some framing. I day dreamed about him, fantasized about him and was crazy about him. But we never had a relationship. We never called one another pet names, I was never able to refer to him as my boyfriend. It was just never our time.
He moved to France for a year to study abroad, and I got engaged. My fiancee hated him. I moved from my engagement into my recently deceased relationship, bypassing him entirely. My ex hated him, too. Because we always found our way to each other. At least once every six months, one of us will call the other. The chemistry is still palpable. And now he's the one who's engaged.
I heard from him yesterday. We volleyed emails back and forth, and even though I'm single, he's engaged, and we know it's dangerous. We get each other into too much trouble. We flirt, and we laugh, we talk about what might have been had the time ever been right.
He'll be married in May, and that will probably end our interaction. The thought alone makes me sad; So many of my memories are attached to him in one way or the other. Even memories I haven't made: France will always belong to him. As will biker shorts and Wal Mart's fashions.