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Location: Midwest, United States

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Here...Take My Heart

She was impressive. Smart and sophisticated…beautifully dressed, groomed and polished…good-looking, too. She was an environmental activist and I was her natural enemy: “the government.”

We met at a conference in the mid-70’s. We found ourselves on a panel discussing pesticide use/misuse. I liked her immediately. She exuded strength and confidence, and presented her views fearlessly. She was a lot like me (although I’m a shy introvert at my core, I can be hellacious on a stage). I enjoyed locking horns with her. I adore strong women.

She began calling me at my office, asking for data to support her research. I helped her as much as I could. I welcomed the repartee. I was delighted that she was such an ardent activist. The world can use a great many more idealists.

She invited me for lunch (we both worked downtown). Sure, why not? I was divorced, living alone and, as I’ve said, she was quite good-looking. We had a delightful meal, and walked for a bit along Michigan Avenue. It was a gorgeous spring day, so we sat down on the steps of the Art Institute to indulge in a bit of people watching. I was enjoying myself, and she seemed happy, too. She took my hand in hers and began tracing the veins on my hand and arm. She looked at me and said: “I love you.

I was too surprised for words. I was completely and utterly flummoxed. This was too easy, too fast, too incongruous and unexpected. I kissed her on the cheek as I soon took my leave.
I’ll admit I felt somewhat flattered, but she had scared me.

She continued to call me, and I continued to engage in friendly banter. I liked her, truly liked her. In fact, I couldn’t (still can’t) point to a single flaw…except for the fact that she scared me. I couldn’t understand how she (or anyone, for that matter) could surrender her heart so haphazardly. Why would she just thrust her heart into the hands of a virtual stranger? I fear what I don’t understand when it comes to matters of the heart.

We remained friends, and I was always scrupulously careful to keep our relationship on a “friends-only” basis. I enjoyed her company immensely whenever we got together for an occasional coffee or lunch. I always found her interesting (and intriguing). She moved to Madison to pursue a doctorate in toxicology. We stayed in touch, talking once a month or so. She would call whenever she came to town, and I would have dinner with her, or spend an afternoon simply wandering about. I came to regard her as a genuine friend.

She invited me to visit her in Madison. I didn’t exactly jump at the offer but, on the other hand, I knew I would enjoy spending a weekend with her. I intuited that sex would be offered. I felt ambivalent about the prospect. It’s not that I had some deep, moral reservations about casual sex. I had been casually dating for several years and had more than a few rollicking experiences. No, the ambivalence stemmed from deeper concerns. Although we had studiously avoided the subject of “love” ever since our first luncheon date, I always felt her pressing. I always sensed her need.

Sweeping my fears into my suitcase, I came up to visit. She had a modest student apartment, but it was elegant. She came from wealth, and her refinement and wonderful aesthetic sensibilities were well displayed in her furnishings, art, music and the general ambiance of her apartment. I particularly loved her taste in music. She introduced me to a wealth of chamber music that I’ve enjoyed ever since. She, herself, looked marvelous. We talked and laughed and dined and talked some more. She is glorious company. I was not oblivious to the fact that her conversation included a good deal of sexual content and innuendo. It got to the point where I could not help but laugh. “I get it. I get it!” I smiled, after she informed me at dinner that she wasn’t wearing panties. Several bottles of wine sipped in the glow of candlelight later, we knew the moment had come.

I wanted to please her. I wanted to thank her for her gracious hospitality. I wanted her to know that I valued her friendship. I wanted to comfort her. I wanted to do whatever I could do to make her feel good…no, make that feel great (more than a hint of male ego,no?). But I knew I didn’t love her. She still scared me.

We had sex. She said it was wonderful. I felt…sad. I knew that I would never sleep with her again. I can’t explain it. I really can’t. I knew I did not love her and would never truly love her in the way she hungered to be loved. I wanted her to discover the real thing, not settle for some pale imitation of love.

Anyway, we remained friends for many years. She continued to press, and I continued to regard her as a close friend. She once came to stay with me, but I announced at the outset that, while we would be sleeping together, we wouldn’t be having sex. She was taken aback by that, but acquiesced. In the next few days after she left, I found several pairs of her panties in a variety of creative locations. She was nothing if not creative.

She graduated and moved to Washington. I would visit her every time I came to town. We always had a good time together, but we never bridged the moat between us. We never slept together again. Eventually, my career offered fewer and fewer opportunities for visits. We rarely saw each other, and eventually stopped calling.

* * *

As far as I know, she never found a mate.


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