Cafe scene; a waking dream of {E}.

I often entertained the idea that when I was sitting in public like this that some person, really it was always a woman, one that I’d known from somewhere, a work colleague, that was most likely. That she’d just walk up to my table and sit down. Often these imaginary meetings turned out to seem more real than anything in reality. I’d look up in surprise and there she’d be. A little older than when I’d first worked with her. {E}. I think I’d loved her from the first moment I’d seen her, I’d been sitting across from her in a meeting. She’d had straight black hair cut in a bob I guess it was, to me I always imagined it was a kind of an Egyptian look. I was lost from that first moment, but I hadn’t really talked to her until a long time later than that. I’d interacted with her when she needed to work with me but that was all. But at some point we did begin to talk. And in the end I’d spent a lot of time talking with her and I felt we’d got to know each other quite well. And there’d been moments when I thought she liked me more than as just a work acquaintance, but I’d never told her how I’d felt. There seemed to have never been a moment when I felt able to bring up the subject of us. I had a whole set of excuses that always stopped me, she was too tall, too good looking, too young. And the biggest excuse was that it was work and what if I made a misstep and she complained of some kind of harassment, I’d be in deep trouble. So I never knew if she felt anything, and when I left ,(although my exact method of communication escapes me), when I told her of my divorce she seemed to want nothing more to do with me.

But right now, here in Paris I see her walking in through the door. I had the shock that you do when you see someone special, someone with whom there’s been an emotional connection. And I’d forgotten how striking she was, how beautiful, the kind of beauty that doesn’t need makeup. Although she wasn’t in any way a cliche, she looked like no-one else I’d ever seen, like some kind of Gothic, Bohemian princess. Pale, black hair, fine skin, tall, intelligent. And smiling. And that’s what she did when she noticed me, I thought she might not see me but she was checking the room, perhaps to see if there were any tables free and without any hesitation she came and sat down in the bentwood chair to my left.

She leaned over and kissed my cheek.

“Hi, now I believe you’re real, I was having some trouble believing it could be you ”

“It’s good to see you too, and who else would it be?”
“Oh, no one else is like you, I was only filled with disbelief. Are you on a holiday over here?

“No l I work here now, in .. {some place close}.”
“The same kind of things”
“Yes, mostly the same. And I have friends over here too, the kids know each other so it’s worked out well.”
“What are you doing here I haven’t heard anything about you since you left?”
“Ah well, tomorrow, and believe it or not, I start school here, a music school. I’m leaving the IT behind, I already left it behind quite some time ago.”
“Are you serious? I would not have suspected it.”

“No I guess you wouldn’t have, the music is something I’ve found it difficult to admit to myself. But I’ve finally given in to it, some kind of compulsion to perform I’m not sure.”

“This is amazing, I’m pleased for you.”

“Thanks, although I must admit I am filled with fear, they tell me the school is hard and it’s different to IT, I knew I could do that, this I know nothing about. I just have to hope. But right now, you’re here, making me forget everything. I’ve missed you you know, I was sad when it seemed you didn’t even want to be my friend. Once I left, once I told you I divorced”
“But I think you loved me, and I didn’t want to hurt you or disappoint you, and you know I’d met someone, you knew that.”
“Why does loving you preclude being your friend, and you never said anything?”
“Oh so you admit it, you loved me, and why didn’t you say anything?” She laughed.
“Was it so obvious, and no I don’t want to deny it? Of course I loved you, from the first time I saw you. I couldn’t help it, who could? But I could have been your friend. Surely”
“And not get hurt?”
“Of course I’d get hurt, I already did, I always do, but that’s how I know I’m alive sometimes, and I’d have been able to spend time with you.”

“You hardly know me, how could you love me?”
“We talked quite a bit if you recall, but you’re right, you’re a very distinctive looking attractive woman and I was lost. I just fell in love at first sight, that can only be a thing if falling in love doesn’t need knowing. But then, perhaps it is possible to judge a book by the cover, sometimes, and I think that my first instinct,or whatever it was, was quite correct, knowing you even a little bit more only affirmed my original fall. I never changed my mind about you, even after I realized you’d probably be quite difficult.”
“Difficult, oh, and what does that mean?” She smiled.

“Just that I can’t imagine being able to let my guard down, difficult is a good thing by the way, in my view anyway. Anyone who isn’t difficult is probably boring.”
And by a supreme act of bravery I didn’t wait, but I brought up the subject of her current romance.
“I suppose you’re married now, to that guy”
“Oh no, that didn’t last too long.”
“So you’ve met some French guy, after all I can’t imagine anyone being able to resist you.”
She just smiled and shook her head.
“I don’t understand, am I only imagining how beautiful you are, is there something wrong with me, perhaps I’ve only ever dreamed you?”

And of course I was, and now as the conversation seemed to to turn towards a place I never really ever believed it would go the horrid realisation came over me that I was about to get hurt, as in my imagination this meeting was no accident, but it was fate bringing us together just at the opportune moment, the moment for my second chance.

But of course, nothing would ever really happen? I’d lost her, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever had her . There was a gap when she was single after her divorce where things may have happened, but I never knew about it. And I can’t imagine I’d ever have had the courage to approach her romantically. And throughout most of the time when I was getting to know her she was meeting her new guy. By now they’re probably married. And I’d never see her again, I knew it. Her interest, in me, however strong it was, hadn’t lasted, I felt sure. Perhaps, in reality, she didn’t even remember me, but even if she did, it felt inappropriate for me to contact her even to try to rekindle the friendship. I couldn’t imagine being able to say anything that would convince her things could be innocent, and that I wouldn’t be some kind of a problem for her. And of course there was the new boyfriend, likely new husband; it just wouldn’t work. Perhaps if we had mutual friends, but no we didn’t. How could we, when I had no friends of my own.

I’ll always wonder if she did actually like me at some point. Strangely, just sitting here thinking about her has reminded me that there was one occasion when she did actually see me at a random place, and she had approached me. I’d forgotten this. I was sitting outside waiting for my son to finish gymnastics. Her children were doing gymnastics at the same center. So I was sitting outside waiting, and then there she was, she recognised me and she walked up to me. We talked, I don’t remember what about. I smiled now to think of it, but this was tempered with the sadness of the realisation I’d never see her again. It’s a weird feeling, happiness and sorrow at the same time. I treasure the thought of her even as I feel the loss.

The same waitress re-appeared with my scrambled eggs. I thanked her, but I couldn’t in that moment think of anything to say, my head was filled with {E}. She started to turn away, but then she hesitated and turned back. I looked back up at her feeling a momentary shock.

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