Serendipity and Cement Steps

Part One

As I seem to recall, the book made its way to his hands and the five dollar bill finally landed in hers. After a very frazzled journey, they met in a magical moment on the ice where love and chance collided beautifully…they call it serendipity and it is complete, utter bullshit. Pull up a chair friends, I have a real story to tell of how love and chance split ways on a hot August day in the heart of a bustling city among hundreds of unaware people passing by. I have effectively been waiting on serendipity to show its wondrous face now for nearly four years. I have been thinking of it over and over in my mind, wondering if I would develop a quirky British accent when I saw him again or if we might by chance grab the same pair of gloves in a Lakeshore Drive boutique. I have, on occasion, concocted the most cinematic moments in my mind where a man and a woman reconnect unexpectedly at a concert where their all-time favorite band is playing. That one song, that one moment, they meet eyes and then…I wake up and realize I am standing in my kitchen, eyes closed with Depeche Mode blasting on my little smartphone. I look around and see that this is not a large arena and there is no confetti falling on my face as he leans in to kiss me. That is simply my air popper spinning out of control and tossing popcorn at me in a desperate plea for attention. I take a seat by the window, room temperature coffee in hand and fondly recall that moment like I was there yesterday. My first thought is that we weren’t supposed to be there, either of us. I had lost my spouse just a month prior to my arrival in the city. Granted I was only there for a short few days, but everyone had convinced me to keep my plans and go. Wishing me well, telling me how good it would be for me to be among friends and adults. Sort of like putting my foot in the water of my new life to test out the climate. I simply would smile, give them the “yeah yeah” look and continue with my tasks. I can’t say if I should have been there or not, I just know part of me wanted to wallow in the obligation of being home with my kids and the other part wanted to drink every day and fall into the abyss. I obviously chose the latter. He had suffered a recent loss as well, the day he was packing his truck up according to his story. His favorite four-leg companion had fell gravely ill shortly before his departure, so a trip to the vet was made in an unsuccessful effort to save the beloved life. I can say with certainty that standing on those steps was not where he wanted to be and I felt the same. Perhaps neither of us knew where we should be and that is why the universe pushed us to the same area on the steps of the convention center. I recall going outside during a break, likely because I just could not keep my eyes open much more as the speakers drone on and on. The thousands of neighbors I had accumulated in the arena felt much the same as you could see the closed eyes and buddies sitting close, tapping shoulders to maintain a state of alertness. I walked outside and took a look around me, all the while surveying which person seemed like the least likely to shun a smoker…there he was. He looked like a character out of a movie, but not just one, several. He had the attitude of an Outsider, the feel of an alternative music fan and the vibe of a man who knows his city well. I walked over, tentatively unimpressed until I spoke to him and he looked directly at me. I asked if he minded me lighting up, he said, “No. As a matter of fact, you think I could get one of those?” The relief for me was tangible, not only was he not going to shun me but he was going to join…oh, damn. I’m there again; would you look at him, look at him closely. Did you hear him speak? I mean did you inhale that deep dish, windy city accent? His hair slicked back, just enough to stay where he wants it. Those eyes, those things alone could cause every stitch of clothing I have to just fall away. “Absolutely, yeah, here you go” I said, opening the pack and handing him one. He reached for it and our hands touched, but only for a second. He had not been smoking recently but with what he had to deal with before coming to the conference, he felt like he needed one and here I was. So I asked and he explained about his dog. I handed him my sympathy as I shared the love for animals he so obviously had. We stood on those steps for several minutes, discussing unimportant things such as where we had traveled from, what we did for a living and how we were enjoying ourselves so far. Not for even a second did it occur to me to ask him for a drink or a number or his hand in marriage for all of eternity…but I should have. That loss is one I live with to this day, the loss of what could have been for a few glorious days including but not limited to unadulterated bliss, drinking challenges in alley bars and sleepy mornings wrapped up in his inked arms while we swam in white, plush hotel bedding. Damn it, damn it, damn it. Damn it…

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