There are times when the world seems small enough to manage; for lonely hearts to see from horizon to horizon and imagine all that lies between.
It was the first of two times I would return to Santa Cruz after being away. My tour in the Air Force (Germany) was over and the years away had been lonely. My heart was open and the radar was quiet.
Her presence moved me from the beginning. A short blonde bob, tanned skin, athletic, and with a smile that curved in all the right places. If you know me at all, you know I’m a shy one and don’t typically tip my hand in public without aid of some liquid courage (gone are those days), but some girls dissipate those anxieties.
At the Pontiac Grill (now the Surfrider Cafe) with some of my new coworkers the night before, she came into my view like a sunrise in an apron. The picture must’ve been comical with what was surely the goofiest of boyhood gazes each time she came to our table. Moments like this transcend physical laws of the time-space continuum, so I could have been doing or saying anything. Truly spellbound. I didn’t sleep much that night, and with all that time on my hands developed a plan to meet her.
Mustering all the courage that a young man could when he’s moved by the heart, I set out on my bike to win a handful of her time. The corner florist provided a single pink rose which I carried carefully in my teeth on the fateful plod.
She was indeed working that next day – fate certainly must be on my side, right? With a boldness and calm uncommon to me at the time, I stepped through the threshold and caught her eye. Just like in the movies, everything went tilt-shift and fuzzy around her while she slo-mo turned to smile at me, clearly seeing my intention. Asking a coworker to cover for her, she asked me to follow her next door to the atrium of a Japanese restaurant where we could talk for a few minutes.
Over the next ten or fifteen minutes which, let’s be frank, felt like about three hours, she shared her sincere appreciation for my gesture but regretted to inform me that she was dating someone. Crestfallen at the core, I allowed the clock to count down until my time was up. At least I’d get to spend some time with the most beautiful woman I’d yet to meet and get lost without navigation in those pale blue eyes.
That was 27 calendar years ago, but with matters of the heart it was just minutes ago because of the clarity; the pure nature of such unfiltered feelings that require no refinement. Those moments exist as markers to indicate what is possible.
…and it is happening again. My heart is beating. I’m alive.