For Emily Iov************

Sometimes the best things happen to us during some of the most difficult moments in our lives. Such was the case in the summer of 2002, after my senior year in college. I left school torn up about my college experience; emotionally drained, angry, sad, and completely adrift. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to reconcile my emotions with the stark reality that I was now in the “real world” and needed to find my way forward. This is how I ended up working at the steakhouse for a third summer, as a bridge to finding more permanent work after I saved up enough money to payoff debts from school.

Work started much like previous summers at the restaurant. I initially began bussing tables, but was eventually moved up to waiter and bartender. You had come on earlier in the year as a hostess, and were slated to work through the summer before you started school. I met you one evening before customers began arriving. You were working near the main entrance and I introduced myself. Almost immediately, I knew I had met someone special.

You were wearing an attractive blouse, had beautiful hair, and the most enchanting eyes I had ever seen. You were confident in yourself and clearly not the kind of woman that let anyone walk all over her. You were intelligent, fun, and clearly enjoyed life; but you didn’t take yourself too seriously either. These characteristics not only made you a great co-worker, but also a great person. I was mesmerized by both your inner and outer beauty, thankful to whatever higher power governing our existence that I had the chance to know you.

As it turns out, you were also friendly with some of the guys I knew from previous summers. This made it easier to talk and joke with you, since I was able to find common ground and learn things about you that would have otherwise been hard had I been the “new guy” at the restaurant. Eventually, all of us began to hang out once in a while, enjoying time away from work together with other friends that well all knew. I was grateful for the times we all spent together: it was refreshing after some tough years at college that were at times very lonely.

Of course, feelings of attraction gave way to infatuation. I loved it when you helped clear tables and expedite customers through the restaurant. You were a team player. You made an effort to be good to other people. You genuinely cared about the people around you and I found this endearing. How often does someone like me ever meet someone like you? Not very…perhaps a couple times over the course of a lifetime.

Once I brought you a handmade card, in an attempt to flirt. Unfortunately, I spelled your last name wrong and I felt foolish. All the same, I think you understood my intent. Perhaps it came across as immature or childish. I’m sorry for that. I didn’t know how to express feelings of attraction to women in a friendly way that was neither aggressive nor feeble. I just wanted you to know that I was interested in being more than friends.

One day, all of us got together and went out for the evening. I was extremely excited and nearly head over heals. Here was my chance to show a different side of me, the one that wasn’t busy serving customers or making drinks at the bar. We went out to dinner, walked around in a park, met up with other friends at a residential school, and finally headed home just after 10 o’ clock. I was so happy to have this time with you. It was an amazing feeling.

On the car ride home, we were both sitting in the back seat, occasionally chatting but otherwise quiet after an evening of fun. Then, unexpectedly, our hands met. It was like a synergy of hope, happiness, and longing washed over me all at once. I played with fingers using mine, carefully trying to tell you without words that I had a deep affection for you. Then, we parted ways. You had to be home and others had some further plans that evening. I was never so happy. It was a ray of sunlight on an otherwise cloudy day, lifting my heart from its jaded existence to newfound heights. It was beautiful. You were beautiful.

Unfortunately for me, it was just a passing spark. We both felt something and expressed it, but life had other things planned. You were still in a relationship that I didn’t know much about. Apparently you were reconciling with a boyfriend, unsure of where to take the relationship and unsure of just how you felt. These feelings are completely understandable: it’s never easy sorting emotions out, especially when they involve someone you love.

You have to understand that after that night – when we connected (if ever so briefly) – I was stratospheric. The feeling I had was so amazing. I was enamored with an angel. You were so profoundly gifted with both a good mind and heart, not to mention physical beauty that was beyond compare. I knew I could NEVER let go, or else I’d be making the biggest mistakes of my life.

Unfortunately, you know what transpired next. I used Instant Messenger to try and find out where you really stood with your boyfriend. I used your screen name in a childish, completely idiotic attempt to find the truth. Of course, my treachery backfired and you found out what I had been doing. You were very mad and felt betrayed. In my selfish attempt to live in la-la land, I had violated your privacy. It was so F*cking stupid of me. I have no other words to describe it.

The funny thing about life is that it doesn’t have a “pause” button. We can’t mend fences and still have things our way. Inexplicably, there are other things that happen, other people that matter, and the uncertain future that beckons us forward. If I could take it all back, I would. Sadly, this is impossible. I tried communicating this to you in a note. I hope you understood. I was then – and forever will be – so sorry for my behavior.

I just couldn’t let the chance of us becoming something special go. In reality, I was just being selfish, putting my jealousy over common decency. I realize that now and get it. I just wished it could have been more. It would have been wonderful. It would have been special. But it was not meant to be.

Since then, 9 years later, we’ve moved on in life. You have your career and your own life, much like I’ve found my way to different places and different people.

If you take nothing else from what happened between us, take this: never before had I felt so in love, and never since have I felt the same.

Good luck and best wishes to you. You are a person with a bright, happy, promising future ahead of you. Embrace that and never let it go.