dontravis.com blog post #589
Image Courtesy of Pixabay:
Image Courtesy of Pixabay:
I called her Smoky.
She was the girl who always carried the faint fragrance of jasmine with her, and I was the guy who was in love with her from the day we met in freshman English. It was a big class, but I was fortunate enough to sit beside her. Before the class convened, I screwed up the courage to utter the five most difficult words I had ever spoken.
“Hi, I’m Am. Ambrose Haller.”
She looked puzzled before responding. “Gwendolyn Sharp. Nice to meet you.”
Understanding her confusion, I stiffened my spine and spoke again. “I didn’t stutter. I really said ‘I’m Am.’ That’s what everybody calls me instead of Ambrose.”
“Oh.” Then she smiled. Smiled with her whole being. With her eyes as well as her lips. Her irises were gray. Not pale. Dark, smoky gray. Seemingly infused with swirling mists of changing shades and shapes. I’d never seen eyes like that before. In that moment, she became Smoky to me.
Her laugh was silver pinging off crystal. “Let’s do that over again. Hi, Am, I’m Gwen.”
When I took the dainty hand she offered, some part of my essence flowed through our clasped palms into her. Did she recognize what had just happened?
Professor Sorloff called the class to attention, breaking the magic of the moment and earning my undying enmity. Damn Sorloff! Why was somebody with a name like that teaching English, anyway?
For one hour, three days a week over two semesters, I sat beside my angel. Although almost everyone else I knew despised the class, I could hardly wait for 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We became friends, almost intimates, occasionally sharing confidences that drew me closer to her. I suffered some setbacks, as well. There was the boyfriend, Dirk, who showed up after class to claim her as though he owned her. Later came the bitter breakup that left her shaken and unhappy.
My opportunity, right? I thought so, too. But while she shared some of her feelings with me, it was a strapping footballer named Robin who apparently had a more comfortable shoulder. The school term staggered to a close with me little more than a classmate to my beautiful Smoky.
My sophomore year was a drag because she transferred to New Mexico State in order to follow her football tight end to Las Cruces. For an entire semester, the slightest whiff of jasmine made me ill.
Twenty years passed before I glanced through the one-way glass wall of my office at the Central Avenue Branch of the Spartan Bank and noticed a woman waiting in line for a teller. She wore a pair of large, very dark glasses, something signs prominently displayed on the bank’s doors discouraged. As usual, I took special notice of someone who might be attempting to mask her identity. The tall woman was quite well-formed. I’m not certain if I made that mental note as a banker identifying a potential scam artist or as a man who’d recently undergone a divorce. Regardless of the reason, she was in my sights now.
The woman was not a regular customer of the branch yet somehow looked familiar. Drawn by curiosity—or perhaps caution—I moved into the lobby to stand at the tall table that once held deposit slips and counter checks before banks went to computers and did away with such necessities. She stood in profile as she moved up the line.
Her delicate features sent my mind racing over wanted posters and past relationships, but I had not pulled whatever was niggling at me from my memory banks by the time she finished her transaction and started for the door. On impulse, I moved to intercept her.
“Excuse me, ma’m. I’m Mr. Haller, the manager. May I welcome you to our branch?”
She halted abruptly, which excited my suspicion… and brought a hint of jasmine.
She pulled off the shades and looked up at me. “Am?”
“Smoky!” I exclaimed.
Her laugh still sent shivers down my back “I haven’t been called that in years. It’s good to hear it again.”
“I lost track of you after you transferred to State.”
“I’ve wondered about you often. So you’re a banker?” That tinkling laugh again. “My banker. I just opened an account last week.”
She was more beautiful as a mature woman than she had ever been as a coed. Back then, her looks merely promised something. Now she delivered on that promise. True beauty.
Somehow we ended up agreeing to meet for coffee after work. She was employed as an electrical engineer at a firm a couple of blocks down the street. In that enchanted half hour, I confessed my recent divorce and learned of her difficult breakup from her husband… that same footballer who’d taken her away from me all those years ago.
That coffee was succeeded by dinner a few nights later, which gave rise to others. Then came the magical night where I found myself where I’d only dreamed I would ever be.
On top of Old Smoky.
Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Forgive me.