Karen and I took a liking to each other immediately. I wasn't rich, or urbane, or anything like the pick of men she had in her days at the club, but I was a nice guy, low key and funny, smart, professional and mostly unthreatening. Plus, I was dating her roommate, posing no romantic threat to the good thing she had going with Dr. Chicago. At least so long as I was with Carolyn.
My dating Carolyn wasn't to last. In a sudden and unexpected corporate shuffling, her company, American Express, relocated Carolyn from Atlanta to Denver. It all happened in about a week, and Karen was left living by herself, alone in a big city full of hungry men. Karen and Dr. Chicago were faced with a new dilemma, find Karen a new roommate, one without a gaggle of men hanging around her, or move Karen to Chicago. They chose the latter, but the move needed some time to make happen, so who would keep Karen company in the interim?
"What about Carolyn's old boyfriend, the lawyer you said you liked? Does he know about our arrangement? "
"Yea, I like Allan, he's a really nice guy and has never come on to me. I'd like that."I willingly became Karen's safe male companion and her social life until she moved to Chicago. When she was out of town, I had my own social life. A young lawyer with a red Fiat convertible in Atlanta in the mid-70's, where dating Southern women was casual, easy and with no strings attached. When Karen was back in Atlanta, the two of us hung out. I accepted my role and played the part very well. We were both careful enough to not cross the boundary of being just friends. That might take the shine off of the expensive gifts, jewelry, travel, the good life she was living, transient as it might be. It was fine with me, I enjoyed the company of a beautiful woman. It was a win-win.
Eventually, Chicago beckoned, an expensive downtown penthouse was much more convenient for them both. Our platonic relationship, which had become so much fun and fulfilling for us, was coming to an end. It really doesn't take long to get to know someone, to develop feelings, to start to think about someone way too much. In any other circumstance, I was so out of Karen's league that I would be lucky just for the opportunity to walk by her on the street, notice and stare at her, just like the men who walked by us while we were together, trying to make eye contact with her, glances that she would never return. Karen was a loyal and faithful pretend girlfriend to me.
In a short time we built a surprising emotional bond that transcended our unwritten agreement. We got to know each other well, having fun discovering the best parts of each other. Karen wasn't just beautiful, she had a kind and seductive heart and in her own way, was just an innocent bystander to the life she was living. As for me, I was above all, a nice guy, intelligent and unassuming, unlike any of the men she had been used to. I kept my hands to myself and came to like her for what she was inside as well as outside. I wasn't chasing her, just enjoying my time with her, treating her with respect and curiosity, not just the goddess she was used to being treated like. In return, she let her guard down with me, I was no threat and without any carnal desire for her, at least none that I let her know about.
We made a special date to spend her last night in Atlanta together, just dinner at nearby restaurant and a walk back to her apartment. When dinner was over, we walked slowly back to her place, with not a word said about the good-bye waiting for us just ahead. Before long we found ourselves at her front door. Karen and I had never kissed, it just wasn't allowed and from the start it was understood that any trappings of romance between us was off limits. But I wasn't about to let her go without one show of the affection for her that had been building up inside of me for the past couple of months. She was leaving. There was nothing to lose.
We were standing at her door and as she turned to say good-bye, and before she could say a word, I leaned in and pressed my lips against hers. It felt so right, so natural, and before I could pull away, Karen kissed me back. We held our lips together way, way, longer than we intended. I finally pulled back just enough to see her eyes, now moist with the realization that her time with me had come to an end, that she was never going to see me again. We stepped apart and stared at each other, maybe for a second, or two, or three.
"Allan, what are we doing?"
"We're saying goodbye."Sometimes things just happen. It's like seeing a person you never saw before, you can be passing on the street you look at each other and for that moment, for a few seconds, your eyes meet and there is a
kind of recognition that you both know something, but then the person's gone and it's too late to do anything. You remember it because it was right there and you let it go.
I kissed Karen because if I didn't, there would never be another chance. I kissed her because I felt something special for her, and she had to know it. Words wouldn't do. When she kissed me back, it was her way of letting me know she was beginning to feel something too. Maybe I wasn't so out of her league after all, that there was a part of me she was attracted to, she wanted, that she would not find in Dr. Chicago, that she may never find with anyone, anywhere. Maybe that scared her, maybe for once in her life she felt desire for a man for the right reasons.
"Goodbye."I turned and started for my car. Karen turned and put her key in the door, opened it and stepped inside. I heard the door close behind me and heard the latch lock from the inside. I walked down the street to my car, got in and just sat there, my eyes now moist with the realization that my time with Karen was over.
Four decades later, as I write these words I'm still standing with Karen at her door, kissing her and being kissed back. What a time that was, and now with all that has gone by, the lives that she and I created independent from each other, all of the people, places and things that have happened to us, I remember that night so clearly, what we said, what we did, what we felt.
She was right there, and I let her go.