Not some charming meet-cute at a flower shop or in a department store.
Just two people meeting in this teeming swell of bodies rolling like waves down the shimmering sidewalks of the city.
It started in a used bookstore placed incongruently within some pretentious part of town, the only shabby worthwhile venture in a strip mall string of nothingness.
She was looking at a sketch by Allen Ginsberg thinking how interesting it was that his scribbled desk resembled the conglomeration of oddities she had within the niches of hers. She pondered spending $350.00.
He was wearing a corduroy jacket and turning a well-worn volume of Tristessa over in his hands gently, as if to keep the beautiful words from spilling out.
“Corduroy is an underrated textile,” she mused aloud as she watched him in her periphery. She was fifteen. Fifteen: the age where all handsome men in their late twenties appear to be perfect. She already regretted speaking. She already regretted the quickly sinking feeling, of painfully nursing an unrequited crush.
He smiled to himself, partly at her youth and partly at her haphazardly pinned up hair that seem to be a practiced attempt at looking impressively unimpressive. He exchanged words with the cashier. She flicked through an annual compilation of short stories.
He walked out the door saving her from vomiting more meaningless thoughts from her mouth onto the floor of the bookshop she would now have to avoid forever. Before she purchased yet another “How-To” book on writing well, the cashier handed her a book, “Here, that gentleman suggested you read this.”
“Is it expensive?” she tentatively asked, knowing that it was worth purchasing at any price from him.
“It’s free. He had it on him and told me to give it to you.”
In one short hour she had voraciously inhaled this beaten up, hand stapled novella. Every page expanded her tiny, naive cocoon of youth. Her pursuit to find this man had begun. There was no doubt he had written this work of art, this masterpiece of bohemian wanderlust, this compilation of starving, aching words. A haunting work of regret, of self loathing, of beauty.
She spent ten years writing him letters that were never returned. She created elaborate fantasies where they would meet again in a coffee shop, or on the bus, or in another bookshop where they would talk and she would know him. But she never thought of loving him. This man belonged with some ethereal Californian hipster wearing retro sunglasses who could play the guitar and who frequented underground clubs. This man didn’t even return a single letter to the dreaming girl turned dreaming woman, wistfully walking down streets as the sun set in loose sweaters and baggy jeans, searching. Always searching.
When she finally wrote her novel, the one she had labored over, hated, loved, cried over, and burned several times before publishing, she inscribed,
“To JLK-This is my last letter. I grew up. Realized I had been a silly little girl then, and lamented over the fact that I wasted a second of your time with my prattle. The only hope I allowed myself all these years was that I would eventually amount to something so you might remember me vaguely as an acquaintance not all together terrible to have had.”
Years later, when she was that person she had always tried so hard to be, she received one envelope containing one page in which there were a few words:
I read them all.
You thought too much of me.
I was never worth your time.
I was never worth you.