The aching question had been with him for some time unannounced. He looked across the table, half listening to her small talk, and in between the small spaces of the words she spoke, he reminisced and hoped something in her appearance or her manner or their infant history together may hold the key to an answer.

Her whole demeanor exuded a genuineness of spirit. He had discovered it during their many one-on-one’s: the booths where they gulped down frothy flavor infused beers, the rickety tables where they sipped coffee and shared their fears, the wet warm hot tub where they whispered all the ways and whys of their years. He remembered how the beer foam clung to her mouth as she laughed without shame, how the wind blew from her red mouth and rippled her coffee cool, how sex steamed from her eyes in the heated hotel pool–she was superior to so many people he knew.

So superior to so many who tried their damnedest to be like someone else they had seen whether in their offices, bars, magazines, or movie scenes: lackluster copycats, victims of vicarious dreams seduced by the lying limelight luster of everyday people placed on pedestals.

Her eyes: it was not so much their appearance (they were ever changing colors from blue to green around glimmers of gold) but the control she had over what they expressed. She could level mountains. No matter her emotion, they beamed confidence and yet endearing innocence, and in that look she could bait a hook that set forth a visceral challenge any man or woman. There was a danger and a passion, an ominous promise of happiness in her gaze.

He wondered if he could trust her. He wanted an earthly faith, a heavenly bond between them. He wanted to be able to look into her eyes and know that if he sacrificed himself for her, she without hesitation would do the same for him. But as he looked deeply, he did not see her soul; he did not see the essence of trust; he only saw those spectacular eyes themselves, beacons in the storm of his uncertainty over-flowing with vibrant light but empty of any answer to his gnawing question. Do I love her? he thought, Yes, I always have.

“What would you two like?” asked the buxom-in-the-best-way waitress.

Amber’s love and lots of sex and babies, he thought to himself.

“I’ll have the porter,” he said.

“Just water,” Amber told the waitress with a smile.

He looked at Amber with a smirk and said, “No beer for you today?”

She fixed her eyes on him.

“Look,” she said, “I’ve got to tell you something. I think we should cool things down. I’ve been having a lot of fun, but as you know, I just got out of a serious heartbreak, and I’m not ready to get serious again. And I think that’s what you really want.”

It is what I want! his mind screamed.

“We can take things slow–” he tried to say, but the expression he wore betrayed his words.

“I know that’s not what you want,” she said, “and things have become so personal so fast that I need to back off what we’re doing.”

“But don’t you enjoy it? What we have?”

“I’ve been having fun, but–”

“I love you,” he said without thinking.

She paused.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t, I didn’t know you felt so strongly,” she said, “…but…I don’t feel the same. I think I should go. You can call me, but I can’t be what you want me to be.”

“But Amber–”

“I’m sorry. I’ve got to go.”

She rose from the table, leaving their little one-on-one, and as he watched her walk through the door, the outline of her figure eclipsed the light of the setting Sun. And with a flash she was gone.

“Here’s your porter,” said the chesty waitress.

“I’m gonna need another,” he said, “make it a pitcher. The cheap stuff.”

He sat there and drank for many hours.

His thirst was insatiable.