He wanted her... and that’s all there was to it. And not even in a sexual context, in fact nothing could be further from his mind. He wanted her as a person, her as a human being. He wanted her as a young girl, her as a woman, her as an old senile lady rocking back and forth on the front porch, stroking a decrepit calico cat too tired to even paw at the dandelion seed that came drifting by on a balmy breeze as they both stared out into the vastness of the afternoon sky. He wanted her as an ideal that, as far as he was concerned, was far beyond his grasp: love.
He was lovesick... lovesick and sick of love. And though neither concept was a stranger to him, he couldn’t remember the last time it was this bad. Oh, wait... yes, he could.
It was the summer of ’97 and Craig Levinson was an impressionable boy of fourteen. During the day, he worked in his father’s drug store, restocking shelves mostly – the ones he could reach anyway – though occasionally manning the counter when his father had to help a customer with a slightly larger item. Business may not have been booming, per se, but it was regular, thanks to the store’s patrons and frequent tourists passing through on their way to someplace far more exciting.
In a town as small as Lawrence, everybody knew everybody else, so the first thing that struck Craig about her was that he didn’t recognize her. He braced himself for heartbreak, though, knowing that if he didn’t know her, she was just another of the aforementioned tourists. The possibility that she was new to town crossed his mind, but he quickly dismissed the notion; nobody ever moved to Lawrence. University-bound students moved away, coming back to visit now and then, but nobody in their right mind ever made Lawrence their new place of residence, having the option of anywhere else on earth. The possibility that she was clinically insane appealed to Craig because then she would have absolutely no problem associating with the likes of him. She was, as far as he could tell, “way out of his league,” so being crazy would probably tip the scales in his favor.
“Hi,” she said, removing her sunglasses, revealing two differently colored, dazzling eyes, and approaching the counter. She flicked her long blonde hair over her tan shoulders gracefully and Craig's heart responded by forgetting how to function for a moment.
“H-hi,” he managed to utter.
That was as far as he got... the furthest he’d ever gotten, as a matter of fact. Usually he wasn’t even able to stutter past that first consonant. He could only dream about the day he could introduce himself by name to an individual of the female persuasion. ...I mean, a vowel... wow.
In between his heart stopping and starting again, he had no recollection of totaling her items: a beef jerky stick, a pack of gum, and a candy bar, taking her five dollars, depositing it in the register, giving her back $2.84 worth of change, and handing her a receipt. Instead, the only thing he remembered was the rest of their lives that they had spent together.
They wound up being sweethearts all through high school, except for a brief stint during senior year when they decided it was time to “see other people.” They did... for a week. They then decided that they had seen enough of other people and that it was time to see each other again. This made up their minds and they eloped, getting married a week before Senior Prom. Everybody thought they were a shoe-in for prom king and queen. She was voted prom queen, but in the end, the crown went to Mr. Popular. He toyed with his wedding band unconsciously the entire time the King and Queen danced, though he needn’t have worried as she thought he was a disgusting creep. Turns out she was right too. He tried to grab her ass during the dance and she slapped him across the face. They promptly left after that.
In college they shared a dorm room at a State University to which he had a scholarship for running track in high school. She majored in animal sciences and he just kind of studied everything. She got a job flipping burgers at a nearby mom-and-pop fast food joint and he minded a convenience store during the night watch. He would get home in time to wake her up to get her first classes before falling asleep himself. She would be done with her morning classes and drop by the dorm to get her apron and wake Craig up for his classes before dashing over to work. She would finish her shift and meet Craig at the only class they could afford to have together with such contrasting schedules. Afterwards they would go out to dinner and talk about their days, the boring lecture, and anything else that wandered into their minds throughout their meal. Then he would go to the store and she would go to bed and the cycle would repeat itself. Though they only saw each other several times every day, they made the best of their time and it managed to keep them sane. Their routine was fairly uniformed with the exception of a couple eruptions of passion during their passings in the dorm room resulting in both of them being late to one thing or another, but nothing really changed… until a burglar robbed Craig’s work at gunpoint and Craig quit, much to both of their relief.
They both graduated, bought a condominium with the money they had been saving and investing throughout college, and began their careers: He managed to become a freelance writer for the newspaper and other local publications while actively trying to get his romantic novel published. She landed her dream job, working at the zoo, taking care of animals. She was good at what she did and loved it even more; so much so, in fact, that word got around and before they knew it, she was offered a much better position from a much better zoo several states away. Without hesitation, they moved and within two months he sold his novel. One week later, she announced she was pregnant… with twins. The twins, Justin and Jason, were the first and second of four children: following were Jesse, a girl, and Josh, who had cerebral palsy.
The years came and went, bringing with them several milestones: A freak accident in the hippopotamus habitat resulted in her early retirement. Craig’s fourth book became one of New York Times’ Bestsellers. Justin and Jason worked at an electronics depot as technical support before opening up a fast food joint called “Twin Burgers”. Jesse became a fairly successful independent singer, and Josh led a happy life as janitor and cashier at “Twin Burgers”. Unfortunately, one night when Josh was 23, Justin and Jason were driving him home when an inebriated idiot, rushing from a Christmas Party in the hopes of returning home before getting into an accident, slammed into the rear passenger side at 65 miles per hour in a 35 zone. Josh died immediately. The twins, however, got to spend three weeks in the hospital along with the idiot who mysteriously passed away a week after their release when the respirator he was on suffered from a mysterious electrical failure.
They didn’t talk to the twins again until ten years after that when Justin and Jason showed up on the family doorstep on Thanksgiving with their wives and children in tow. The twins had married twin sisters and each had a boy, who, though only cousins, looked identical. They were welcomed with open arms and hearts and the family was complete again.
Craig and his wife died at the ripe old age of 93 in their sleep and, according to the coroner, not more than an hour apart.
The next thing he knew, she was on her way out the door of his father’s drug store, putting her sunglasses back on. “Bye.”
Now, here it was over 10 years later and it was happening all over again, this time with the Jeanette, the ivory-skinned, curly-haired brunette with the big green eyes, in the office building where he worked in the big city.
And just like that, the elevator doors closed, and she was gone forever.
He glanced up at the lit arrow pointing down. Thanking God, he dashed to the nearby stairs and made his way down as fast as he could without tripping.
He burst into the lobby, panting like a dog in summer, and scanned the vast room before recognizing a silhouette making its way through the revolving glass doors.
“Excuse me, Miss?”
But she didn’t hear him. Summoning up a familiar stamina from his past days of glory, he bolted out of the safety of the air-conditioned building and into the populated heat of the city. He looked left and right before spotting her about to cross the street.
“This is worse than a hundred-yard dash,” he muttered to himself before taking off once again, down the sidewalk, across the street, down another sidewalk, and finally up to the stride of the object of his passion. He took a moment to catch his breath before saying, “Excuse me, Miss?...”
“Oh my God, are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine; I’ve just been running after you since the building across the street a couple blocks back…”
“Aren’t you the guy from the elevator?”
“Yup, that’s me…. Wow, I just haven’t run like that since high school.”
“You ran track or something?”
“No, I was just really popular with all the bullies.”
“Hi… my name is Craig.”