So Close, and Yet So Far… Chapter 1

As I sat sipping my coffee, I couldn’t help but watch her. She sang like an angel, and her flowing red hair and green eyes gave her an attractive quality that I couldn’t quite describe. Anyway, the crowd loved her. I mean, I could see why. Her harmonious guitar musings were surpassed only by her creative license for the sung word, and when the two were placed in close proximity of one another, it made you feel like there was a toaster buried somewhere in the depths of your heart, and her siren’s call was the sole power that could awaken that very toaster and cause it to emit a tingly warmth like that of a space heater, only deep inside your soul. Maybe the six cappuccinos I had consumed were influencing my rational thought, but I couldn’t help but think that I loved her.

“Check, please,” I called to the waitress. The lovely young woman had finished her exposé and had begun to pack up her equipment. I knew she would be traveling home now, by way of her 1993 Toyota Celica, the car given to her by her mother. It had been her father’s car, but when her father died, it had gone to her mother with the estate. Her mother did not know how to drive a manual transmission vehicle and wanted not to have the burden of maintaining a car that would not be driven, and so the car had passed into her care. The mysterious young woman had always had a passion for the car. She learned to drive in that car, her father had taken her everywhere in that car, and she had even borrowed that car to take herself to the prom, alone. Anyway, as she pulled away from the curb, I knew precisely where she would be heading, where she always went after her Thursday night jam session at the coffee shop – her apartment.

Some would call me a stalker. I do follow her without her knowledge. At least I think it is without her knowledge. I, however, would not call my interest an obsession, merely a fascination with this young woman who had so suddenly taken my coffee shop by surprise with her non-threatening universal aesthetic appeal and ungodly tact for language and music and the delicate combination of the both. I wanted to be closer to her, to be involved in her life, to love her, to be loved by her, but, alas, I could not. When I got near enough to her, I always shied away as does a cat from a stranger. I was in quite a fix – I could not get close to her, but I could not let her go. Little did I know, things were about to change.

As I arrived at her apartment twenty minutes later, her car was already parked in the lot, as was to be expected. The light from her apartment shone through the window, a beacon signaling to the entire world that a goddess lived there, and that she had retired to her quarters for the evening. My apartment was across the way from hers, and I went up to my room, to see if I could catch a glimpse of her life, maybe learn a bit more about her.

Usually, she would abruptly shut her curtains, curtailing any observation of her in-home life, but tonight I was surprised to see that the curtains remained spread, revealing the inside of her abode. I could see her as she cast aside her guitar case onto the couch, her jacket already thrown across the chair next to the entrance to her domain. One thing caught my eye, her bookbag. It remained by her side, faithfully toting all of her necessities to and fro, but why she had not removed it had not become apparent to me quite yet. She began to remove objects from her bag, small rectangular objects, unidentifiable by my weary eyes. Through binoculars, I could discern a distinctly familiar shape – a wallet. My wallet. At least I thought it was my wallet. It sure looked like my wallet. Oh, how I hoped that it wasn’t my wallet. My fears turned to anguish as she pillaged the wallet, removing all currency and a small card. As I squinted through the binoculars, I saw a reflection of myself, a blurry image of what may very well have been the worst picture ever taken of me. It was my driver’s license. How had she acquired my wallet?

My mind suddenly took me back to earlier that evening, as I was standing to leave the coffee shop. As the young woman was making her way through the crowd, her guitar strapped to her back, she bumped into me. I had dismissed the accident as a simple bit of clumsiness, as I knew I had not been paying attention to where I was or where I was going. My eyes had been fixated on her; ever since I had first seen her, I had felt an attraction such that I had never experienced before, and that only intensified with each new sighting. Her fiery red hair came down past her shoulders, and had natural subtle curls that any man alive would kill to run their fingers through, and any woman alive would kill to have. Her hair also had a visible softness to it, as did her skin, which had the lovely hue that informed any observers that she was not spoiled by the sun. Her looks always put me in a trance, and I felt responsible for our abrupt encounter. We mumbled our apologies, and she spared no time in heading for the exit. She looked exquisite both coming and going, and as I admired her curves from behind, I decided I should be going, as my business at the coffee shop was finished.

As I watched her with disappointed eyes, she pinned my license to a board with countless others, no doubt souvenirs from previous unsuspecting suckers who had been robbed by this so seemingly innocent beauty. I was appalled. I was taken so aback by the evening’s transpirings that I could not quite decide how I should react. I could go to the police. I mean, all the proof was right there on one wall in her apartment, but somehow I knew I didn’t have the heart to turn her in. I could confront her about what she had done, tell her everything I knew, and give her a chance to change her ways. However, as I could barely tell her my name and that I thought she was a magnificent musician, I wondered how I could ever accuse her of being a kleptomaniac. I decided I should use her weakness for sleight of hand to my advantage.

The next week, my redheaded beauty was present at the coffee shop, as I had hoped she would be, and after a wonderful set of melodies, we crossed paths again.
“Excuse me, miss,” I spoke softly, “I should have been watching where I was going.”
“No, entirely my fault, sir, I wasn’t paying attention,” came the casual reply.
I felt for where my wallet had once been, and as I suspected, it was nowhere to be found. I was not worried, however, as the wallet was worth approximately six dollars and contained solely a note reading quite simply “Meet me for coffee at the shop tomorrow at six in the evening.” That would surely get her attention.

I was quite disappointed the next day when she did not make any attempt at an appearance to meet me. It was not unexpected, but I had held out hope anyway. Even more disappointing than the lack of a date was the fact that six days later, upon arriving at the coffee shop, I was greeted with a solemn crowd, with looks on their faces as though they had just heard that their mothers had all died. Our mysterious musical beauty had left town. The coffee never tasted quite the same again.

I noticed some people at the counter, chattering amongst themselves. I had seen them before, talking to the young redhead. I approached them with caution, not knowing what I would say to them. As I meandered toward them, I overheard their conversation, the topic of which was unclear to me for a moment. As I listened intently for them to continue, I realized that they were conversing on the very subject matter that I was approaching them about. I took a table near them and pretended to read the daily newspaper while in reality eavesdropping all the while. I learned quite a bit from their talk, about the young woman’s car, about how she had been quite ignored by the male population at large for much of her life, until she turned sixteen, about how her one and only boyfriend wanted much more from her than she was willing to give. After her outright refusal of her boyfriend, none of the other boys at her high school paid her any mind. She went to all the dances alone and was never asked to dance. It was their opinion that her poor encounters with immature high school boys had soured her potential for embracing love. I suppose they wondered if she had ever gotten over her hatred of the male population at large, but I knew that she hadn’t, and I figured that she probably never would.

Although I didn’t catch her name, I did hear that she moved out west, to San Diego, California. I knew it was a long shot, but I decided that my time here was coming to an end, and that my future lied on the western coast. With nothing but a beat up RX-7 and two thousand dollars, I set out for San Diego, hoping to find my redheaded kleptomaniac.