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Always in Love

He stared at her, not comprehending the enormity of what she had said. Still trying to figure out what just happened. She sat at an angle to him, smiling but a little wary, poised over her cinnamon bagel and strawberry jam. Black coffee and orange peel. Behind her rain against the window. The radio in French. He stared at her and suddenly he was gone. Just gone. Fallen back into a place he thought he'd forgotten.

The chess club on Thompson Street, steaming glasses of tea and opaque glances. The Ukrainian egg shop off 2nd Avenue. Postcards of Marlon Brando and Jasper Johns taped to the wall above his desk. He was young and he was always in love. Secrets traded on the fire escape outside. Endless subway journeys up and down the West Side, the 1, the 2, the 3. She was a Julliard ballerina, she told him, but she dropped out early. Grew up in Maine and mother from Minsk. Russian eyes and an impossibly long neck. She lived on a diet of apples and cigarettes and if she had asked him to go with her, he would have. He wouldn't have thought twice. If she had asked him to go with her, he would. Her kitchen. Riverside Drive, unmade bed still damp from the hours before. Tea and lemon, bare feet along the linoleum. Knife in hand. He threw it in the air, they never took their eyes from each other. He threw it in the air, didn't know where it would land.

He came back. The radio on, the rain against the window. He came back. She was still smiling, but the wariness had set in, and he knew he would never see her there again. So this. Now, this. Now her. He stared at her, uncomprehending.
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