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MOMENT OF CLARITY ‌ Afternoon Delight

Lessons learned froma chance meeting

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I type this on a friend's computer, after spending a perfect afternoon perusing poetry at an independent book shop near Bourbon Street, sipping a café au lait at the Café du Monde while listening to a jazz flutist, and drinking a concoction containing three varieties of rum called a Bahamian Itch (complete with souvenir back-scratcher). Having just received my undergraduate degree, I'm enjoying a celebratory trip to New Orleans, where one of my oldest friends, Justin, lives and attends Tulane University.

I have another friend in New Orleans, named Frank, but I won't be visiting him while I'm here. In fact, I'm positive I'll never see him again. I met Frank on a Greyhound bus. It was early morning, and I was heading back to Charleston from Savannah. You see, I was a freshman, and my parents hadn't allowed me keep my car at school yet. Big mistake on their part, seeing as I braved Amtrak and "rode the dog" every chance I got to visit the boyfriend I'd left at home. He and I would meet in Savannah or Jacksonville every few weeks for a mini-vacation and some intensive quality time.

Riding the bus home, I drifted in and out of sleep. I noticed, though, between drool sessions, a handsome man with a large camera bag sitting across the aisle. As we disembarked from our phat ride, he asked me a few questions about the city, as he'd never been here before. We shared a taxi downtown, and I found that he was a photographer, traveling the Southeast by bus to document the Greyhound culture, and would be in Charleston for only 10 hours. I was dabbling in photography at the time, and picked his brain while we sped down I-26. We immediately hit it off, and were enjoying each other's anecdotes and dry humor until we pulled up to my dorm. The meet-and-greet should have ended there, but I have an adventurous streak that often borders on dangerous.

I offered to show Frank around town and buy him some lunch, as he'd paid the cab fare. I proudly showed off Chuck's high points as we traded childhood stories. We had chemistry, and lots of it. Here I was, a college freshman, holding my own with a man near 30. I had some serious bedhead, and was wearing ripped jeans and an old tee, but I'd never felt so sexy, or powerful. I couldn't believe a man so intriguing himself found little ol' me interesting.

We spent nine hours together that day, and the tension only mounted as the sun went down. Our last hour was spent perched close to one another on the fountain at Marion Square, delirious with the day's visit. Our conversations had switched from "getting to know you" to "wanting to kiss you." I'd just kissed my boyfriend goodbye in Savannah, and now I was thinking about kissing a man I'd only just met.

We only shared an unsatisfying hug, though, because Frank said, "If I kissed you, I'd have to stay. And I can't stay." It was true. His Greyhound pass expired the next morning, and he was headed back to New Orleans. Not to mention I had an exceptional boyfriend of two years. There was no action in our future.

It's been three and a half years since that day with Frank. We kept up for a while with long phone calls and a few e-mails, but they slowly tapered off, and really, what's the point? We both owe it to our respective lives to leave it in the past. It's been so long, that now it's just a lovely story, a storybook afternoon. The day doesn't feel as if it ever really happened.

If anything, I've learned from this that quality men are worth waiting for. Why settle for a hometown guy just because he's there? I was able to meet Frank just riding on a bus. I'm in no rush to settle down, so I'm keeping my eyes peeled, and I can only imagine who's out there waiting.

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