I ran into Regine at a church function. It was a bitterly cold February Sunday and I, against all of my keener judgement, had chosen to take refuge at the post-sermon social that I had, with true devotion, avoided for many prior months like it had been some horrible medieval plague.
Now, praise be God, United Church gatherings bore, at least at the time, a decided resemblance in their intensity to the average pulse rate at the morgue.
Cumbersome concrete stairs to a room awash with the elderly, where fifty seemed sprightly, a cornucopia of cucumber and tuna fish sandwiches and gigantic carafes of very bad coffee.
Portraits of forgotten ministers and, oddly, prime ministers.
It was, however, exceptionally warm. A bulwark against the onslaught of the seemingly secular snow.
At twenty-seven, I felt certain that I was the youngest, by half, of the assemblage.
Regine, you know, had this infectious, delightful little giggle. It is hard to fully appreciate should you have never had the great pleasure to hear it.
Floating across to me, enchanting, I turned to find myself confronted by this magical girl, nineteen and beautiful, the blue dress hugging the curves of a burgeoning womanhood that was, well, magnificent.
Why the good Lord saw fit that she should find me fetching stands as a grand testament to his relish of the absurd.
Our first date a study in contrast with she so radiant almost despite herself, and I a cad, scruffy and undistinguished in my decrepit, tattered green trench coat, my hippie cords and the bizarre fading fedora that for some unknown reason I wore at the time.
Why deny? She had a certain transcendence.
Anyway, within a month I had proposed to her, and, much to my shock, she had accepted.
Almost immediately I knew I had made a catacylsmic error and not because of her father's frantic, furious phone calls to me either.
I had led a life blissful as it was separate and disengaged.
Impervious to outside influence.
But it is not as easy as one might think to cease to be the object of someone's affection.
A charmed courtship this did not turn out to be.
Dear Ms. Olsen.
What can I say?
A part of me wanted you so very much. Just never on terms with which the either of us could have lived.
It all came to a head that day on the island.
Ferry docking with the mass of humanity spewing forth as we two almost wished to hang back.
Other lovers on rented double bikes or afloat in giant swans.
Us, no more communication. Your eyes sad.
Making our way through the island's farm, from seven to seventy-seven this sea of people, all apart, unknowing, yet somehow entwined, somehow connected.
The proof of any lack of meaning in this parade of the mundane stemmed from its own absence.
There was no climactic fight but as you climbed into the back of the taxi, without farewells, it was clear.
I must say, though, that the photo you sent me of you, Joseph and the newborn sits on my refrigerator door.
It makes me tremble a little bit inside every single day.