Scorn

     There were times I dreamed of marrying her.
     I’d have done it, too.  I’m a man of commitment. I thought she was beautiful, and we had some things in common; things that still matter to me. Those things must have meant something else to her, though it’s hard to see how. Their meanings are plain.
     There was enough opportunity for love to grow. She lived in my building, and I saw her more days than not. I saw her going out and coming back. She was very busy, that’s for sure. You ask what her occupation was? I’ll only tell you what didn't occupy her. 
     Though at times she nearly had me believing, hopeful as I am. I’d talk to her in our common yard, and she’d smile some. I’d ask her about herself, and sometimes she’d tell me a little. But then she would rush away, or the conversation would trail off into silence. It seems she knew enough about me for her satisfaction.
     She wore her hair straight one day. I looked up from where I worked in the garden and saw her. I noticed also that she was dressed more demurely than usual, and I ventured to tell her how nice she looked. She thanked me, beaming. But she never wore her hair straight again, nor did she wear that outfit again, for as long as I knew her.
     Springtime came. I was on the sidewalk and she saw me there. She came across the yard, treading absently through my garden. She expressed herself to me; it was one of the few times. She told me that a friend of hers had received roses. She was sad because she never received roses. I considered telling her how gladly I would give her roses if only she hadn’t just stepped all over my marigolds. I didn’t tell her though; not in words, anyway. Any man can say words. I wanted her to listen more closely.
     She came outside another day. It was a hot day, and I was working in the yard. One of the other tenants had joined me to help. There were weeds to be pulled and flowers to be watered and a fence to be mended. She paused to chat, and mentioned that she was bored. I pulled another thistle. After a moment, a slight breeze blew over us, and she announced that she’d decided to visit the mall. She remembered that there was a sale that day, and she told me the gimmick: “buy now, pay later.” I didn’t think that sounded like a good arrangement. But then she didn’t ask me what I thought.
     Other men came to visit. I admit they were younger and more handsome than I; I admit it freely. She was willing to invite them in. I hated it, but was I to stop her? I didn’t want to coerce her, so I let her alone – and for some time after. I didn’t dwell on it. I wasn’t trying to obtain from her; I tell you I loved her. I thought she was beautiful. Why she invited them in is a good question. They weren’t bringing roses, like she had said she wanted.
     She never invited me. If she had, I’d have treated her with the highest respect. There were times I dreamed of marrying her. Why would I have damaged that dream?
     I saw her unexpectedly at the movies once. I was about to enter the theater to see the screen adaptation of a book I knew well – a true story. She said she didn’t like films like that. “Too much pain and sadness,” she said. She went arm in arm with her date down the hall to see the latest romantic fantasy.
     You wonder why I didn’t ask her out myself? Well, why would I ask her to spend an evening at a restaurant or a show, when she took no pleasure in spending a few moments with me in our common yard, as I told you? First things first. Had I even an inkling that she truly wanted my company, I’d have bought her dinner in Paris. I could have afforded it, too.
     Do you think I wasn’t fair to hide all this from her? I say a wise man buries gold. As it was, but a thin layer of earth covered mine, and the place was marked and plain for her to see if her eyes had only looked into my own for more than an instant before they darted about again for the nearest sparkling distraction.
     It couldn’t go on forever. I met another; someone who was ready to be loved. Once the terms of the contract were set forth and agreed upon, we were engaged. Time passed quickly, as it does when there’s much to be done.
     I had moved my things to the home I’d bought to share with my love; I'd spent my final night alone. I was leaving the old place for the last time, and on my way to my own wedding. And my neighbor came to me, walking through my garden again. She wore a pained expression, but she might have changed it in a moment. She could do that.
     She told me she’d miss me. She told me she thought the world of me. She even begged me to stay. Why was she saying this? My wedding was about to begin.
     She told me she’d always loved me. I told her she had never.