She took a deep breath that went nowhere, like she had been punched in the gut. She knew this was coming, and yet it still caught her off guard.
It had been doomed from the start. She met him in a coffee shop downtown, after deciding to venture to an area she hadn't explored before. A free afternoon, why not?
He was sitting at one of those high tables, usually reserved for people writing their screenplays on their laptops. He only had a drink and his iPad, pretending to read but really observing those around him.
He wasn't waiting for her but she sat down anyway. It didn't take long for her to become smitten. They had a quick conversation, and then she got out of there. She had a habit of putting her foot in her mouth if she talked for too long.
"I think I met someone," she texted her roommate as she walked back to the subway. "Also, he's really cute."
It was never planned, yet somehow they kept running into each other. The ice cream truck. The parking lot. The cupcake truck. The elevator. They seemed to bond over their love of sweets, and their dry wit. Never having time for more than a short conversation, they had to get to know each other in bursts. Exchanging cute pleasantries. "Fancy meeting you here." "A pleasure running into you again."
Finally, on one day out by the longest line they had ever seen, she asked what he was doing that weekend.
"Laundry. And probably hanging out with my girlfriend on Sunday."
Oh. So. Oh.
She threw herself into the online dating scene. Meeting guy after guy, hoping that she'd find someone who would pique her interest as much as he had. Instead, she met guys who offered to give up their religion for her on their first date. Guys who offered to give her a ride to the airport without knowing her last name. Guys who said "I'll miss you," after their third date. Guys who said "my parents are in town this weekend, I'd love for you to meet them." She kept trying.
Another pizza date. He struggled to ask her about herself, instead telling story after story about himself and his friends that she didn't know, but she didn't care. She didn't have much to say. She was too busy thinking of him.
They continued to run into each other, eventually making plans to get lunch. They found out they were reading the same book. He was about to finish the book, it was taking her a little longer to get through it. She suggested some other books for him to check out that she thought he would like, not expecting him to look them up.
They met up for ice cream, and he told her he had started a book she suggested. Secretly pleased, they switched topics to television. Turns out they were watching the same show, again with him close to finishing, her a little behind. She took a chance and invited him to come watch the end with her. "I can do that."
They ordered pizza. Made cookies. Watched tv and movies. Drank whiskey. Talked about light things, foods they liked, places they went shopping, concerts they had gone to. What had inspired their first email addresses. Their siblings, their parents, where their next vacations were planned. Time passed easily.
As she walked him to the door, she wrestled with what to say. "I wish I was yours." "I know."
She again tried to distract herself. Went to a party. Went to a lot of parties. Went to a bar. Went somewhere far away. Rekindled a romance that had never fully played itself out, invited him to share her hotel room. It just gave her more clarity. She didn't want this. She wanted him. "I really like him. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help it."
(For an alternate ending, see below)
She threw herself into making plans with friends, spending time with family, working. Redecorating her apartment. Going to the gym. Anything to distract her. She tried to talk to him less. It didn't work, she knew it had to be all or nothing. She asked if they could meet up. They went to the coffee shop where they had first met. Came to an agreement. Decided it was better for both of them.
"Is there a way to un-meet someone?" she texted her roommate as she hopped back on the subway.
***ALTERNATE ENDING FOR HALLOWEEN***
She threw herself into making plans with friends, spending time with family, working. Redecorating her apartment. Going to the gym. Anything to distract her. She tried to talk to him less. It didn't work. So she worked out a way to get closer to him. Found out where he lived. Followed him on his weekly hikes. He didn't leave the apartment much, outside of working, so she sat in the bushes, just waiting for him to come out. Tried to look inconspicuous.
And then she found her opportunity. He ordered from the corner Thai place, just like he did every Tuesday. She managed to talk the Thai delivery guy into letting her deliver it - he was just a teen and couldn't have cared less. She took the food up to his apartment, and he was shocked to see her there. He invited her in, confused. "I was in the area, thought I'd stop by and see what you were up to." They sat for a little while, her watching him eat. She asked if he had plans that night. He hadn't. He seemed a little on edge. Or maybe her energy was rubbing off on him. She was almost electric, knowing what was coming. He asked if she was ok, offered her a glass of whiskey. She asked if she could get a glass of water from the kitchen. He pointed the way, and she went.
They continued having a mundane conversation, her asking about his apartment. She asked if she could see the fire escape. She had always been fascinated by these old buildings with fire escapes, and here was one up close. They went out and stood there, taking in the cool air that was finally here. "Summer sure did take it's sweet time, didn't it?" She leaned over the edge, breathing in. He was standing further away than she would've liked. "Come join me," she beckoned. He started leaning next to her, trying to imitate her body language. "You know, I never thought I'd get a chance to be here with you," she started. "I've imagined it at least a million times. My imagination doesn't even compare to the real thing." He leaned in, and whispered "I'm happy you're here." She did a quick giggle, completely out of character for her. "Sorry," she said. "Nerves." He didn't mind. They both stood up, trying to move closer to each other. But he stood up too quickly and lost his balance. He was holding on to the edge of the fire escape, and she couldn't believe her luck. She grabbed his hands, and quietly whispered, "I'm sorry. But if I can't have you, no one can." His hands were losing grip, and then all at once they completely slipped. His eyes widened as he fell to his death. She began to cry softly, mourning what would never be. And then, as if a stroke of genius hit her, she jumped over the edge too, so they could be together forever.