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Eavesdropping

The girl was Korean, long haired and beautiful, one of the foreign students in the university. He was an American, tall and lanky, with a backpack that bore the signs of wanderlust. The tricycle I was riding stopped outside the cafe, and they got in with me.

“These are the things you write about in a travel diary,” he said, gesturing to the inside of the cab attached to a motorcycle. “How it feels to ride something like this.”

“Do you have a travel diary?” she asked.

“No,” he answered, gazing at her. “But I think I’ll start one tonight.”

I kept my eyes on the passing scenery, pretending to be oblivious to their conversation. In the enforced intimacy of the vehicle, however, I couldn’t help but be drawn in. They didn’t seem to know each other very well, but they had unmistakable chemistry. He was falling for her, I realized, trying not to smile.

He stole a shot of her with his DSLR camera, making her laugh. She borrowed it and asked him to teach her so that she could take his picture, too. They bantered back and forth, and it was light and sweet and a little corny — perfect, in other words. The kind of conversation that you lie awake at night remembering until you fall asleep with a smile.

Listening to them discreetly, I thought, this is what I miss. I still shy away from the idea of passion — the grand, deep, complicated vulnerability of an intimate connection with someone. But the openness to possibilities, the willingness to be enchanted by another human being — I miss that. If only I could have the fascination without the fall…but I can’t. One always follows the other for me, so I choose distance. Distance is safe, while I wait for courage.

But when the tricycle stopped at the seaside boulevard, I watched as he helped her down and didn’t let go of her hand. The odds were against them ending up with a happily ever after, but it didn’t seem to matter. Tonight they would walk hand in hand by the seashore of a country not their own, and, for the moment, it was enough.

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True story written for the “beguiled” prompt from Writer’s Island and “story” from Sunday Scribblings.