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You flinched when I touched you

drew back when I patted your head

We hugged without warmth

You looked surprised when I brushed your back.

Devastatingly attractive in your starched men's shirt

I told you I'd missed you and you asked, "Why?"

Groping for an answer -- "I just do" -- you smiled

(merciful fates!)

But the grin was far off, through glass seen,


People made you nervous, and you stared as if


That I'd (gasp) caress you in view of your friends

(subtle coward i, of course, did not dare)

We sat on opposite table-sides, untouching, me

quarantined from your friends

and we talked carefully, formally,

in low voices pretending.

As dinner ended I took my leave,

obvious I should not linger;

but still I draped jacket over arm

instead of wearing it

vainly hoping for a single more intimate moment

away from the friends who draped you in shame.

But only another cold cautious hug was forthcoming

actually two --

the first dropped hastily as someone

passed by in the hall.

I put on my jacket and left

wondering the reasons for your guilt-filled reactions

wondering if I could have always been wrong

if I was the only one stillborn in love.

At home, a new acquaintance

asked for a date.

-- C. Scott Ananian, 13-Apr-2000. 7:40 p.m.