by Dallas Woodburn

Sam gave me my first kiss. Andrew gave me my first real kiss. Brad gave me my first hickey. Nick wrote me a love letter. Tyler wrote me an apology letter. Paul gave me that Christopher Moore book. Keith took me to the Blind Pilot concert. Alan gave me daffodils in a glass vase. Mike gave me Scrabble. Timmy gave me the flu. Steve bought me a vacuum cleaner. Jeff bought me the checkered quilt that still keeps me warm on winter nights. Peter showed me zombie movies. Stephen showed me how to pitch a tent. Matt showed me how to fall in love with a person so completely it is as if you breathe the same breaths. And also how to let love go.

You, however, are a mystery. Why did you enter my life? So brief a time, yet — there must be something.

Maybe it was that moment on our first-and-only date, when you drove me home and stopped your car in front of my lit-up apartment complex. We sat there talking and the darkness felt close and the air felt heavy with possibility. As we hugged goodnight, I almost kissed you.

Your eyes met mine, there in the gentle darkness of your car, and I knew you wanted to kiss me, too — but you didn't.

Why didn't you?

I got out of your car and walked up the brick path to my apartment complex. In the doorway, I turned and waved to you. You honked the horn, a quick beep beep, like a teasing wink, like a promise, and then you drove away.

Two days, three days passed, and I was angry at you for not calling. I didn't know your car had veered off Highway 93 and crashed into a telephone pole until I saw it in the newspaper. Your small black-and-white face smiling up at me from the obituary page.

Maybe that unkissed kiss was the gift you gave me, waiting there in the space between us — not given, not taken. But almost.