Do you ever wonder about someone who has crossed your path in the light of day and disappeared in the shadow of night never to be heard from again?

It was 1967 when LBJ was President, Viet Nam raged, Frank Sinatra sang Strangers in the Night, and I met Aileen.

Just as it is appropriate that I write this so close to Valentine's Day because she stole my heart, it is fitting I write this so close to Saint Patrick's Day because with her strawberry blonde hair and shining green eyes, she truly was a jewel of the Emerald Isle. Of course, I was blinded by love but if ever there was such a woman who was my perfect 10, she was my Bo Derek.

She made me, a non-believer, a doer of evil, and a doubter of human good, a believer in love at first sight, a believer that there is a God, and a believer that one day I would win her heart. Full of myself at 17, I thought I knew everything; I knew nothing. Only, I wanted to know her.

I loved her, wanted her, and needed her in my life. Yet, from fear of rejection, I could not even approach her. Instead, I dated her best friend, Arlene. I hoped, perhaps, by dating her friend, my daily interaction with one brought me closer to the other, somehow, and in some small way. It was a convoluted attempt to win her affection. I was pathetic.

Still, we hung out together, double dated, and even attended the prom together. Not at all fair to Arlene, all the while and every night, I drifted away with Aileen in my thoughts. In my dreams, my pillow became her lips. At night and every night, while I dreamt my dreams of her and of passion, she was mine.

I watched my friends, lesser lads than me in every way; date her for a time until, one by one, she cast them away. It appeared no man satisfied her.

Then, in '70, Arlene and I announced our engagement. We were with a group of friends who celebrated our news, but for Aileen. Instead of celebrating our good news and sharing in our happiness for one another, she appeared quiet, distant, and unnerved, and had more to drink than usual. Towards the end of the evening, she approached me and, without saying a word, she kissed me.

It was a long kiss, a tender kiss, and a kiss full of passion. First, it was the smell of her perfume as she neared, the touch of her soft, full lips on mine, and, then, the feel of her warm, wet tongue against mine. The feel of her tongue in my mouth blanked my mind. Then, it was the touch of her soft hair and the feel of her body pressed against mine; I never forgot her kiss. Then, just as sudden and exciting was her kiss, she slapped me hard across the face. It was the most bittersweet moment in my life. Had she plunged a dagger in my heart, I would have felt less pain. Her slap tormented me for decades.

Never had I felt such conflict of emotions, such ignited lust for her and, then, such heart breaking hurt. Never had I wanted her as much. Blown away, uplifted, and drifting away with love and what was to come, she made me high with her kiss but quickly deflated me with her slap. I reached out for her, but she stopped me with her hand pressed hard against my chest.

"You take care of Arlene or you will answer to me."

Her tear filled eyes deceived her meaning and it was then that I wondered if she loved me, but she was gone from my life. As sudden was her kiss and as violent was her slap, as immediate was her disappearance. I never saw or heard from her, again.

I took care of Arlene for the next 30 years, as promised, until, just as we entered our relationship as friends, we parted the same way. We were never lovers. Although I never saw Aileen after that kiss and after that slap, I never stopped thinking about her.

I heard she married, had two sons, was widowed, and remarried again before moving somewhere far away, I don't know where. She left me empty, unfulfilled, and lost.

My unrequited love for her has compromised my life with a never ending triangle of misplaced affection for another and distracted my thoughts in the way that a parent has chosen which child to let go knowing that he cannot save both, knowing that either one will drown or all will perish. She sailed away and I drowned myself in her memory. Knowing she was out there somewhere with someone, it would have been easier if she had died.

Still, I wonder where she is. Still, I wonder if she is happy. Still, I wonder if she thinks of me. I wonder if she loved me as I love her, only, I know now that she would never sacrifice the love of her friend for the love of me. Still, I wonder about Aileen.

Aileen, I love you.

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