Harris knew from the get go what the deal was.
“I’ve been down this road before,” he explained to his new lady-friend as he lay practically asleep on the bar. “I will “L” word you, you will “L” word me and then we will get momentarily lost in the sheer newness of it all and we will see no wrong in each other because our eyes will be fogged up with the desire of wanting something so badly, wanting someone so badly - to know. To know you better than you know yourself. To escape with. To escape into. The wanting will be so fierce, the joy so intense, that we will forget all that we had previously learned.”
“What have we previously learned?” Karen asked too tenderly to ignore.
Harris, a giant of a man in his early 60’s, survived three divorces, his only child’s death and physical aliments of his own, far too numerous to mention. Not a bitter man. Not really. He was a kind soul who obediently stepped back from life when it offered him too much pain. A willing student who continued to watch life unfold itself before him, too fearful to get in it’s way.
He nodded at the barkeep for another. Then he answered Karen, cautiously, without removing his eyes from the neon green exit sign above the bar.
“We already know that no one person can take us anywhere that we are not wiling to go on our own. We already know that no one person can make us feel something that we are not yet willing to acknowledge that we have. We already know that people we love can leave. Can die. Can change colors and shape-shift into a creature that you don’t recognize. We already know that it’s not... safe.”
He lifted his drink to his trembling mouth while Karen looked on. His eyes filled with tears as he quietly whispered again, “It’s just not safe.”
“I that what you’re looking for?” Karen really wanted to know.
“Don’t you like to feel safe?” Harris countered.
“I like to feel loved. Is it permanence you’re looking for? Is it essential to have a guarantee of longevity in order to feel safe?”
Harris answered, “If I allow myself to love you entirely and you suddenly change your mind, where does that leave me?”
Karen’s rebuttal, “More full of love than before. Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
“I have no idea what it’s all about. But, I do know that risking my feelings, as strong as they may seem, is dangerous. And exhausting.”
“Maybe some things are worth the risk.” Karen said as she drank the last of Harris’ drink, smiling up at him, so close he could feel her breath on his face.
“It’s just not safe.” The voice in his brain reminded him.
“I could love you.” Karen whispered as she kissed Harris gently on the lips.