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A Nudge in Time







I'll never forget the moment which changed my relationship. I met Aurelio when he interned at the first bank where I worked. It was a reciprocal arrangement with his father who set up the bank's Colombian branch. He wanted his son, a noted economist, to work in Manhattan.

Looking through my photo album, we appeared far more sophisticated than our age, both twenty-five. We were serious in pursuing banking careers and acted the consummate professionals. He wined and dined me, taking me to top restaurants and clubs. He gave me little gifts, like a golden frog pendant, a replica of the Chibcha Indians on exhibit at the Museo del Oro in Bogota, founded by his grandfather.

I found him funny and interesting. Those remain the two key components for me to get involved with any man. Some things never seem to change. At least, I'm consistent.

Before I knew it, he spent every night in my bed. Then, I gave him the spare key to my apartment as I changed jobs and worked on Wall Street whereas he continued to intern a few blocks away. We spent every weekend with friends, both his and mine. After a while, he met my parents and I was formally introduced to his father when he flew to New York for business.

One evening, before we went out to dinner, we horsed around in my living room. Suddenly, he stood up, reached into his front suit jacket pocket (yes, we were quite formal as this was 1980) and his hand hovered.

Laughing, I made a small comment. And then felt a peculiar sensation. It was as if time had stopped. Like an invisible knife divided time and fate. In slow motion, I watched his face. I saw the moment of decision cross his features. Then time sped right back to normal when he withdrew his hand from his front jacket pocket. Empty.

In a snap, our relationship was over.

Still, we went through the motions without any of the former passion and fun. It was almost gruesome. He returned to Bogota and begged me to join him.

I visited my parents to solicit their advice.

My father said, "Why not? It's definitely an adventure."

Hemming and hawing, I confided, "I'm kinda scared. His aunt, a famous philanthropist, was kidnapped by a guerrilla group and they found her body in pieces throughout the city."

That got my father's goat. "Oh boy. Do you think you'll be safe?"

"Well, he does come from a top family and they have bodyguards. Also, I'm a nobody."

"I don't know, Maura."

Reassured by parental fear, I flew down and lived with Aurelio. There, I met his family and friends, lived like a pasha with servants, traveled throughout the country with and without him, and interacted with terrorists and drug lords, the fabric of Colombian society. Six months later I said good-bye.

Unlike him, I didn't have a moment of decision. I knew this relationship jumped the shark. Right before I boarded the airplane, he hurled himself at the glass walls that separated the terminal and screamed my name, "Maura!" It was a befitting last gesture.

Ten years later, I received a phone call.

"Remember me? It's Aurelio."

I hate when my past catches up to me. That has been a theme throughout my life: all the guys I dated with whom I felt some sort of connection manage to hunt me down years later, sometimes decades later. Even before internet. Now, that's what I like to call tenacious.

"This is my first trip back to New York. Are you free to meet for lunch?"

We made arrangements to dine at a popular French bistro in mid-town. The last time I saw him, he was slender, youthful and happy-go-lucky. In front of me, squatted this toadlike guy: bloated, fat and middle-aged.

We exchanged air kisses. After we ordered lunch, he pulled out his wallet and showed me photos of his wife and children.

"Your family's beautiful." Quickly, I added, "No, I never married."

We caught up on gossip from our mutual friends, people I dropped upon my return from Colombia. He kept in touch with everyone, except me.

This became an annual ritual for nearly ten years. The last time I saw him, I asked, "Remember when you reached into your pocket in my living room?"

"Yes," he said, averting his eyes.

"That was a strange moment for me," I confided. "Never had one like that before."

"Like time stopped?"

"Yes!"

He sighed. "I was right on the verge of pulling out an engagement ring when I felt that I shouldn't give it to you."

Shortly thereafter, I moved to San Francisco. We finally lost touch.

Since then, I never experienced such a moment. Yet, once in a while, a sudden word or action cuts my interest, never to return. I wonder whether that's fickleness or a micro-nudge from destiny to move on.



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