I finished school and went to college, and didn’t see her for some years. Then I went to a family wedding and encountered Maya’s mother. Next to her was a beautiful tall woman, in a simple white-and-green dress, her lush hair in a long braid. It took me a few minutes to realize that it was Maya. She looked like a character out of a Jane Austen novel, placid and statuesque. She was no more loquacious than before, but I persuaded her to come to a quieter area where we could talk. She was in college herself, devoted to her studies but interested in art. She was considering specializing in photography.
I would have liked to keep talking with her, but the social situation made that impossible. I wasn’t smart enough to gather her contact details before she rejoined her mother and moved away.
I saw her only twice after that, fleetingly, on social occasions. Apparently she had married and moved to another town.
I turned up at her office. She gave me an uncharacteristically broad smile and took me over to the café next door for a cup of coffee. In office clothes and her hair in a bun, she looked different but as remarkable as ever. I said I was sorry that her marriage had ended, but I was glad that she was back in town. Diffidently, I added I would like to see more of her.
She was quiet for a few minutes, leaving me anxious about the meaning of her silence. She said then she would be happy to see me. She added she did not have many friends and she thought of me as a very special friend.
I was touched. She was starting a new phase of her life. She was also starting on a new profession. She had overcome her natural reticence to tell me that I had, after all, a special place in her life. It made me very happy.
I saw a lot of her in the following weeks. There were two very different sides to her. She was very friendly and I felt special in her company. Yet, in some indefinable way, she seemed to draw a line that I felt I could not cross. Was this the result of an embittering experience she has had? Or was it a natural sense of caution she observed? I did not know. But I knew I was happy in her company and I was content to live within the invisible orbit she had gently but deftly drawn around her.
Meanwhile, my work pressures grew. I called her as I traveled, but I longed to see her and be with her.
After a week-long trip I drove direct from the airport to her place.
She came to the door of her apartment. “Hello, stranger!” she said jocularly.
“I don’t want to be a stranger,” I said.
“I don’t want you to be,” she replied. She looked at me. She seemed to have something on her mind.
Then she said, “I have a problem. I took this apartment on a short-term lease. Now the landlord wants it back.”
I thought fast. I said, “I have a solution.”
The following week she moved in with me.