Caroline Wakefield understood all too well that loneliness was not being alone. She had been lonely in her marriage to Stephen, and she frequently felt lonely amidst people, even in a large, friendly gathering of people she knew well.
Her marriage that had lasted close to half of her life was over years before it had legally ended. When looking back, she was certain Stephen had never loved her completely for herself. In the region of North Carolina where she lived, her family surname carried the image of prominence and substantial wealth. Sadly for Caroline, Stephen hand not fully understood the circumstances. Her parents and family were wealthy, but Caroline was far from being well to do in her own right.
Only through an inheritance would Caroline receive a portion of her family’s wealth, and much to Stephen’s frustrations, her parents were not only wealthy, but they were both extremely healthy. As she looked back now, she could clearly see that with the passage of time, Stephen’s unfulfilled craving for a portion of the Wakefield wealth, and the prestige it would have brought with it, had slowly caused the demise of their personal relationship, and ultimately their marriage.
After nearly twenty years of marriage to Caroline, Stephen became involved with not only another woman, but one many years his junior. Caroline was devastated at first, but knew immediately she could not forgive the blatant indiscretions of her husband. Her personal pride had been injured beyond repair. The decision to seek a divorce was made simpler when she recalled the years of emotional starvation, and physical neglect from Stephen. In a not-too-friendly legal battle, it all was ended, and he lost, not only Caroline as a wife, but also all hopes of ever receiving an eventual share of the Wakefield legacy.
Despite all of the heartache she endured in her marriage, Caroline continued to be a hopeless romantic. Now single again, she recognized her marriage been emotionally empty, as she became painfully aware she had never known what it was to be loved for herself, for the woman she was, and not her family’s name, nor their money. She longed to stroll, hand-in-hand, on a moonlit night with a man who truly loved her, and whom she loved in return. She yearned for someone to hold her closely when she was sad, someone to kiss away her tears, someone whose arms could comfort her, and upon whose shoulder she could lay her head when drifting off to the realm of sweet dreams. Simply put, she was starving, totally ravenous, for love and romance to fill the obvious emptiness in her life.
It was not a simple task for her to approach the dating scene again. However, her hunger to know true love caused her to resolve to not live the remainder of her life as a lonely woman. Not being one to indulge in lengthy pity parties, demure Caroline promptly took what she considered a fairly bold approach to the problem. Armed with only one weapon against loneliness, her laptop computer, she composed a personal ad with photo, and placed it with a local online dating service.
With all that was within her, she hoped to avoid a relationship that had any resemblance to her marriage. Caroline was overwhelmed with relief when she found out she didn’t have to reveal her real name in the brief profile that would be published.
“Perfect!” she announced to the empty room.
Although now entering her forties, Caroline’s photo revealed a quite attractive woman. She began receiving responses almost immediately. Some of the men who replied were definitely not her type, and dropped them immediately. However, there were others who were more interesting. After chatting online with them for a while, she eventually revealed her name, and agreed to have a public meeting for coffee or lunch. Most seemed enchanted with her as a woman, but she feared her surname played a large part in their seeming infatuation with her. Sadly for Caroline, after an initial meeting, her distrust for their motives would not allow her to proceed further.
Late one Sunday afternoon, her townhouse felt particularly empty, so she went to her computer to check her e-mail. Finding only junk mail, she decided to write something romantic, a piece that would be built on her fantasies regarding love. Instead of signing off to write, she stayed online, but continued to write offline. When she heard the familiar sound signaling she had mail, she was annoyed with the interruption of her thoughts, but out of curiosity, she clicked back to the her online service. Caroline was fairly certain it was probably just more loathsome junk mail, which she’d quickly delete and then go back to her composition.
When she opened the mail, she didn’t really know what to make of what she read. The subject listed was simply, “YOU.”
A man, a complete stranger, had written: “Beautiful lady, as I look at your photograph, your green eyes reach out to me, seeming to demand my complete attention. They seem to grasp me, looking deeply inside and wanting to reside in my heart. Alas, your beautiful eyes leave me weak. I tried to overcome their power, so with great effort I looked away for a few moments, but that only lasted briefly, for my eyes had to return. I had to look at them once more, see your smile again, to look closely at your full and sensual lips that enticed me with their promise of sweet kisses.
Now I sit here in a daze. I am overwhelmed beyond description. I know in my heart and mind that only a dull-witted oaf would not be attracted to such a woman, whose likeness I am fortunate enough to gaze upon at this moment. How is it that, with her obvious beauty and grace, she still remains looking for a man to fulfill her every desire?”
He had included a photo, but no real name was anywhere to be found, just the screen name, Searching4U. Caroline found his picture and his words intriguing.
She didn’t think twice before responding: “I'm glad to make your acquaintance, but quite frankly, I was just a bit taken aback by your e-mail. I was writing when it arrived, and quite candidly, in a very romantic state of mind. I almost felt you had been standing behind me, looking over my shoulder as I wrote. Tell me more about yourself. What is your name? I very much liked the photo you included.”
His answer arrived within an hour: “Was it a sign? Was it mere coincidence? Do forces we cannot see govern this world? Why was it that our messages coincided? Was I first attracted to the sweetness of your face, your eyes that mesmerized me, or perhaps the shape of your full lips, and do I detect a slight dimple in your chin? It doesn’t take one with great perception to visualize the passion beneath your very proper exterior. The conservative dress and glasses may hide the body yearning for the tender touch of a practiced hand. Will this woman tell me what touches her? What is it that could bring her senses to heights unknown before? What are the words she whispers in her lover’s ear as he falls asleep? What does she feel when she sees a golden sun setting over the blue waters of the sea? I wonder if she likes to walk in the rain, and feel the gentle kisses of the raindrops on her face? Is she so absorbed by what the public thinks that she turns away when offered a kiss from a man who loves her? What is it that makes this woman the unique person she is? Will she tell me?”
With her heart racing, Caroline read, and then quickly typed a reply: “I will concede you have fascinated me, piqued my interest as no other has in a very long time. I have only a photo and two lovely examples of your innate ability to express your fascination with me, which has been obviously formed from the little information in my profile, and a single photo.
If I knew not better, I could have mistaken your words for those of my own design. I hope you receive that as a compliment, for that is my intention.
Observant are your eyes that seem to know that I am known for my smile, but you are incorrect about one thing—no dimple exists—only a slight cleft in my chin.
Passion and sensuality hide behind the exterior of many. Propriety is only a facade for the world, for strangers, one to cover the fires that burn deep within, and the warmth of which should be intimately shared with one other.
Yes, I do love to behold the golden saucer of the sun dip into the deep blue of the sea. Ahhhh...I adore the sensation of droplets of moisture from the heavens falling gently on my face as I close my eyes, and open my mouth to taste their succulent freshness.
The whispers I offer to my lover, be it morning, noon or night, are secret, to be heard by his ears only.
Never am I so proper in attire, or conduct, in public that I would refuse the offer of a kiss, or the touch, from my beloved. It is for that very sort of encounter that I yearn this moment.
Now, will the man with the eyes that have never seen me, but seem to see straight through me, care to tell me more of himself?
PS This is the piece of prose I was working on when your e-mail arrived...just thought you might like to read it.
It had been months since we had seen each other. Now, there we were, in a place bustling with strangers about us. Despite the crowd, I felt, and I knew he did also, that we were the only two people there. I didn't move, nor did he, but I knew the
Emerald-green of my eyes had never ceased to intrigue him, and that he now fiercely desired to come closer to me, to gaze into them once again, becoming forever lost in the vastness of the lush meadows therein. He had told me many times, so I was mindful that he found the mere sight of my smile and my soft, full lips arousing and tantalizing, and that he would always desire to feel their tenderness against his. I knew full well that he now wanted to savor, once again, the sweet and delicious delicacy of my mouth.
I felt weak when he placed his empty champagne glass on the waiter's silver tray. I hoped it was an indication he was going to approach me. My heart began racing when he began to walk in my direction. At first, his pace was slow, almost deliberately so, as he advanced toward me, but his step quickened as he came closer. So, it was—without words, without touch and from a distance—I silently enticed him once more.”
She sent the e-mail response, and after she dressed for bed, checked for a reply. Her face lit up with a smile when she found a reply: “Was I the one who brushed past you last week in the market, or was I the one you caught stealing a glance at you while sitting at the light in rush hour traffic? Or is it that we have met only in dreams, those mystic times when one feels truly awake, but yet is in deep slumber? No matter when or where, I know you.
I’ve seen your dark curls fall gently on your shoulders and bounce when you walk. I’ve noticed that tense smile you display when your feel annoyed, or aggravated. I know well how you hold your head high and walk with an air of confidence when you are happy. I know well those legs, oh those wonderful legs. I know the look on your face and the poise you maintain when you meet someone for the first time. I know those smiling eyes that flirt so easily—without even knowing, and enchant many when they first meet you. I know the nervous giggle you emit when you are tense. But, most of all I know the warmth of your person, the passion which awaits one fortunate man. Yes, I know you. I know you well.
Do you know me? I think you do without realizing it. You've been looking for me. How is it that you don’t recognize me, even now? Have we ever met, perhaps not, but you do know my heart, my soul, and my mind. You and I are two of a kind. While experiencing the darkness of loneliness, we have awaited the brightness of each other’s face to light our way. It is with that light we shall see each other, and begin our journey, walking side-by-side, holding hands and cherishing every touch, and moment we share.”
She read, and then reread his words. It was in the early morning hours when Caroline returned a response: “I have already admitted that you have truly piqued the curiosity facet of my persona. Just a few minutes ago, I signed online—my intention was mainly to check my mail, or did I secretly want an opportunity to write to you once more? Before I realized what was happening, I found myself reviewing your last e-mail once again. Why did that happen? I don't know you, but you have accomplished something unique...you have captured my attention with only a few lines of e-mail, and taken up somewhat of a residence in my thoughts.
Very honestly, I doubt that your intention was to fly into my life, out of the crystalline blue of the sky, and literally sweep this woman right off her feet, but you have somehow managed to accomplish just that. This is amazing...absolutely and totally amazing!
Please have mercy on me! Shall I go to my grave—take my last breath—not knowing more about the stranger who sees within my mind and heart? I want to know this man’s name, and more. Who is this man? Where does he live? Could it be he lives nearby, in another city far away, in the country with the sky as his canopy, on a mountain high above the green valleys, or by the surf of the mighty sea? How old is he? Is he unattached (I hope so)? What is his profession? As the children's rhyme goes: ‘Doctor, lawyer or Indian chief?’ His face looks familiar. Have I seen him pass me on a street, or have I met him somewhere in a place I don't recall, or was it that we met only in my dreams? Has he seen me, other than just a photograph? So many questions, and no answers are available to me. Shall I wonder through eternity, or shall I bravely hope to hear from him again?"
After sending the e-mail, she tried to sleep, but rest was not to be had. Her mind swirled with questions about him. One thing she did resolve was that since he had replied to her ad, she assumed, even though she had questioned in her e-mail, that he lived locally. Completely baffled and intrigued by this stranger’s words, Caroline decided to write yet another letter: “How and why is it that you continue to evade me, yet possess me? What has prompted this flattering bout of attention?
For all the years of my life, I have found if difficult, nee, sometimes impossible, to describe myself. I have been accused of minimizing to the point of absurdity. You see, I loathe arrogance, but admire self-confidence. I often find it hard to discern between the two when it comes to me personally.
As I sit here in front of my computer, I wonder why it is that I am writing to you. Quite frankly, I am bewildered. As I fell into a brief few moments of slumber, my thoughts were of you. Why? I don't know you, or do I? Why me? I am just a woman, an average woman. There must be millions like me on this planet.
Apparently, I fascinate you, but I question how? Why? You've never so much as heard my voice, much less held my hand within yours. I know nothing about you, yet I have laid open my emotions to you. Again, why? Do you hold back about yourself for some reason? Do you avoid answering my questions for fear of rejection? Do you hide behind the screen of a computer to cover your weaknesses? Are you an Internet con man, a man with no scruples, a man who receives delight from toying with the vulnerabilities and sensitive nature of others? Maybe, but I choose to think not, or more so, hope, that is not the case. Alas! I throw my hands up in sheer puzzlement. Only you have the answers.”
After she clicked the button to send her thoughts to him, she decided to try to sleep once more. After tossing and turning for about an hour, she gave up and, once again, went to her computer. Her heart was pounded furiously when as she read his reply: “You have transmitted logical concerns across the distance that evoke shared suffering and hurt. The words you write are filled with pain, with mental pictures of tears, and although you have shed many, you have held back just as many to protect your dignity as a woman. Both of us have suffered, but we have responded in a different ways. I have reacted by withdrawal from situations where I might once again feel pain, while you have sought to fulfill your natural need to be held, loved and desired. Yes, different, but alike are you and I, for we have both suffered.
From your words, I feel your yearning. This woman, although not totally alone, has been lonely for most of her life. This woman frequently sits quietly in the shadows just waiting and watching. She surrounds herself with people while observing couples holding hands. She wishes, she hopes, she dreams about that special someone, but it is has been to avail, until now.
Although there are no physical scars upon her soft skin, neglect and brutal emotional assaults by others have left scars upon her heart and mind. She flinches when she thinks of others so happy, while they smile, touch and kiss. She cries within, careful to not let anyone else see. She has silently offered many a prayer to experience such moments of bliss for herself. Many is the time that I've turned, thinking I hear her words even though the sweetness of her voice has yet to be embraced by my ears. I can feel this woman near me, and sometimes she seems to be standing close beside me. Perhaps we are not yet physically connected, but a strange force that grows more powerful with the passing of each hour ties us. I question how is it that I can smell her sweet fragrance, and feel her warmth as I daydream of my body pressing her body against a wall to kiss her soft mouth? With my eyes closed, a few times I have felt our bodies melt one into the other, uniting to become one.
I question if this woman is a woman, or is she a witch, or is she an angel? Could it be that we’ve been lovers in another life, and that forces greater than ours are now drawing us to each other? Reaching out for her touch is the only way to answer my questions. If I extend my arms to her, will she allow me to embrace her?”
Never before had anything remotely close to this happened to Caroline. Not only did she not know his name, she had not revealed hers. She found all of this more intriguing than she had ever dreamt possible.
Daylight was beginning to peek through the blinds of her window when she wrote: “I was hoping for, but not expecting, a reply from you. Yes, varied concerns do inundate my being, for I have been hurt deeply—many times—in my life. One whose heart feels as deeply as mine invariably risks the possibility of pain, and the ensuing scars. I confess that I have many, but I continue to take the risk, hoping and praying that one day those scars shall be covered with the soothing salve of true love. I am not completely alone in this world, yet I am lonely. Many people love me.
They surround me with caring, comfort and support that only good friends and family can impart. But, it is not enough. I want more from whatever life I have left on this earth. I want and I need one man, only one. Am I blind and cannot see him? I reach out for his hand to guide me, but falter and fall because he is not there. Where is he? Why does he continue to hide from me?”
She clicked the ‘send’ key, and decided to take a shower and dress. Even though she was without sleep, she felt good, so good that she sang while showering. As the warm water flowed over her body, Caroline thought of how this stranger’s spirit was now flowing over her with an excitement she had never experienced. For one reason, she didn’t tarry. Caroline was anxious to see if her mystery man had sent yet another reply.
With an eager heart, Caroline, wrapped in her thick terry-cloth robe, read: “I have come to you in your dreams, and many times I have chased away your nightmares. It is I, the one who makes your face brighten with a smile while you are in the retreat from the world that we call sweet sleep, and ‘tis I whose presence in your dreams make you moan with ecstasy just before you awaken. I may seem like a figment of your imagination, but the truth is that I am a real man. My blood courses beneath the flesh of my body. That blood runs cold with the thought of never caressing you, and then hot with desire for the touch of your body. I am the one for whom you have yearned, about whom you have dreamed and with whom you are destined to love.
It is I who wants to warm you on a cold day, and I who desires to cool you in the sweltering heat of summer. I am the one who wants to hold you when you grieve, allow your tears to moisten my shoulder and face, and support you in your hours of sorrow. I am the man who wants to delight in your laughter, and share your each and every joy, big or small. It is I who wants to pick you up when you stumble, and be there to kiss your hurt away when you skin your knees.
I am the one man who will intensify your passion, and sustain your ecstasy. When you soar above the valleys of despair, I shall fly alongside you. Together we will dare to glide high above everything, leaving hopelessness in the dark valleys beneath us. I am the one. I am the man. Do you also desire me?”
Caroline knew none of this was rational; nevertheless, she had feelings for a man she didn’t know. After reading, she sat back in her chair for a few minutes. She nervously twirled her hair around her finger, and then decided to get dressed. As she buttoned her blouse, she thought of his picture. He was handsome, but not material for the cover of GQ. His smile seemed to be just for her, and his eyes seemed to sparkle.
Now dressed, she quickly returned to her desk, and began another e-mail. She wrote: “My mouth hungers to taste the sweetness of his. My ears await his voice to whisper my name. My body longs to feel the warmth of his next to mine, skin upon skin, sharing intimacies of body and soul. My feminine hands long to be held within his masculine ones. My arms yearn to embrace my beloved. My breath waits to mix with his while our tongues dance together in passionate kisses. I cry to the heavens! Tears pour from the eyes that yearn to behold the sight of him. Am I but a poor soul that is forever damned to never know true love? Shall I draw my last breath wondering how it feels to be cherished and adored? Passion within me flows over, forming rivers of desire for him. The emptiness of this room, the silence, screams at me as I endure yet another day yearning for his presence!
I am weary. I not only want, I need the hand, the touch, the look, the love, the sharing, the caring, the knowing of the someone whose presence shall finally illuminate my unlit world and life. If you are as perceptive as you seem, then have pity on this sensitive soul. Reveal yourself."
She wondered if she would ever know this man, then suddenly he sent an e-mail containing only his phone number and the brief statement, “Beautiful lady, please call me now.”
Without hesitation, but with trembling hands she dialed his number. Her heart seemed to skip several beats when she heard his voice answer. Caroline found it difficult to articulate a greeting; her mouth was dry. She tried, but the words wouldn’t come out. After a few moments of awkward silence, his voice said, “I know this is you, and that nervousness has overcome you, so my dearest love, meet me at the corner of Main and Chestnut at noon. You will know me, and I will know you. We both shall reveal ourselves then, but until that moment, carry me safely within your heart as I carry you.” He lowered his voice to a barely audible whisper, and said, “Our life together shall begin then.”
She managed to utter a faint, “Yes,” before the phone made the familiar clicking noise of his hanging up.
With the phone in her hand, Caroline sat back in her chair for several minutes. She stared at the object that had brought her his voice. A tear rushed down from the corner of her eye. Finally, she realized the time. She had only half-an-hour until she was to meet this mysterious stranger. She hurried as she brushed her hair, put on some fresh lipstick, and grabbed her purse. As she walked out the door, she felt her legs were going to give out from under her, and a sudden, but brief, pain in her chest almost took her breath away, so she braced herself for a few minutes on the railing before going down the stairs which led down to the sidewalk. After a deep cleansing breath, she proceeded. Although there were plenty of people walking about, she didn’t notice another person, nor the even the buildings. She didn’t hear anything either, not the chirping of the birds overhead, nor the roar of car engines. She was focused on her objective, the intersection of Main and Chestnut, and him.
Caroline glanced down at her wristwatch as she approached her destination. It was noon. When she lifted her head and looked across the street, he was standing there, and looking exactly like his photograph. He smiled at her, and she smiled back. Their eyes locked in a visual embrace. When the light changed for pedestrians to cross, and without so much as a blink of his eyes, he stepped down from the sidewalk to the street. He had taken one step, when out of nowhere, a speeding car careened around the corner, knocking him to the ground with an audible thudding sound.
People began screaming, but Caroline didn’t hear them. In her mind, there was complete silence. For a fleeting moment, she felt as though her feet were firmly planted in the concrete of the sidewalk. She could not move in the slightest. Suddenly, she felt motion, but then couldn’t feel the pavement beneath her steps as she ran to him. As she knelt onto the hot, black asphalt of the street, she lifted his head gently into her lap. With her hands lovingly holding his face, she looked at him. She gazed into his open eyes. With her fingertip, she touched his brow, then his soft lips. He smiled at her. She responded by softly stating, “I’m here. Caroline is here.”
He replied, with painful breath, “I love you, Caroline.” As drifting off to sleep, he slowly closed his eyes.
She heard her own voice asking in a reverent whisper, “What is your name?” There was no reply. She leaned down close to his face, her lips meeting with his just when his last breath of life escaped from his mouth.
For a moment, with tears streaming from the eyes that had fascinated him, she looked up the strangers who had gathered around the two of them. For the brief time of their e-mail correspondence and the precious minutes they shared there on the street, Caroline had not felt lonely. Now, once again, loneliness consumed her. Her ordinarily smiling face was totally overcome with a grimace of agonizing pain. Caroline’s usually lively green eyes seem to freeze when she suddenly grasped at the intense pain in her chest. Although in observable distress, she managed a pain-ridden smile as she softly murmured, “I am finally loved,” she hesitated while she drew in an obviously, deep breath, and added, “We’ll be together at long last.” With her small hand holding his, and her head upon his chest, she whispered with her last breath of life—not to the crowd of strangers—but to the lifeless body before her, and to the angels in Heaven, “Wakefield is my last name.”