The first time I saw him, I was working as a temp for the company where he was a Sales Manager. I had recently become engaged and was in the throes of this new romance. He came bounding into the large open office and I watched as he ran up and leapt, planting one of his feet on the corner of a desk and launching himself into the air before landing on the other side with arms thrown out to his sides. Immediately he became surrounded by women both young and old all cooing “Allen” as though he had just done something miraculous. I pretended not to be interested in what was happening in the throng of women as I went back to keying my proformas. From my small desk space I could see the group and hear them talking. He was telling jokes and waiting the appropriate amount of time between punchline delivery and the start of the next, clearly experienced in the art of working an audience. I watched surreptitiously as he worked the women who had encircling him.
He was a man of average height and weight appearing to be mid-forties, completely gray with a short well cared for beard, soft hands, sparkling eyes and a charming smile. He was wearing a sweatshirt, jeans and tennis shoes but I was later to learn that this was an anomoly. His usual work uniform was a perfectly fitted suit and exactly the right shoes. He was a bit of a clothes whore and I never passed up an opportunity to remind him of this. He looked like he smelled good, you know the type. I found him a bit pedestrian in my initial observation but then I was very wrapped up in planning my own wedding at the time and undistractable.
He left shortly after he had arrived saying things like “kiss kiss” and “bye honey” to all of these slightly giddy women as he breezed out the door. My direct supervisor Barb actually sighed as she walked back to her desk. Barb was a rubenesque woman with a baudy laugh and a really quite beautiful face. I liked her a great deal although I did question her judgement that day as she had been one of the women to hustle right over to fawn over this silly man.
The next time I saw him I was again sitting at my desk keying proformas. I didn’t see or hear him come in as he entered quietly and from the lunchroom side of the office vs. the front. I knew he was there before I saw him because I could smell his cologne. I stopped typing and turned my chair slightly asking him without looking up from my document if I could help him. With his crooked smile he lowered his head until I was forced to look up, held out his hand and introduced himself. “Hi I’m Allen, who are you?” Thus began our friendship.
I was immune to his charms or I pretended to be, I think that’s why he worked so hard to get my attention. I thought he was silly and foppish and he thought I was too intense and entirely too serious. He would do highly inappropriate things like pretending to dry hump me or telling me in a husky voice that he knew how much I wanted him just to embarrass me. He was very funny and it didn’t take me long to realize that behind the suit and the cologne was a man of some depth and a better than average intelligence. Of course that didn’t stop him from telling me about every woman in the office he wanted to sleep with. He was incorrigible!
I was hired by that company and Allen and I became fast friends as I moved from being a temporary data entry clerk to the Credit and Collections Manager. He was a great help to me while I learned the ropes as I had never been in credit or collections before. He taught me how to work with Salespeople. He and I together developed the credo I live by to this day, “Firm but fair”. He better than anyone was able to bring me out of a bad mood. Being somewhat new to collections I had not yet learned the invaluable tool of distance so I was frequently in a bad mood back then.
He would show up throughout the day to tell me jokes or do something outrageous to make me laugh. I would come back from pulling files or a meeting to find a bag of M&Ms on my desk or a jujube he had found on the floor laying on my chair. He would leave notes or inappropriate drawings laying on the shelves in my office or across my keyboard. He would call and leave me these long unbelievably filthy and hilarious voice mails. People knew when he had called because they could hear me laughing all the way to their desks.
He was the first person I told when my new husband left me after three months of marriage for his ex-wife. He and my friend Molly were the only people who knew that I was slowly falling apart. They let me cry and they held me up. They ran interference when people wanted something from me and I was in the bathroom crying my eyes out. They saved my job and maybe me.
As Allen and I became closer friends we began to talk a lot more. When he would go out of town on business he would call me and we would fall asleep together on the phone. We talked almost every day if even for a minute. He became a big part of my life and I hope I his. He helped me to get my life back on the right track when I was suffering from the loss of my marriage. Allen was the first person who got me to admit that I was possibly not really in love with the man but instead with the idea of marriage and the stability it represented. I still don’t know if that’s true.
We used to have Happy Hour get togethers after work in Westport where our office was. Once we were at Senor Frogs, probably about ten of us including Allen. He was buying drinks for everyone as usual and I’d had a few. I love to dance and that night was really odd because I danced all night and these men I didn’t know from all over the bar were dancing with me. I have always suspected that Allen had something to do with that. It was a lovely night and he was a kind and generous man. I asked him about it once and he denied it but I didn’t believe him.
When he and his wife separated we started to hang out more and he opened up to me like he never had before. He told me about his difficult childhood, his marriage, his children, his life and his dreams. I had figured out a long time ago that he wasn’t the silly shallow man that I first imagined him to be but this gave me new insight into this person, my friend.
I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with him but I think it was right about the time I met his best friends Frank and Patty. Frank and Allen had grown up together and Allen confided in me that Frank had saved his sanity as a child. The three of them were completely devoted to each other and that impressed me a great deal.
I don’t know if many people knew this about him but Allen suffered from severe depression for a long time. He was on medication but his life had become unmanageable and the meds weren’t really working the way they should be. He wasn’t taking care of himself as well as he should have been and I think that’s why he became ill.
My memory isn’t completely clear here but I think he contracted a lung disease and somehow his sustained illness cause irreparable damage to his heart. He retired and moved away although I don’t remember why he moved to Florida. We talked when we could and exchanged emails but we were starting to drift apart. I told him after he left that I loved him and he told me he loved me too but I knew he didn’t mean it the way I did. He was in a different place in his life. I had a small child and was still trying to figure out my life. He was retiring and ready to move on to the next stage. His children were grown and gone and mine was just entering elementary school.
While in Florida he met a woman who was widowed and somewhat wealthy. The last time I talked to him was in Instant Message. He told me that he had never wanted to hurt me but he knew he had. He told me that he needed to stop talking to me so he could make this new situation work. He was completely honest with me, explaining that he needed to be with someone that could support him and his lifestyle. “I know this makes me seem shallow and I know you hate that but this is what I have to do” he said. I had no response, what could I say to that? I told him I loved him and that I wished him all the best. He told me he loved me too and signed off. I mourned the loss of my friend and I nursed my aching heart for a while but then I did what people do and I picked up and went on with my life.
September 18, 2002 Allen passed away. If it wasn’t for Frank and Patty I never would have known. We had exchanged emails at some point and they emailed me to tell me of his passing. It seemed that he had taken an overdose of his medication somehow and by the time he was found there was nothing they could do. I mourned him all over again. Frank lost Patty in 2003. In a year he lost his best friend and the love of his life. I never adequately thanked Frank for telling me about Allen, I hope he knows.
I still think about Allen and the silly things he would say and do. I can close my eyes and see him sitting there with that goofy grin on his face. I can hear him say “kiss kiss” as he leaves. I still miss him sometimes. The person I miss though is the one behind the facade. The man I fell in love with was the scarred, frightened, slightly lost person I got to know after his separation. When I cry for Allen, which sometimes I still do, I cry for that man. He was like no one else I had ever known and I daresay I won’t ever meet anyone like him.
Frank and Patty told me they knew, the only time we ever met, that I was in love with Allen. I guess I didn’t exactly hide my feelings. I don’t think I even knew it then. I don’t spend a lot of time playing “what if” as it really was never in the cards.
Life goes on and we go on with it. I’m about the same age now as Allen was when we became friends. I wonder if we would have been able to re-connect if he was still here. I wonder if I had insisted in staying in touch if things would have been different. I miss him.