When I was 17 years old I fell in love.  Hopelessly, completely and irrevocably.  I met the lady as I disembarked from a train with a hundred and fifty dollars in my pocket and my total worldly belongings in a tote bag with a broken strap.  I carried the bag with the strap over my shoulder and supported it underneath with my hand, hoping no one would notice.

She was absolutely gorgeous.  She was continental, beautifully put together and she had a personality that made you at once comfortable and curious.  I had to know more about her.  I had to get her to notice me.  But how?  She didn't even know I was alive. Even if she did, I had serious doubts that she'd care.

The first fleeting glimpse I had of her as I stumbled off that slow train from my small home town convinced me that I could never be happy until she was mine.  She completely occupied my thoughts and my feelings. I couldn't think of anything or anyone else. 

Mechanically, I checked into a hotel near the railway station. When I looked out the window of my room, I saw her again.   I had to get to know her.  I had to find out what made her laugh, what made her cry, what aroused her, what turned her off.  Was I too young for her?  Did she prefer older men?  Did she prefer women?  Did gender even matter to her? Plenty of questions.  No answers.

It took me several days to find work.  It wasn't much of a job.  Apprentice in an accounting firm.  Would she approve?  Would she think of me as just another kid falling in love with her at first sight?  I certainly had no trouble visualizing that.  In later years, I confirmed it.  She was the central figure in so many fantasies of young and old men alike that they were beyond counting.

The day after I started work, I found a place to live.  Not much--just a 1 room  basement apartment housing a hide-a-bed and a wobbly kitchen table with three chairs.  What would she think of the place?  What a joke.  I hadn't even been introduced to her and already I was assuming that it would somehow matter to her whether I lived in a mansion or a cardboard box.  How arrogant of me . . . but as my Dad always said, Nothing will ever happen if you don't believe it can.

Finally I screwed up my courage to talk about her to one of the guys at work.  He laughed at first but when he saw how serious I was, he said he'd help me.  He would make sure I got on familiar terms with her and then whatever happened was up to me . . . and her, of course.  

As it turned out, he did help me and I'll always be grateful to him for that,  because, you see, as time went by, she and I became friendly, then intimate.  In fact, I lived with her for twelve years and, during that period, I came to know her as well as I knew myself.

However, one day in November as a few large flakes of snow fluttered down from a gray sky, we parted.  For me it was devastating.  For her, it seemed almost routine.  As the train pulled away, I waved to her.  I thought that as she stood there, gradually dwindling in the distance, she waved back. I really couldn't tell for sure.

Now, in the twilight of my life, I remember all those great times when we were together as well as the  bittersweet parting that still brings a lump to my throat. 

You really want to know who she was?

Her name is Montreal.  She was and is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada and I was desperately in love with her through some of the happiest, most poignant and truly wonderful times of my life.  And you know something?  I think she knew.