I thought of her more frequently after that. And I began to burrow through the paradox of our times together seeking rhyme or reason. There was none – no rationale for being drawn to her. I kept looking. I forced myself to confront my sensibilities wherever I could find them. But only more questions emerged: What was I feeling? Why? I wasn’t pursuing her, was I?

Frustrated at the dearth of answers, I threw logic to the wind and probed without reason. Maybe it was physical. She was pleasing in appearance, but without being beautiful. There were signs she thought of herself that way too. She experimented with make-up, adding a touch here and there, but with a clumsiness that was hard to overlook.

And then there was the blouse, a new one she showed off on one occasion. It was stylish, fashionable for the day, but noticeably unlike her usual attire. It was silky, quite colorful and rather loose-fitting. I approved without saying so and she seemed to answer that it was special for the occasion.

The cut of it revealed more of her than she had shown before. When she saw that I noticed, she suddenly excused herself leaving me fearful that I had somehow offended her. Minutes later when she re-appeared, she was wearing a sweater most conspicuously buttoned to the top. Seeing that she should explain, she asked my forgiveness for having felt a bit of a chill.

At first I was embarrassed, feeling I was to blame for precipitating the incident. But later I decided it was unfair to blame myself for her equivocation.

Mostly she seemed resigned to a plainness of appearance convinced there was no more to be done about it. “So what,” I thought. Other things mattered more.

Tactfully, I explored with conversation, searching almost desperately for some hot button. I wanted a common bond, but I found no spark. Even the big news stories of the day did not attract her notice and she acted as though it was frivolous to bother.

Sometimes she would discuss happenings at the office, but her accounts were no more than petty gossip. I began to see that she pursued conversation along those lines to divert me from probing. I could never gauge her professional skills or aptitude and she went to great lengths to foil my probing.

When she mentioned she hadn’t slept well lately, I told her I leaned toward the nocturnal myself. Thinking I might find something esoteric, I asked if she dreamed much. Maybe I could know her better through her dreams. Curtly she said she didn’t like dreams and didn’t take the time for them. With that she foreclosed further discussion.

Risking nothing, her comfort and safety trumped sense of wonder and imagination.

She was a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream in a bowl full of chocolate.