Originally published in Lit Up Magazine
She solicited him from an upstairs window.
He mounted the weathered steps, and left his leather boots outside her front door.
Indoors, he sat on the sofa with his hands folded in his lap and described his loneliness. She shook her head and raised a finger to his lips.
His visits to the woman's tiny apartment grew frequent. Her modest dreams and simple desires enlightened him. She did not hesitate when he offered her his name.
His happiness did not go unnoticed among his circle of family and friends. They pressed for details.
"Dakota Street," he finally revealed.
Collectively, they responded with sighs and scorns and belittling grins. "Women like that make poor wives," one of them said. That night he had been shamed into abandoning the woman he had already fallen in love with.
Without her in his life, the gripping loneliness he'd once suffered resurfaced. When the rainy season blew in, along with it came nights of sleepless lamentation.
In the spring, cradling an armful of red roses, he returned to the woman's Dakota Street apartment. He made his way up the familiar wooden steps.
Never again, he promised himself, would he allow the judgement of others to persuade him. When he reached the landing he discovered a pair of shoes -- not his -- resting outside her door.