He doesn't realize when he swears to himself that night in the hotel room that he's going to kiss her at least once more in his life. He's too caught up in the idea that he's actually kissing her then, for the first time, and how it feels so familiar, even though it really isn't. It's just that he's romanticizing this, if something like this situation can be romanticized.
He thought the words the first time, first being important because it's not only or last and that's maybe the closest he comes to acknowledgement of this secret pact inside himself.
He wants this kiss over and over in so many different contexts with the piece of him that won't get his attention until later. Because the piece of him that's there in the room with her takes her breath into his own lungs and wonders if he'll ever breathe it all out, or if some bit of it will stay inside of him forever, and can't think beyond this moment.
By the time their paths cross again, he'll have had sex with three other girls, published 12 articles, gotten one degree and started on another. Thought he'd seen her in seven other girls with long blond hair, or narrow hips or perfect, barely there breasts. But standing here on a street corner in Chicago, he has no idea how he ever thought any of those other girls were her.
She says his name like she's been standing here for the past six years, just waiting for him to walk by.
He remembers her telling him he was home, on a bus somewhere between Kansas City and the rest of his life, and it makes more sense with time, because he feels so safe right now, looking at her. Like maybe this is the real world she was always talking about.
He holds her hand and interlocks their fingers and wants to ask her what she's listening to, what she's doing here and where she's been and whether out of all the boys she made fall in love with her if he somehow still was the best and most deserving. But that dormant part of him, the one which was so hopeful back in room 537, just asks him to press his mouth against her mouth.
So he does. And thinks, this is the second time. Still not the last.