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    By Sorcha Blaine

    I’ll call him Max. His parents were Austrian and he inherited blonde hair and straight features as his birthright. He looked like Brad Pitt.

    We began as co-workers, then became friends. I gave him a hard time at first because he was so good-looking: prove to me you’re more than just a pretty face. And he did.

    Max had traveled a lot in Europe and told hilarious stories about his trips. He especially liked to visit churches and referred to one as “The Church of the Sacred Dusty Bits.” Very funny guy.

    Believe it or not, I fell in love with him because he made me laugh.

    He was also smart.

    And a talented writer.

    And a good cook.

    And incapable of fidelity.

    After we’d been together for a while, I heard that he was going out with someone else. I asked him and he denied it. He was my friend, remember; he knew honesty was important to me. He’d never lie to me.

    About a month later, I was at a party when Max showed up with the woman I’d been told he was dating. I caused a scene, demanding to know why he’d lied to me.

    “You’re my best friend,” he said, “I didn’t want to lose you.”

    Now before you start thinking this is yet another article by a woman angry at a man who’s done her wrong, let me assure you it’s not.

    Because the decision to take Max back was mine.

    Despite my common sense, my friends’ outrage, my sister’s disapproval and good advice from every woman’s magazine, I forgave him. I did it after swallowing one bitter pill, though: my decision was based on his looks.

    You see, I’d begun to enjoy being the woman with the handsomest man at the party. When we walked into a room, everyone looked - at him, yes, but I basked in his reflected beauty. He had picked Me.

    Max was a regular guy but women treated him like a movie star. They pressed their phone numbers into his hand, spoke in sexual code, brushed up against him when they walked by. Sometimes they did this in front of me. He didn’t react. He was never disrespectful. He made jokes about it. When I was with Max, it was like going on vacation to Calcutta: you had a really good time if you could find a way to overlook what was happening all around you.

    One night I’d had two too many tequilas and asked him: “Why did you choose me?”

    “You’re the only one that doesn’t treat me like a piece of meat.”

    It was moments like those that kept me around.

    Eventually, I found some self-respect and couldn’t ignore the wandering. I mailed him a letter telling him I never wanted to hear from him again. He respected my wishes and didn’t try to contact me.

    I moved away and fell in love with someone else but I thought about Max over the years. I felt badly at the way I’d ended it without giving him a chance to say his piece. I knew I’d used him and that I owed him an apology. (He may have owed me one, too, but that was up to him to decide.) One night I called him. He was glad to hear from me. He’d hit a rough patch in his life and was eager to talk. I told him why I’d called.

    “It was wrong of me to just send a letter breaking up with you” I said. “It wasn’t fair. But I want you to understand it was the best I could do.”

    He was very quiet on the other end of the phone. “Thank you,” he said finally, his voice cracking.

    We began to talk about the years between then and now. He’d gotten involved with Alcoholics Anonymous and had been “clean and sober for 16 months.” He’d started working at a halfway house for recovering alcoholics. The pay wasn’t great and he lived with three other men from AA. Max had a masters degree and could speak three languages, couldn’t he find something that paid better, I asked.

    It was a long time before he responded. “You haven’t seen me for a while,” he said. “I weigh almost 300 pounds. Nobody wants me now.”

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