After my second attempt at college and before I joined the military, I was with an older woman. I was 23, she was 42. I met her on a BBS I used to run. We would talk about interesting things for hours on end. She was well educated and had been divorced for two years. We graduated to talking on the phone. She had a young voice and was wise in a quiet way. If either of us had a problem, we'd be on the phone that night discussing it. We became very close without ever meeting. I knew her age and her background, she knew mine, and we were not bothered by it at all.

Things changed when I suggested we meet for coffee. She lived about 30 miles away, so I drove out to her neighborhood. She had had a few bad experiences with men after she was divorced, so I suggested we meet in a place she was familiar and comfortable with. She said she'd be wearing a black suit and skirt.

When I entered the coffeehouse, I began to look around for her. There were several women in black outfits, but I found the one I was looking for just from the smile on her face. She was sitting towards the back of the place so she could watch the door. I walked over to her and said hello. That young voice, reinforced with that youthful smile, greeted me. We gave each other a big hug and we sat down. Two cappuccinos were ordered. We were quiet for a moment, just looking at each other.

She had described herself well. She looked nowhere near her age. Actually, she looked like someone you'd notice in a crowded room, someone you'd assume was well-to-do and happily married. She was the type of woman I'd look at, fantasize about, but never ask out, regardless of her age. She had short dark brown hair and stood about five-foot four, about 100 pounds. She worked out in a gym every other day. She was damn sexy. She seemed to be pleased with me, as she didn't run to the door when I sat down.

We sat for four hours drinking coffee, talking like we had known each other for ten years. That conversation was one of the most sensual times I had spent with a woman without sexual activity. I was strongly attracted to her, but I didn't want to ruin things by starting to act like a jerk. I kept my tongue civil, and I treated her respectfully and gently.

We left the coffeehouse and hugged each other, a warm whole-body hug. Then she surprised me by kissing me on the lips. It was what I wanted to do to her, but I was holding back. I stopped holding back and we merged into one being, standing next to a crowded coffee house with pedestrians bustling by, looking at us with shock or envy. She asked me to come to her house, and I agreed.

We never made it past her living room. We undressed each other tenderly and made love on the sofa. I was only 23, and I had fucked and been fucked by girls. This was completely different. This was a different league, a different world. It was the first time I had made love, a sensual, giving sensation. We held each other, explored each other and became each other. Sex is great, but it just cannot compare to the slow personal sharing of making love. I spent the night, and we never slept until morning.

We were together for eight months. I lived at her house every weekend. She was the first woman I experienced love with, not lust or infatuation. We were both at our sexual peak, and we spent most of our time so physically close together I thought I'd cease to exist if she was not there. She taught me how to truly pleasure a woman, how to make her feel as though nobody else existed, how to see what a woman wanted. Our sex became a sharing experience. Our sensuality became an exploration of different ways of sharing togetherness. We experimented with styles, techniques, positions and places, but always in a sharing and mutually pleasuring way. She taught me how to truly "be" with a woman, something I can never thank her enough for.

One friday she did not call for our coffeehouse rendezvous. I assumed she had something going on, but I couldn't reach her at her house. I went there that saturday and let myself in. I found her in bed, her normally spotless home uncleaned, her hair all frumpy. She had obviously been crying, and had been in bed for a few days. She burst out in tears anew when she saw me. I held her, stroked her hair, and let her take her time to tell me what was wrong.

She told me she had terminal liver cancer.

I still went to see her every weekend, even through the futile operations and treatments. She tried to make me leave, but I could not abandon her. She died two months later, her body broken but her heart and mind intact.

I can never forget what she gave me, and I can never forget that piece of her I hold in my heart.