I was watching the clouds as they floated serenely by, when seemingly out of nowhere, a young woman appeared and fell onto the bench beside me. She was a pretty woman--mid-twenties, I guessed--but her face was flushed and her skirt rumpled as if she'd been in a fight. Fearing the worst, I tried to ask if something was wrong, but I couldn't get two words in edgewise. She was in a state of feverish excitement and her words would not stop.

"I am happy, oh! I am so happy," she said. "I have a new lover, you see, a kind and gentle man, and what I have hoped, dreamed, and wished for, for what has seemed centuries, has finally come to pass, to be realized as a living, breathing truth, and a life of the most abject misery--my life until now--has finally come to an end.

"In how many ways have I imagined I would meet my love: while strolling down the Rue de la Monde in Paris, it is love at first sight, our eyes meet, I see into the depths of his soul, he sees into the depths of mine; on the hot sands of the Sahara, the sun burning our bodies, our flesh throbbing with youthful love, our lips meet, his tongue tastes mine, I take his hand and he is mine; on the beach at Devil's Cove, warm salty spray fills the air, our minds have become one, our hearts one, I have never felt more at peace, our love is slow, delicious, and bountiful.

"But in the end it was much simpler: I met my love while walking home from work. An ordinary event on an ordinary day. We could not wait to reach the bed in my apartment (it was nearly a mile away) but instead hurried to an empty field that was nearby and fell upon the grass, he pulling off my clothes (wildly, like a man who is starved for love), I pulling off his, until we lay naked on the grass, mad with a love we knew to be eternal. And all the love that had been inside of me, waiting impatiently to be released, was released. And I knew at last the true meaning of fulfillment. We have met many times since then, each encounter (dare I say it?) even better than the one before. And now I can say, with the utmost conviction, that everything in my life is wonderful, absolute perfection.

"Of course my lover is not real. Such a magnificent creature has never walked the Earth, nor ever will. Nor would I wish it otherwise. For if he were corporeal, if he breathed the air we do, by that very act he would become imperfect and therefore our love would become imperfect. And that I simply could not stand! My lover may not be real, but in my thoughts he is real and it is precisely this reality of his unreality that gives him substance--like a ghost that haunts the night, except he haunts my days and nights.

"This is what I like best about my lover: he comes when I call him: he comes when I wish it. He is not a particularly young man; in fact, he is a man well along in years, but he is a magnificent lover nonetheless. His hair is jet-black (black as night, black as hell) and curls around the collar. His cheekbones are high, his nose long and prominent, like a hawk's. His neck is graceful, his torso muscular and smooth. But it is his eyes, his dark-brown eyes, that hold me transfixed, I cannot take my eyes from them. They are as large as chestnuts and seem to sparkle with a light that emanates from deep within. Peering into his eyes is like peering into another world, a world where there is no time, no place, no existence as you or I know it. He always wears a black cloak with brass buttons down the middle. It makes him look most demonic! And when he opens it up, I see the universe inside: the sun, the moon, and all the stars. My lover is always ready to entertain me, to do whatever I desire. But he is also always the gentleman: He takes me dancing, to the theater, and on romantic trips abroad. There is no place we cannot go. He is so kind, so gentle. And when we make love--that is kind and gentle, too, as is the sleep which follows: kind and gentle, filled with sweet dreams and peace. He bows when it is time to leave. He looks so somber as he kisses my hand. 'Until we meet again,' he says and then a smile brightens his face. I cannot suppress a giggle, I am sixteen years old again, innocent and unassuming, I have never been so happy!"

She left me then, dancing aimlessly across the park like a butterfly lost in flight. I smiled and thought to myself: Such is the nature of happiness: it does not reflect what really is; it reflects what we believe. And any belief may become a reality--provided only one has the will to believe it is so.