If you asked the locals, they'll tell you to watch out; "She has a tendency to set things on fire and then walk a fair distance away to watch them burn," the women at the pastry shop will tell you in a hushed voice. "I'm not talking about things like paper, or logs, or houses. Her arson is worse. Typically its the hearts of those who tried to love her that she's likely to set aflame." And then under her breath she'll warn you, "keep an eye out for that one and keep a fire extinguisher handy."
If you asked the bartender at the bar two blocks down and one block left of the apartment she used to live in, he'll look up from the ***** glass he's watching and shake his head. "She's a wild one. Some days she'll show up with a book, sometimes a pen and paper. More often than not, though, she'll walk in with a blank face and order a double shot of Jameson. I mean I know she's got Irish blood, but I've never seen a grown man shoot whiskey like that with a straight face. The **** doesn't phase her." He'll finally dry off that glass and set it on the counter and ask you what you'll have that evening. And you'll order a double shot of that Irish whiskey just for the sake of irony. "She's somethin' else, man. Drinks her coffee black." He'll shake his head again and then direct his attention to the red head at the end of the bar.
Oh, but if you ask her mother...if only you asked her mother. She'd tell you, "She's always been a little lost. Her soul never rested for long. Doesn't say much anymore. Never home much, either. Not sure where she goes or what she spends her time doing, but I hope it makes her happy. She's been gone awhile. Mentally, I mean." And then she'll look out the window of the front room, her hands wrapped so tightly around her coffee mug her knuckles will turn white, and a look will pass over her face. And you'll wonder if heartbreak is genetic, if it was passed through generations, or if it was just a learned trait.
Because you have seen that look before, on the face of her daughter when you first mentioned all those years ago how you thought you loved her. And you'll feel a tiny pull in the center of your chest. And you'll wonder if maybe you'll run into her by chance on the corner of 14th and Clay street, or at that coffee shop she always took you to.
Or maybe you'll be going through your closet at the start of next fall, and pull out an old jacket you retired when spring rolled around and find some relic of her in the pocket. Maybe an empty cigarette pack, or a pen cap, or a crumpled up napkin with a doodle in the corner that most would throw away, but you'll fold it up and stick it in your wallet for memory's sake. She'd hate the sentiment of it, but love the irony.
If you asked, and if she answered honestly, she'd tell you she never wanted anything substantial, she always hated having a lease, or a car payment, or a tab (she'd always pay on her way out, on the off chance she never came back). She'll tell you she just wanted some freedom. But in the freedom she ended up with, a little string got tied around her ankle. She never knew what the other side was tied to.
And when you hear about this string, you'll remember that little tug you feel in your chest every once in awhile when you know she's on the highway headed towards another city for the weekend with no phone and a few hundred dollars cash. She was never one for leaving a trail.