Brian McCusker cried all the way to JFK when he had to say goodbye to a German medical student
I arrived in Daytona perceptually saturated. For the past month the Greyhounds had run me to Giant Redwoods, Universal Studios, Nevada casinos, Grand Canyons, Austin music bars, Santa Fe light, Graceland, the Big Easy and a five- minute stop in a cafe in Birmingham, Alabama.

I was already a week overdue and my other life was pacing the floor but that was an ocean away. After spending the afternoon gazing at the sea I checked into a five-dollar hostel. The owner of the hostel also happened to own a lake and every morning he took his guests there to water-ski.

She was trying hard to remain upright, but always ended up getting dragged along the surface to emerge dripping and smiling. She was with two girlfriends, beautiful German blondes with the golden skin typical of their race. Maria was quite different, she was pale with a shock of dark hair and a face that I thought was achingly beautiful. I surprised myself and got up the courage to ask her out. She accepted and after that I found that I had considerable trouble in breathing.

It was her thirtieth birthday and that night we drank beer in a beach bar and played footsie and got slowly and pleasantly drunk.

Maria was a final-year medical student from Cologne and that year had been spent in a New York emergency room. That explained her pale complexion and habit of chain smoking. We took two bottles of beer outside and placed them on the window sill of a beach hut and she kissed me like I had never been kissed before or since.

She told me then that she was leaving with her friends early the next day. That night we held each other tight in the top bunk of a shared dormitory and she left quietly at dawn. The following morning I wandered down to the beach again in a state of shock having loved and lost so intensely in the space of 24 hours.

I fell asleep under a blue mixture of sleep deprivation, depression and a hangover and was woken up by kisses even more intense than those experienced a few hours earlier. To my joy Maria had persuaded her friends to stay another day. We checked into a motel and gave ourselves to each other for a day and a night.

We raged against time but in the morning I waved goodbye to the beautiful Maria now sitting tearfully behind the window of a Greyhound bus. We didn't exchange addresses. I switched to automatic pilot and I found myself outside the beach hut again intent on spending the day trying to heal the emotional wounds.

Then I noticed two empty bottles on the window sill. It was all too much, I left on the next bus and cried all the way through leafy Virginia to JFK airport.