LIBRA HOROSCOPE (from astrology.com): You find a new social outlet today — one that may surprise you! It’s easier than ever to share feelings and ideas with those who might seem really different from you at first glance.
Okay, I’m moving.
Well, not really. But it’s tempting. Scary, too. I hear Americans are harsh on illegal aliens from Canada.
After grabbing mediocre Thai food in Mount Vernon last night, Katherine and I stopped in at the lobby of our dingy hotel. It’s a midlevel hotel chain but it felt more Motel 6 than Hilton. In fact, I think there are some Motel 6s that outshone our digs. At any rate, Katherine wanted to check email—turns out she’s sort of seeing a prominent chef who has come down with bulimia and an obsession for weightlifting—and I wanted to get the 411 on places to shop in the area.
Got a young guy behind the counter. What could he possibly know about good shopping? “Check out La Conner,” he said. “No chains, all kinds of cute little storefronts. Great area.” Things were slow so he kept talking as Katherine enthusiastically composed a reply to the latest from Barfy. Ten minutes later, we decided to catch the Canucks game instead of hitting a local bar. (The nearest restaurant had a sign out front that read: Forks and knives provided. Since when did that warrant advertising? Who knows what riffraff would flock the bars!)
“That guy was totally into you,” Katherine said.
“The hotel guy. He was flirting and you were so aloof. He just kept trying harder.”
“I didn’t know he was flirting. Besides, he was, what,…eighteen?”
“Legal. And so cute!” Okay, I had noticed his blue eyes, but I couldn’t say anything. Katherine would have shoved me back in the lobby and conducted a dating intervention.
Got up early after a succession of trains madly blowing their whistle all night. “What trains?” Katherine asked. Are you kidding me?!
We wound up driving to La Conner. Yes, very charming. Ate at a bustling restaurant called the Calico Cupboard, the kind of place where they make apple cinnamon buns that serve eight. I shouldn’t joke, but as we wobbled out, it seemed like the perfect time to be temporarily bulimic. Walked a half a block and I needed to sit for awhile. Let things settle. So we sat at a picnic table outside a chowder-espresso shack. Just imagining that combo made me even more nauseous. It was hard enough to make small talk with Katherine, but a fortysomething hot guy asked if he could join us. No. Yes. Guess which one of us extended an invitation. Fine. Sit there. If I vomit, I’m aiming right at you.
He was very good looking, graying just a little in that sexy kind of George Clooney way. Charming like him, too. Photographer from Seattle. Here to snap the tulips and the Flower Children. “Not like the ’60s,” he explained. They’re usually old ladies and their husbands who unfortunately have golf injuries. They show up first for the daffodils, then the tulips, then the irises. It’s the Petal Circuit. It’s like an annual pilgrimage.”
Suddenly, I felt compelled to say we’d gone up in a helicopter. Figured that way he wouldn’t confuse us with the Blue Hairs. He nodded and said, “Some of my best shots have been from the air. But nothing beats capturing the bond these ladies have with the flowers and each other. Got some amazing pics of the doting husbands—and boyfriends—too.”
My nausea turned to self-consciousness. How big was my temporary brekky bulge? How much worse did it look sitting down? He offered to tour a small, surprisingly classy art museum on the main street. Katherine stalled in the gift shop, pretending she needed to find a birthday present for Aunt Frieda. That left Truman and me to ogle the art and each other. I did say charming, didn’t I? I was fumbling for words, much to his amusement. He’d finish my sentences, not because he knew me on some other level, but because I was repeating myself. Still seemed more exhilarating than embarrassing. His eyes literally twinkled.
Alas. Separated by a vast, well secured border. Our national allegiances were too great. He was, after all, named after an American president and my dog got his name from a Canadian prime minister. Worlds apart.
As we parted, he hugged me and gave me his card. It was pointless, but I accepted it, my hand visibly shaking. After watching him walk away—nice butt, I might add—I turned to the grinning Katherine. “Can we please go home?” I asked. “These Americans are getting to me!”
“Oh, it’s just because they’re fresh goods and you’re fresh goods. That’s what happens when you travel. We should arrange a weekend trip to Kamloops.”
Kamloops?! Sorry, but I wasn’t going to find another Clooney clone there. At best, a Brent Butt clone. Big difference.
NEEDED TO GET AWAY TODAY. FORGET THE CONDO SEARCH. TOO DEPRESSING. I AWOKE EARLY AFTER A NOT VERY RESTFUL SLEEP. ’NUCK NIGHTMARES. STUPID PENALTIES FROM OUR DUMBEST PLAYERS. HOW DO ALBERTS AND O’BRIEN STEAL THE LIMELIGHT FROM OUR PRIMED-FOR-PLAYOFF STARS? IT AIN’T RIGHT.
HOPPED THE FERRY TO BOWEN ISLAND FOR A DAY HIKE. I JUST WANTED TO BE AWAY FROM EVERYONE. JUST ME, A TRAIL AND PERHAPS A DEER OR TWO. COURSE, IT ALWAYS SEEMS THE WACKOS COME OUT WHEN YOU MOST WANT TO BE ALONE. I GRABBED ANOTHER COFFEE ON THE FERRY AND SHOULD’VE TAKEN IT RIGHT BACK DOWN TO THE CAR FOR A QUICK NAP. INSTEAD, I PICKED OUT AN EMPTY ROW OF SEATS AND STARED OUT AT THE WATER. PEACEFUL, BEAUTIFUL. WHY DIDN’T I HOP A FERRY MORE OFTEN?
THE PEACE ENDED WHEN A THIRTY-YEAR-OLD WOMAN IN DREADLOCKS TOOK A SEAT IN MY ROW. GREAT. IF SHE STARTS SINGING KUMBAYA, I’M JUMPING OVERBOARD. SHE DIDN’T SING, BUT SHE STARTED CHATTING ME UP. “WHERE YOU HEADED?” ISN’T IT OBVIOUS?! “WHAT’S THE DAY PLAN? WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO COME OVER?” SHE KEPT QUESTIONING AND FOR SOME REASON I KEPT ANSWERING.
GOLDA. THAT WAS HER NAME. FOR REAL, SHE SWORE. (I’D STILL PUT MY MONEY ON “SUE” OR “LISA”, EVEN “AGNES”. ANYTHING BUT GOLDA.)
SHE SAID SHE WAS A BOWEN ISLANDER. FOR NOW. LIVING WITH A GROUP OF EIGHT PEOPLE IN AN OLD COTTAGE THEY’D BEEN RENTING. AND I’DA PEGGED HER FOR A SQUATTER. AS WE TALKED, I STARTED TO THINK OF HER LESS AS A HIPPIE AND MORE AS A (GASP) PERSON. THAT IN SPITE OF THE FACT SHE WAS VERY MUCH AGAINST THE CANUCKS. WELL, NOT JUST THE CANUCKS—B.C. LIONS, DALLAS COWBOYS, L.A. LAKERS,…ALL PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. OVERPAID AND UNDESERVING “HEROES”, SHE SAID. I COULDN’T REALLY ARGUE THE POINT, BUT NEITHER COULD I IMAGINE MY LIFE WITHOUT SPORTS TEAMS. WITHOUT THEM, I’D ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO THINGS. LIKE HOPPING A FERRY TO BOWEN.
AS WE DOCKED, SHE ASKED IF I WANTED COMPANY ON THE HIKE. TO MY ASTONISHMENT, THE WORD “SURE” SLIPPED OUT OF MY MOUTH. AND, JUST LIKE THAT, MY DAY ALONE ENDED. GOTTA SAY, I REALLY ENJOYED HER COMPANY. SHE WENT ON A BIT TOO LONG ABOUT THINGS YOU CAN WEAVE FROM FOREST LEAVES, BUT SHE WAS AN OTHERWISE GOOD CONVERSATIONALIST AND AN EVEN BETTER LISTENER.
I FOUND MYSELF BEING COMPLETELY OPEN, TALKING ABOUT HOW I’D FAILED WITH CLARA, WITH MY JOB, WITH MOST EVERYTHING. “WHO DECIDES IF YOU’RE A FAILURE?” SHE ASKED. “IS IT TRULY YOUR OWN ASSESSMENT OR ARE YOU RULED TOO MUCH BY OTHER PEOPLE’S EXPECTATIONS?”
MADE ME THINK. HELL, PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING SHE SAID SOMEHOW SEEMED PROFOUND. TALKING WITH HER WAS BOTH FREEING AND TERRIFYING. INTENSE. BY EARLY AFTERNOON, I WAS READY TO CATCH THE FERRY HOME. SHE INVITED ME TO HANG WITH HER ROOMIES FOR “AS LONG AS YOU WANT”. SO OPEN, SO CAREFREE. SO UNLIKE ANYONE I KNEW.
WE WARMLY HUGGED AS I BOARDED AND THEN SHE WAS GONE. AS THE FERRY SAILED, THE OVERBOARD URGE RETURNED. ONLY THIS TIME I WASN’T TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM HER BUT TO SEEK HER OUT AGAIN.
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER. NOT WHAT I’D SET OUT FOR, BUT SOMEHOW JUST WHAT I NEEDED.