She was on assignment and shivering in Victoria in the winter between those two cold years. I was situated in a small house in a remote and steaming-hot village on the sea in central Baja California, several worlds away.
Although we hadn't met and had no knowledge of each other we were both, way back, from a small community on the downslopes of the mountains north of Los Angeles.
We met through the Internet and it was a long time in coming once we logged on for the first time. Shared virginity and completely by coincidence. And, surprisingly, while sex was an issue between us it never came to fruition. Like Hemmingway's hero, wounded in a World War, I too was wounded, in yet another war and way, and the girl and I were not an option in that regard. We shared webspace for months before a spark ignited a relationship and from that point everything deteriorated into unpredictable. We were both married outside our selves and she had children at home and we were wrapped with responsibilities, foillike with ribbons around birthdays and Christmases and anniversaries that made no sense. Neither of us was looking for activities outside our spheres. But not all things in life are as controllable as we'd like them to be.
Hers was a househusband. He doddered over their young girl and younger boy while she accepted assignments around the world for an international news organization.
I was busted, broken up big time and rundown from a too-tight
relationship that had quit without notice, kids included and
alcohol was involved. My family was north and communicated with
me only through the web. Couldn't blame them. Conceptions of
perfection in relationships had been shattered over years of
heavy argue, thrown down on porcelain tiles and smashed so many
times there were nothing but pieces of original love so small
there was no way to fashion a workable life together and I knew
it was forever over and finished. Done was the operative word.
I'm busy doing my lifesaver thing (the life would be mine),
posting on a webpage structured around a part of my life I love,
the only part left, of Mexico's Baja California. I find myself,
over the months, reading and writing more daily. Eventually, I
question my objectives. I know I'm spending a lot of time
online. Is this healthy? I ask myself. Who cares? it's getting
me through to the next day and the next
I read several times daily the Internet posts from around the globe that find their way mysteriously to my remoteness in Baja. I write small contributions from my current location along the shores of calming waters that work well with my broken spirit. Over the months I found myself captured by the spirit of another contributor. The pen name was "Spunk" and the writer had plenty of it.
One night, late by my early morning and work-while-the-sun-shines-on-solar-panels days, I read that there is a group gathering in southern California where many e-friends will be socializing. I think of firing up the old truck, if she runs, and trading tales with Spunk and others who I know are of a like kind: mine. I'm anxious to paint faces on the pennames I'm reading.
Her room is cold in the old hotel. She's on an upper floor. Early she sleepily halflistens to the small carts carrying heated breakfasts across grouted tiles to the patrons of adjoining rooms while she recovers from the day before, the stress of interviews and videos and fastmoving aides and assistants positioning equipment into those just-so positions, hidden from audiences.
As light seeps into the room between the drapes she had carefully secured the night before she pulls robes over shoulders and faces the day, unfulfilled and wondering. She opens the curtains and idles her eyes on the harbor below, filled with boats of many types and sizes. Ice has formed along edges. The horizon is filled with spires and minarets across the busy city. The hills beyond are green and soft and inviting. In the cold, the air is fresh and the light clear and clean.
Her day unfolds before her, her interview and lights, camera, action, and off and running and she's on the international news that night and moving, pushing a career and her family forward.
Meanwhile, I'm sucking up suds and pecking characters on a keyboard in the bright sunlight, bare-chested, in shorts and crosslegged in the sand and listening to small surf in the background, mixed with the yuk-yuk-yuk of gulls arguing over a carcass on the beach. Another question about checkpoints and traveler permissions. Oh well.
Everything is simplicity here and I find myself better able to cope with life when it's less complex. Here my mind is clear and I can focus on the one or two things I have left to concern myself with. A lonely kayaker paddles silently through quiet waters out in the bay. Tranquility epitomized.
And the clock ticks, seconds, minutes, hours. Pages of the calendar are torn, months pass. It's turning the corner between winter and spring. Temperatures rise and days lengthen, Jurel arrive and fishermen multiply, coming from north and south, falling from the sky and off the asphalt ribbon. The season begins. The small camps along the beaches of the bay are supporting activities to their limits. Ice is in short supply, dolphins plentiful. I'm starting to think about a trip north and with that in mind tinker with the truck. My Internet issues have slowed as summer approaches and I'm getting e-mail about the gathering in California.Her days are too filled, beyond capacity between cameras, newsrooms, children and husband. Mine were working into nothingness and I was tired of punching keys, tired of the emptiness with no wife or children. I'm going north I decide and throw a few items in the truck and head out without a second thought. It's been six months since I crossed the border and I'm ready. On the way out the door I e-mail my wife that I'll contact her in a day or so. Can we set up a rendezvous? Can I see her and the kids? Questions that will remain unanswered as long as I'm on asphalt.
I'm flying through the desert and the hamlets and ranchos scattered across the plain and topping off the tank every chance I get and stopping occasionally to say hello to folks I know and grab a bite or a beer and then back to north and another home, two days distant. I crawl through the assorted checkpoints and cross slowly over a border with guards from both sides, answer questions about nationality and soon I'm on a major freeway for the first time in half-a-year and surrounded by the now-foreign sounds, smells and shapes of a society I departed hastily a lifetime ago. But it's always nice to get back to roots. From a gas station I call my wife. Message machine answers.
The shoot was in the can and wrapped. She departed the frozen north thanks to Air Alaska and 90 minutes later was falling toward the international airport at 250 MPH. Her eyes are peeled south toward the border she couldn't see but knew was there. She was dying for time away, just her and her children and warm sands and waters and no schedule. She checked her car out of the long-term lot and drove for an hour up into the edges of the Los Angeles basin and home. Family was waiting.
The children greeted her at the door with kisses and hugs brought about by days away. Her husband was watching television. It was Sunday and sportsday. "Welcome home, honey!" he calls.
I arrive at my once home afraid to face my wife. My children greet me at the door and we go through what used to be a ritual repeated several times daily. Then she's standing in the doorway and we kiss and hug. It's been a long time. Alot of water under more than one bridge has passed. We are nervous together but the children guide us down familiar familial paths and before long we're sitting with tea on the table and conversation spilling around the room. We all catch up. Children are playing now and it's just the two of us in the living room and I'm feeling more secure and looking out over the city below us from the grand arched southfacing windows there. We've caught up on all the heavy issues and incidentals and I'm truly glad I came. I'm thinking about the Baja deal. Would she like to go?
"Tell me about it? What are the people like?" She responds
"It's a mixed bag of folks who all have Baja in common. I've never met anyone personally, so who knows? You can pull a complete 180 when all you see of others are typed words."
"What makes you want to go?"
"It's just that I got bored in paradise and maybe a little lonely and I identified with these folks. They're all ages and incomes and educational levels and just love Baja and all different personalities, some sweet, some salty and some sour, but unique and full of character. You really get to know people when all you can do is write letters on a screen."
"An evolving form?"
"Yes. Exciting. A psychological thing."
"And would I fit?" my wife asks.
"Take a chance." I say. It's a start, I think
Back at my hotel I turn on music, put on a little Rod Steward
and absorb Scotslike melodies while reviewing the evening.
Wonderful to see the children. They're very innocent and naïve,
just as we had wanted them. There is plenty of time to mature
later. Maybe I'll be back home by then
I fall asleep on the couch with Rod's rasping in the background. Later I awake and unfold sheets, secure in my city.
"There's a Baja gig in San Clemente tomorrow. Are you interested?" She asks her husband. "Something we might do together that you might enjoy.
"Might be." He's caught off guard, maybe would attend just to avoid those jealous moments he doesn't like. Maybe he'll meet someone new in his life? Or perhaps he's just being supportive? She's not certain and history sends wisdom whispering into her ears, her core.
"I'll be leaving at noon. The party starts at 1 and it's an hours' drive."
I left the hotel and drove back the familiar streets to my family, spent time with the kids and Susan arrived for child-caring fun and games. She'd entertain them, order pizza and monitor the TV while she talked to her boyfriend on the telephone for the night and until my wife and I returned the next afternoon. We left the city heading south at 10 in the morning.
She was joined at the last minute, and after much deliberation on her husband's part. They left at noon, as projected.
My wife and I got to the festivities before they began, as I wanted to help an e-pal set up his equipment. My wife worked the gathering crowd and was fitting in well, making friends and helping where she could. My pal and I get his 1940's vintage movingpicture projector set up, screen positioned, both objects aligned and interactive. The crown gathers. This is a first and few of us have met face-to-face. Perhaps guards are up! Perhaps not. And the evening swirls around us with many stories swapped of our favorite peninsula and places we are familiar with there and others that we are not. The evenings' accidental theme was, unquestionably, the warmth of the locals in Baja California.
The too-short time together was filled with talks, presentations, slideshows and movies narrated with voiceover and I am making sure my wife is comfortable and enjoying and I'm meeting folks I know by only their words and enjoying too. And then it's almost over and there's eye contact from across the room and I'm stopped in my tracks while continuing my spiel to two now-close friends sharing a small table with my wife, off elsewhere, and me.
My wife is across the room and engaged in conversation with several others. One is the person I'd locked eyes with, a woman, blond and slim and no knockout but hungeringly pretty with an inner strength-of-character that radiated through her posture and the hearty set of her jaw. Her eyes were penetrating and reflected opinions not stated publicly and I, too, saw into her soul without reservation. I knew my wife was talking with Spunk, off the Internet! But that was not a momentous event at that point. We were winding into late evening stuff and all had to depart shortly. When I found myself next to my wife and Spunk, we were introduced and found what I already knew to be true from casting glances into eyes from across the room. And before I was ready, having come from nowhere so recently, my wife and I are off to our room at the Holiday Inn. We trade words until we fall asleep in the same king bed. First time that's happened in mucho tiempo.
And now its morning and we're back to the normalcy that drives our lives. I'm back on I-5 northbound and telling my wife I'll be home someday when I've figured out the big picture if I'm welcomed at that point which I realize I might not be. In the door of her-our home we stand hovering and struggling for commitment, not quite willing and unsure of singular-parallel futures but at least not working against each other for the first time in many years and realizing that life is not infinite and maybe willing to bend. That was my responsibly, I knew. She'd always reached out for my hand. I was the liability in our relationship. Spunk, I suspect was wrapped around another axle. But I had seen her soul that late night, and had connected in a way that was ours alone and forever. It was a turn-on in a way I'd never experienced before.
That moment was in my head as I left the valley of angels and drove down over the continuously narrowing roads through the great basin of writhing life and across the border and into central Baja, having hugged my children and their mother, my wife, and departed south once again with assurances I'd be back and become a trustworthy father once again. A difficult concept for children. But I had some thinking to do on my own.
No strings attached I'm driving now, cold and sober, south along my favorite byway initially through Rodriguez country and then through land no man wants and then on to a place where my mind will clear and my ears understand the small moments of communion between natural elements. A place Spunk was far more familiar with than I.
Things angled now down to average. I settled in on my beach and contented myself with my perhaps sad attempts to write creatively. Tired and aging, weak batteries now supported my means to write into the night. I kept in touch with my wife and children and poked my way into Spunk's world from time to time on our favorite Internet page, being careful not to be intrusive. And we talked occasionally via more personal communications. And so life continued for uncountable months, years, eternities. Years later, via our bonding spot on the Internet, and with many meetings between that first gathering in San Clemente, extended stays in the central desert of Baja where we were alone together with others in vans and oceans and the present, and sometimes bringing down heaven and earth on our posting pals relationships, we have now met many times and across borders, social and political and economic.
I've had to expand, to grow my horizons now because of Spunk and her blond and thin rich visions of life, her essence of being. She's a hangin-in-there-and-sweet dude and so damned independent that she's way out of my league.
She put a cork in her career to try and make her marriage work and to be there for her children when they needed her. I'm still hanging on my stony beach along the ribs of the midriff in Baja, drifting through days, one tranquil, another stormy and dark, wind whipping water into froth. But both are acceptable. What would life be without change?
My life is running on reruns and I'm back in my house and with my family when I'm not here on my beach. My wife has accepted the fact that I'm just a little different than the guy she married so many lifetimes ago. She tolerates my bad behaviors and allows me more than enough rope when I take my extended times away and fall off the face of the earth. But I am a faithful husband and always have been. We're together for the long run, and I'm working to improve, no desertions accepted. Semper Fidelis.
A breeze off the water brings me back to the present. Heat lightning is flashing over the calm water, illuminating Smiths' volcano and Piojo. Small waves tug the shore. A mullet breaks the surface and falls slapping back. Bait works, tiny watersoaked windchimes
Most importantly, Spunk and I have become friends. Have become is the wrong phrase though. We started as friends. It took me too long to understand that. I wasted too many meetings hitting on her and wanting her as mine. I wanted to possess and she's damned indomitable and it took me a while to understand my place in her life.
I figured out the sex story too. It wasn't going to happen between us for any number of reasons. That was never the issue with me anyway, but it is a natural conclusion to loving a woman. When I stand back and evaluate relationships, sometimes we're closer without the more obnoxious obligations of sex, without the sticky issues of orgasm or lack of same. Spunk was my friend, pure and simple and I was hers and that's where it would stay. We clicked in a special way that is truly rare in our too-short lifetimes. It was a blessing.
Speaking of blessings, here's a big one: Spunk is here with me tonight. She pulled up an hour ago. What a shock! She had no idea I'd just happen to be here on our shared and remote patch of sand and stone. Her truck hauled ass across the beach and dug to a halting sand-stop instantly in her surprise. Lucky me! Or is it just my imagination? Regardless, her hand is in mine now, her head lain back on my shoulder, resting gently where arm meets torso, and breathing easy. We're looking upward toward myriad stars and a vast galaxy we can't comprehend but don't have to.
There is no need now for words, no place for them here. There are more important issues before us, our minds, our souls merging like my favorite smooth round stones of the beach. No matter what happens beyond this wonderful moment you can find our hearts here along the shores of our sea of Cortez. But watch out for that determined set of her jaw!