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 . . . whatever it takes.
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
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.
"Friday afternoon . . . if I stop by . . .
after the kids are home
from school? I'll call you tomorrow, in the evening. Bye . . ."
I pull in on Thursday afternoon and am processed at a hotel down
the street a few blocks from where I used to live, where my
family still reside. I dine at a restaurant we used to frequent
and remember the times the four of us enjoyed there. The four of
us. Later I call the house, making contact this time and we'll
meet there at four tomorrow. The kids are happy in the
background as we pause awkwardly after so little communication
for so long and only through air and wires. I hang up, turn on
TV and open Coke, find things to do that work me into the
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 . . . maybe she'll let
me . . . It is clearly me that is the bad guy in this
relationship, the wanderer always flirting with mild dangers and
testing the strengths of various challenges.
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
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
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.
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
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
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!