|We've Had Better Days|
My boyfriend chose to take his one week vacation with me at my place. We never spent so many consecutive days together before. It was a litmus test to see who would be the first to break. Remember that old adage: whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger?
During this time, I diarized our momentous vacation. Let me succinctly summarize the Week of Wine and Roses. Please, pull out a cup of java and relax. This is a long post where I may kill you off from boredom:
Day 1: Getting to Know You and How!
At 6am, I received a phone call from my boyfriend. "They canceled my flight. The next one to your airport will be at 10 tonight."
"Oh boy," I said. "This vacation's starting off right." I peered out the kitchen window to see a blizzard in the making.
He continued, "There's another flight I can catch right now, but it's an hour and a half away from you." He sighed, "Although I'm okay with hanging out in the airport. I've a presentation to prepare."
The man played me like a fiddle. "Take it!" I shrieked. "It's only an additional twenty minutes' drive. I'm okay with that. I have to go that direction anyhow for the first airport."
A few minutes later, he phoned again. "I'm boarding now. Take your time getting to the airport; I can wait. I checked out the weather in your area and it's snowing."
And how! I showered and threw on sweaters, jeans, jacket and hat. Somehow I resembled a refuge who escaped from fashion police. I left the house at 8 am dragging along the snow shovel, placing it in the back seat. My first pitstop was the gas station where my gas tank cover wouldn't release. I opened the trunk and pulled on the long wire to open the lid. All I succeeded in doing was breaking the wire off and gashing my thumb in the process.
At this point, the snow came down fast and furious. Covered in snow, I ran inside the gas station. "HELP! My gas lid won't open!"
The fellow behind the counter knew me. He rolled his eyes and ran outside with a metal prong. Between the two of us pulling, yanking and poking, we managed to pry open the lid. While pumping gas into the tank, I watched rivers of blood from my wound pour onto the snow amassing on the ground.
When I returned into the building to pay, the fellow already had the first aid kit set up. He swiped my thumb with an anti-bacterial pad and gently bandaged the bleeding cut while I knocked snow from my coat and hair. Thanking him, I ran out once again and jumped in the car.
I'm quite accustomed to snow and blizzards. The local road to the highway was slippery and I white-knucked the drive, believing the highway would be at least plowed. Nope. Not until I passed the exit to the original destination, the airport closest to me, did the snow abate. After two and a half hours, I parked at that airport. It was around 11:30am. I went inside to see whether his plane arrived.
Right at that moment, a girlfriend in the know about my antics texted me, "The snow turned to sleet. Wherever you are, don't return until tomorrow. The roads should be better then."
Then, I received another text. "Just disembarked. Where are you?"
While I responded to his text, I looked up and there he was. We hugged until he espied my bloody thumb.
"What happened here?"
He knew better to probe and let the matter drop. We hung around the baggage carousel waiting for his suitcase which never arrived.
He suggested, "Let's stay at a hotel nearby instead of driving back home. It's easier and safer." Glad he thought of safety now and not during my drive. In fairness, he did fret throughout his flight, knowing me and my aptitude to get into trouble. He spoke to the woman at the airlines counter who gave him the 800-number for baggage delivery and we left.
At the car, he opened the door to the backseat to place his briefcase and said, "Great. You brought a shovel. Should I expect to find rope and knives?"
"Nope. Just duct tape."
Ignoring my remark, he sat in the passenger car seat. "I know this area very well," he informed me and gave directions to a hotel.
"Is this a hotel you frequented in the past?" I asked.
He squirmed in response.
Twenty minutes later, we pulled into the driveway that led to a glamourous luxury hotel. We entered and then realized how silly we looked outside of the fact that I'm short and he's terribly tall. My layers of orange, purple, red and brown clothing made me look like a sherpa and his sweats accentuated his lean, swimmer's build. The receptionist at the welcome counter stared at us dubiously especially my bleeding thumb.
Before he said a word, I asked, "What's your hourly rate?"
The receptionist cracked up.
"I'm waiting for my luggage to be delivered," he explained to the receptionist. "We're only spending the night."
We entered our room and my jaw dropped. The decor was stunning and the room contained a King-sized bed that can melt the spine, state of the art technology, a wall-sized tv and best of all, a glass-enclosed bathroom including a tv embedded in the mirror, a massive shower and a heated toilet seat with various functions to rinse, wash and dry all parts of the nether anatomy.
The bathroom got to me and my sense of privacy. The walls were opaque half-way up, but given the fact that my boyfriend's taller than most, he could easily peer inside.
"I'm not going to look inside," he insisted. "What the hell's your problem?"
While he phoned the 800 number to the airlines baggage delivery, I took advantage of the bathroom to wash my hands now that the blood clotted. I played with various functions in the toilet seat where I could adjust the angle and force of the water and hot air pressure. I couldn't refrain and took a picture which I sent to my girlfriend:
When I emerged, he was already under the covers. "The bags won't be delivered until later tonight. Don't know about you, but I really need to lie down and take a nap. I've been up all night."
"So have I," I responded. "Someone woke me up at six am and I drove for over two hours in a snowstorm."
Needless to say, we didn't go right to sleep. Our love-making climaxed with a fire alarm. "WHAT THE HELL?" we screamed in unison. Someone knocked on the door, "The hotel needs to be evacuated."
"Fuck that," I said. "I ain't budging. I'll take my chances."
Moments later, we heard from the corridor, "False alarm."
We rolled over and fell asleep. When we woke up, we started to make love again, but all the phones in the room rang at the same time.
"I'm not going to answer that," he said.
"Something tells me you better," I responded. "They're phoning your cell as well as the room."
Reluctantly, he reached over and grabbed his cellphone from the nightstand. It was the airlines. He gave the address to the hotel and the room number.
"They said they'll drop off my bag later on tonight."
"Are you hungry? It's five at night," I said. "I haven't eaten all day."
"Let's go out for some Chinese," he suggested. "I know a place."
"You are aware that at this time, we can take advantage of the senior discount."
He laughed. "Not here. This is a high-end suburb."
We got dressed in our get ups and drove to the restaurant. The place was empty except for a table of senior citizens.
He took one glance at me and I burst out into laughter.
When we returned to the hotel room, we jumped into the shower together and took advantage of the high-end products they had. I groused, "Great, you're getting fresh clothes for tomorrow and I still have to wear all this stuff."
We returned to bed and flicked on the wall-sized tv. It may've been a marvel of technology, but there was nothing to watch outside of reality shows featuring catfish, hoarders and morbidly obese people. We turned it off to cuddle which segued to love-making. Once again, we were interrupted. This time by a knock on the door.
"Unbelievable," he grumbled.
"Let me get that," I said and pulled on the hotel bathrobe. It was his bag. By the time I wheeled it into the room, he was fast asleep.
Day 2: Getting to Know You and How!
While making love in the morning, we were interrupted again. This time, by his cellphone at 9am on the dot. It rang and rang. Then it pinged, indicating emails. All from his office.
"Go ahead, answer it," I said, the mood ruined once more.
"I'm on vacation," he groggily said and hung up.
"Who is that?" I murmured.
His cellphone whirred and rang and rang.
"What the hell is their problem? I'm on vacation. I set my emails and voice mails at work that I'm on vacation, I sent out notification emails that I'm on vacation. They're emailing and phoning me like crazy."
He did this to himself. A workaholic, he spoiled his colleagues, clients and bosses by his constant presence and accessibility. With me in his life, over the past several months he started to take a few days off here and there. This one week vacation, though, was a pushback he didn't anticipate.
"You better answer the phone to let them know you're on vacation," I advised. It was either that or listening to him grousing.
While he responded to the emails and phone calls, I took advantage of the heated toilet seat and numerous functions, squealing with delight. After showering, I told him, "It's bad enough I'm wearing the same clothes and underpants. I want to wear your sweats." I knew from past experience his shirts didn't fit well.
Cradling the phone, he opened his bag and pulled out a pair of sweat pants. I pulled them on and they puddled to the floor. I tucked them into my boots.
Peering into the mirror, I noticed the crotch hung mid-thigh. Luckily, my sweater was the same length.
"You look lovely," he said while responding to his emails. Gripping the cellphone, he groaned. "What part of 'I'm on vacation' don't they understand?"
I groaned. "This is some romantic vacation, all right," and flicked on the tv in my attempt to not listen to him work. The purpose of staying with me in the wilderness instead of traveling to someplace like Hawaii is to unwind from his high-pressure job. So far, despite the luxury hotel, it felt like everything went to hell.
An hour later, I said, "Check-out's at 11. You better get ready." That's when I noticed blood all over the sheets. My thumb bled throughout the night. Nice touch, I thought.
He tossed the cellphone down on the bed, showered and changed into fresh clothes. Then, he packed up his stuff as I only had the clothes on my back, clothes I originally intended to change upon our return to my cottage given there wasn't a snowstorm or lost baggage. We checked out without incident and went to the car.
At the very beginning of our relationship we established that I drive my own car. I explained that all my other boyfriends refused to allow me to drive, citing instances of when I almost hit pedestrians. He said, "They're all control freaks. You're a good driver." He only knew that from short drives in my neck of the woods. Besides, it kept his hands free to email and text his office.
This time, however, it was almost a two-hour drive without snow. He didn't scream or white knuckle the cellphone. He said quite simply, "You've a tendency to get distracted," as I ambled into another lane. We stopped into a Starbucks for coffee and danish before we headed home.
I focused on the road while he focused on work. We stopped off a few places to pick things up, get gas and then I headed to the supermarket to get provisions for the remaining days together. That's around when I blew up, for he still was on the phone, immersed in work.
"Put the cellphone away!" I shrieked in the vegetable aisle. "I want you present and aware of what we're going to get. I feel alone and this is not the reason why you're spending time with me."
This was an important time for both of us. Since we live far apart, we don't have the luxury of conventional dating. Our times together are usually the fabric of romance and don't touch on reality. We arrived at a crossroads rather fast where we have to determine whether to go on or to break it off once and for all. Should we continue, there're other decisions to be made, not urgent or immediate. Yet, I'm fully prepared that my life is the one which will radically change as he has a career in place.
He tucked the cellphone in his pocket the duration of food shopping. The minute we paid at the cash register, he pulled it out again.
Back at the ranch, we shoveled our way down the path, down the hill and carried the bags of groceries inside. It was 4pm. I made us a lunch/dinner.
Afterwards, we opened up our laptops side by side. I blogged and diarized this romantic adventure while he addressed work emails and did his own stuff. From time to time we remarked upon something we read which brought about conversation. His cellphone stopped ringing and buzzing and incrementally, he relaxed.
We laid down on the living room sofa to watch my favorite tv show, Ancient Aliens.
"As much as I adore watching this show, it always seems to knock me out," I told him when we turned it on. Two hours later, we woke up and ambled to bed.
Day 3: Getting to Know You and How!
By the time we left bed, ate breakfast, got showered and dressed it was already 2:30 in the afternoon. It didn't matter; it was warm outside and the fog was thick enough to cut with a knife.
"I wanted to go snow tubing," I wailed. "And I wanted to go ice skating on the lake. Now, everything's melted. My plans are ruined!"
My boyfriend smiled during my bout. The man has patience of a saint to endure my little bouts of pique. Besides, his phone no longer rang and no more emails. He was restored to his natural good humor.
For lack of any outdoor sports, we went to the local post office and he met the guy working there. The two of them hit it off right at the bat.
"In this weather, no way can you go out on the ice," the postal worker told me as I eyed through the large windows the melting area cleared off for skating.
Then, we went to The Bake House for a snack. He had already met Jane, baker extraordinaire and proprietor. "Any news?" I asked for I hadn't seen her in days.
"People are still vilifying you," she let me know. Two weeks earlier, I stood up in a Town Hall meeting and made a public statement about how an elected Town Official extorted me for money. Although there were 20 people present at the meeting, word spread like wildfire. In seconds, I divided the town and overnight became a target.
Later that afternoon, we went to the closest village to pick up more incidentals. My boyfriend was disgusted with my broken cellphone cover repaired with duct tape. As well as the electric skillet where the teflon started to flake. He picked up these items and on the way home decided to eat at the new local pizzeria/restaurant, rumored to have very good food.
The rumors were true. The place was packed with Town Board members and their spouses. When we entered, I cringed. I expected to be vilified again. Not at all.
One Town official hailed me over. "When you opened your mouth at the meeting, I nearly fell off my seat," she informed me. "I looked over and saw everyone's jaw dropping."
My boyfriend burst out into laughter.
She continued, "But you did good. You saved this guy's life. He's in rehab now and frankly, you're a hero for having the courage to end this. He hit people up for money throughout the county. This has been happening for a long time."
Other people came up to me and pretty much said the same thing. I shrugged at my boyfriend while we ate antipasto and said, "One day the villain, the next a hero."
We then shared the home-made lasagna large enough for four. He had a great time kibbitzing with the townspeople. Small towns are like that: one large, dysfunctional family.
When we arrived home, I didn't feel well. The food was too rich for me. I flailed around like a beached whale, lamenting my discomfort. Then I got ill.
Day 4: The Day of Reckoning
This "Getting to Know You" business is for the birds. He took my forays into the bathroom in good stride. Until he got sick. That's when I found out he, as well, was unaccustomed to rich food.
"Could it be the clams casino?" he wondered.
"Nah. Our diets are quite spartan. When was the last time you ate so much cheese, butter, olive oil -" and then I ran back to the bathroom.
Let me tell you something - you don't know someone until you get down and dirty with bathroom habits. This was one level of intimacy I didn't want to share or be exposed to. Unbelievable, but true: I'm a private person. This was even worse than the glass-enclosed bathroom in the hotel. For my cottage is tiny; we're inches away from each other in those tender moments of voiding our intestines.
Not only that, the bathroom was freezing and the toilet kid sized to accommodate the lack of space. It was punishment to venture in there repeatedly.
Being sick, we didn't have the urge to leave the cottage. Locked inside cramped surroundings, stripped from any intrusions, outside influences and privacy as to what occurred in the bathroom, we truly found out who we are together. And it was good. We discovered our cadences and flows of personalities, our conversations, our interests. To my delight, I realized how close we mesh.
We sat side by side on our laptops.
"I thought we'd kill each other off by now."
"Nah, we're fine," he said. "Outside of work, I'm mellow. You're high-keyed and dramatic. We can deal with each other."
I made light fare for meals. "Well, we definitely know things about each other we didn't know before. I thought it would be embarrassing being so sick."
"Nah," he said. "We're old, we're seasoned."
I sniffed. "Speak for yourself." In truth, I'm five years' older than him. "Say, let's go outside for some fresh air."
We got dressed and I opened the door to the house. "We gotta air this place out." We walked up the path to the driveway to see a tree on top of my car.
"What's with you and the trees up here?" he asked, taunting me. During Hurricane Sandy, a tree toppled over and crushed my utility shed. I gave him blow by blow via text for 8 days of living without electricity, heat or showers. He continued, "I didn't want to tell you, but during the night I woke up from branches tumbling on the roof and heard a big bang."
"Well, now we know what that big bang was all about."
He removed the tree and I inspected the damage. It deeply dented the hood in five places. I growled in dismay. Ordinarily, I would've carried on for hours, yet I didn't. It was his calming influence. Or perhaps my weakened state from non-stop diarrhea.
My romantic dream of snow tubing and ice skating evaporated. Even though it got cold outside, I didn't have the inclination. Nor did he. We needed to be close to the bathroom. We went to The Bake House where we sat down with Jane and told her about the discussions the prior evening at the pizzeria. Armed with 7-grain bread fresh from the oven, we skedaddled home.
Later that night, my boyfriend said, "Say, can we finish watching that episode on Ancient Aliens?"
The next thing I knew, he nudged me awake. "Why don't you go to bed?"
Lurching from the sofa half asleep, I dragged my right leg. "It's asleep," I moaned.
"You look like Igor, Frankenstein's assistant," he cracked up while I continued to stagger into the bedroom.
"My ankle hurts," I winced while undressing for bed.
Suddenly, he struck a pose. "Ach, the dramatics!" He placed his hand on his forehead, "We got a Sandra Bernhardt."
"Stop it!" I yelled as I pulled back the covers and laid down, embarrassed that once again he nailed me. Any other man would've resorted to alcohol or hard drugs listening to me complain for days on end. He takes me in stride until he reaches his fever pitch when he good-naturedly pokes at me.
He then spent a few minutes imitating me. "My stomach, my ankle, my stomach, my leg," striking various theatrical poses.
Hysterical, I threw a pillow at him.
"I'm beginning to realize that with you, everything's a production," he said with a grin.
"It took you this long?" I said, marveling at this disclosure.
Day 5: Shit's About to Get Real
I woke up early and meandered into the kitchen. My back was out. From the bedroom, he said, "Why are you up so early? Come back to bed."
"My back's killing me."
He walked into the kitchen. Observing me, he said, "Why didn't you sleep with a pillow between your knees like I suggested the last time?"
That's the problem dealing with an extremely intelligent man with oodles of lifetime experience. He knew about bad backs.
Snidely, I responded, "I had something else between my legs."
Rolling his eyes in disgust, he suggested, "Take two Ibuprofen and you'll be fine," and sat down at the table. He powered up his laptop no doubt to check his emails.
Instead of heeding his advice, I said, "I'll stretch my spine and do the cat and the camel move."
His back to me, he said, "I don't know what you're talking about. The cat and camel move?"
I got down to my hands and knees behind him to perform this exercise. I couldn't move. "Help! I'm stuck!"
"What're you doing on the floor?"
"I'm trying to stretch my spine."
He lifted me up gently. Knowing my obstinacy, he reached over to the kitchen counter and opened the Ibuprofen bottle. I snatched the two pills out of his hand and took them.
Once again, he sat down at his laptop. "How's your stomach?" he asked.
"Jumpy. And yours?"
"Good. I still believe it was the clams casino."
"Trust me, it wasn't. If anyone got ill from the food there, that place would be vacated in a flash."
He looked up at me. "Why aren't you sitting down?"
"I don't think I can bend. It's from that damn toilet. So many visits and so many deep knee bends."
He laughed. "Yeah, about that. I never had my knees hit my face before."
"While I'm up, I might as well make breakfast. What do you want?"
"Let's do cereal, okay? I don't need to hear the big production of your back while you cook. On second thought, try to sit down, I'll take care of breakfast."
With trepidation, I gingerly sat down and felt my back seize up. He leant over and massaged me for a few minutes. "Better?"
"Much." After breakfast, I did feel better. Still, I crawled into bed for a while. This time, I made sure to put a pillow between my knees. He checked up on me and nodded in appreciation. "Good."
We hung out until late afternoon when we visited The Bake House. Several people were there and greeted us. In conversation, I stated, "Tomorrow he's going back."
Jane asked the boyfriend, "When are you next coming here?"
"Quite soon," he said.
She looked at me. I shrugged. "This is a new conversation for me."
Up until that point, we lived in the present. Our concerns for the past several days, outside of his office for the first two days, were mostly quotidian, mundane things. We spoke of the past, our past relationships, people we knew, movies we saw, books we read. We played on the computers side by side. We shared secrets, cooked, cleaned, washed, made the bed, made love and visited the ivory throne more times than normal. Yet, we never discussed the next step.
I didn't feel the need to discuss what may or may not occur. I knew deep in my bones we're okay with each other. The past few days we lived together, not in a bubble of romance, but in a layer of intimacy. And survived. The next step will occur.
That realization was my first adult moment in a relationship. It truly was the day of Shit's About to Get Real. I'm not precisely relationship material. As a matter of fact, I'm a spinster, accustomed to dallying with the FedEx guy and other dysfunctional types of men. For the first time in decades, I'm with a man my own age, with lifetime experience, a solid career, a blinding intelligence and a witty sense of humor. I dreaded this one week while he consoled me with, "Don't worry, we'll be fine."
He was right. Everything's fine with us.
Day 6: Good-Bye is Such Sweet Sorrow
While driving to the airport nearer to me, I asked, "Should I park the car or would you prefer jumping out at the entrance?"
"I prefer you park the car. I don't want to crush the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you made for my trip." The flight didn't feature any meals so I prepared two sandwiches just in case he got hungry. We both lost a lot of weight during his stay. We didn't have a fixed schedule and ate only twice daily. Then again, we were both sick for two days which also may've accounted for the rapid weight loss.
He looked thoroughly relaxed. I felt relaxed as well. At the airport, he checked in, got his boarding pass and then we hung around.
"I guess I'll board now," he said. "Safe drive home."
"Safe journey. Text me when you get back to your place."
We hugged and kissed. "I'll miss you," he said.
I smiled back at him. "I'll miss you as well, more than I let on."
On my drive back, it began to snow. I stopped off at the supermarket, The Bake House to say hello to Jane and then returned home. Later that day, he texted me to let me know he returned safely.
To recap the vacation:
He spent a fortune at a luxury hotel where we weren't permitted to have sex, he worked for the first two days, we both got ill from rich food where I was traumatized by the lack of privacy which is my worst nightmare, a tree fell on my car, my back went out, we didn't snow tube or ice skate and did absolutely nothing.
We had a marvelous time.
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