Authors: Teresa J. Rhyne
Copyright © 2012 by Teresa J. Rhyne
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This book is a memoir. It reflects the author’s present recollections of her experiences over a period of years. Some names and characteristics have been changed, some events have been compressed, and some dialogue has been re-created.
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Because I’m a lawyer, I worry about protecting the innocent (and sometimes that means me and my publisher). Therefore, some names, identifying characteristics, and places in this memoir have been changed. Some characters in this book are actually composites of a few people, and some scenes are composites of different events, combined for the sake of story and my sanity. Conversations and events are rendered accurately to the best of my memory, but please remember my brain has been through chemo.
For Chris, who keeps my glass not only half-full, but topped off—and helps me see it that way as well.
“Two coyotes we, up high as November comes upon us. The holidays soon after, then April, summer just around the corner, then the leaves change, and here we are once again. Trouble lurks, my dear, our future uncertain, just as always, but right now, we two share the sky, just high, so high.”
I should not have asked him to pick me up at the airport. Was I that lonely and desperate already? I grabbed my carry-on from overhead luggage. Too late now. He’d be there waiting, appropriately enough for me, in baggage claim.
Now a new fear charged through me. It was embarrassing enough that I’d emailed him from an Internet café in Ireland admitting that I missed him and asking him to pick me up, but what if he didn’t do it? What if no one was there to greet me? Cab fare home would not be nearly as expensive as all the therapy it would take to get over that psychic wound. I walked down the narrow aisle of the plane, moved along by the impatience of my fellow passengers, who, I imagined, all had someone there in the airport happily awaiting their arrivals, holding signs and flowers and ready to sweep them off their feet in enthusiastic embraces. No wonder they were rushing.
“I love your scarf, by the way,” the flight attendant said, smiling and fresh-looking even after a twelve-hour flight.
I looked down at my long, flowing, brightly colored, hand-knitted scarf. “Oh, thanks. I actually bought this at my cousin’s shop in Athboy outside Dublin.” Maybe if I engaged in a long conversation with the flight attendant, I’d never have to get off the plane. Maybe she’d be able to give me a ride home when the inevitable happened.
“Was it McElhinney’s?” she asked in the same Irish brogue as my cousins.
“Yes. How funny that you knew that,” I said as the crowd surged forward, moving me past her.
“Lovely shop. Such beautiful things. And you look smashing.” Her grin seemed sincere. “Bye-bye.”
But the compliment did not comfort me. Me looking smashing was not a good sign. Long ago my friend Stacey had told me that she always could tell when my life was falling apart because I’d look so pulled together. If I was perfectly dressed and groomed and presenting well to the world, she knew I had on my armor and was suited up to, as it were, tilt at my own windmills. If I looked smashing, it was because some aspect of my life was being smashed to pieces.
I was on this flight home after I’d gone to Ireland with my brother and a cousin, ostensibly to celebrate their fortieth birthdays but mostly to escape my lonely household following my second divorce and the death of my two old dogs, all in the past six months. So, by Stacey’s analysis, yeah, I should look impeccable.
My trip had been wonderful, though, and it had mostly served its purpose of getting me out of my own head and on toward a new life. And I’d have been in a much better mood if I hadn’t so foolishly asked a man I’d only been dating a few months to pick me up at the airport. For god’s sake, I wasn’t even supposed to be dating. I’d sworn off dating. I’d sworn off men. I had my life all carefully planned out now, and relationships were a thing of the past. No future involvements. None.
As I approached the escalator, I immediately saw Chris standing at the bottom. Even from that distance his bright blue eyes were noticeable—heck, his eyelashes were even long enough to be noticed. He was tall, with a head of massively thick salt-and-pepper hair that also made him stand out. And he was wearing his light blue plaid button-down shirt. My favorite shirt. He looked handsome.
I couldn’t help but smile. I had missed him. And I had so many great stories to tell him that I knew we’d laugh over…right after a hot bath together, a bottle of wine, and…well, the stories might have to wait. As would my carefully laid-out life plan, apparently. I stepped off the escalator and into his arms.
• • •
“After all those cold days traipsing around Ireland, this feels really, really good,” I said, sinking farther down into the bathtub, both for the soothing wash of hot water and to keep my middle-aged body covered by bubbles. My townhome had the largest bathtub I had ever seen. The depth of the tub allowed me the modesty I still felt—the bubbles came up to my collarbone—but it was more than that. The grand tub stretched out over six feet in length and nearly four feet in width, taking up two-thirds of the bathroom. Thus, despite how tall we both were, Chris and I easily fit in the bath together facing each other. There was also plenty of space on both sides for a champagne bucket and candles.
“Feels good to me too, and I haven’t been traveling. Are you tired?” Chris asked, refilling my glass with champagne.
“A little. But I slept pretty well on the plane. And it would be better for combating jet lag if I stayed awake a few more hours.”
“I can help you with that,” Chris said, leaning in for a kiss.
I returned the kiss. “I’m sure you can.”
Chris raised his eyebrows in a playful leer. He leaned back. “Tell me about your trip.”
I loved that he loved my stories. And I had certainly brought a wealth of them home from Ireland, where I’d been visiting my grandfather’s family. I told Chris about one family member in particular who’d kept me laughing—my second cousin, Seamus. I knew he’d make Chris laugh, too.
On our second night in Ireland several family members gathered at a pub for dinner. Cousin Colleen, the one I’d traveled over with, had said her Irish boyfriend would be joining us as well. My brother had a few conversations with Colleen about this mysterious Irish boyfriend and was beginning to doubt he was real. He never showed up when he was supposed to. Several more relatives and friends joined us that evening, but Mysterious Irish Boyfriend was not among them. We passed two hours in the pub waiting for a table large enough to seat all fourteen of us. Or perhaps it would only be thirteen. Many phone calls and drinks later, MIB was still MIA.
When we were finally seated for dinner at 11:00 p.m., Colleen excused herself to make yet another phone call.
My brother Jay asked another cousin, Claire, “So you guys have never actually met this dude, right?”
“Never. She’s wasting ’er time.”
“Do you think he actually exists?”
“If he does, he’s a fookin’ bastard.” This came from Seamus, Claire’s brother, and an early-on favorite of mine if only for his pronunciation of the F word, which he, like a lot of my Irish relatives, used liberally. Seamus to me was prototypically Irish—lanky, pale, redheaded, with a fondness for drink and hysterical commentary.
When Colleen returned to the table, Seamus accosted her.
“Coosin, what’re you doin’? Leave it alone. The bastard ain’t coming.”
“I’m worried he had an emergency at work. Or he can’t find the place.”
“He’s a fookin’ plumber. What kind of emergency can he be ’avin’ that he can’t bloody call? T’is the only pub in the village called Inn Moderation. He’d find it if he was tryin’.”
I saw this as extremely sage advice.
Colleen saw it differently. “I just think he can’t find it. He didn’t grow up here and it’s late and he’s probably tired, don’t you think? I know he’d want to be here. He said so last night. I just want to give him directions if he needs them.”
Seamus flung his hands in the air, “Coosin! If a man wants to fookin’ find a woman, he’ll fookin’ find ’er!”
I told the story, mimicking my cousin’s Irish brogue as best I could. My efforts were rewarded when Chris burst out laughing. “Seamus is a genius.”
“My thoughts exactly,” I said.
“I’m going to remember that. ‘If a man wants to fookin’ find a woman, he’ll fookin’ find ’er.’”
“And don’t you think it works so much better in that accent? Jay and I can’t stop saying
. We add it to fookin’ everything.”
“Absolutely. It’s hilarious. And what he says is true.” Chris looked right at me. “I found you.”
At once, I became intensely interested in the bottom of my champagne glass, looking deep inside it. I emptied the liquid to get a better view of the bottom.
This was just a fling. This was about great sex and fun times. I was not what he was looking for. How could I have been? He was twenty-nine years old. I was forty-one. He lived in west Los Angeles. I was sixty miles east in a far less glamorous locale. He was young, single, and handsome. I was…well, I was not young and I was still licking my wounds following my second divorce. My
divorce. I was not what anyone was looking for.
He held my right foot and massaged the arch gently.
When he began to trace a delicate line up my leg with his finger, I relaxed. See, it’s only sex. That’s what he’s looking for. So much better! Not like a relationship at all. Phew. Sex I can do; it’s just all that other stuff I’m not so good with.
I was good at math, though. I had easily determined the common denominator in my two divorces was me. Considering that none of the marriages surrounding me in my childhood had been happy or had survived into my adulthood, this should not have come as a surprise to me, but it had. I was good at a lot of things, but marriage, it turned out, was not one of them. So six months earlier when I’d left my second husband and moved into this rented townhome, I’d vowed to begin what I, perhaps too affectionately, had dubbed my alphabet life.
Like Steve Martin’s character in
, all I needed was B, C, and D: books, coffee, and dogs. That’s all I needed.
B was for Books—I lined my living room walls and one of the spare bedrooms with mismatched, heavily loaded bookcases and stacked the rest of the books in piles all over the house where no one could tell me they were messy.
C was for Coffee—by the gallons, with no one around to tell me the grounds got in the white tile grout and were messy.
And D was for Dogs—I had my two beagles, Richelieu and Roxy, and had told my law partner from whom I rented the townhome not to bother changing out the ugly green carpet since my dogs were old and might be messy. By this I meant I was old and messy and intended to remain gloriously so. (I find one of the many great things about dogs is that they don’t mind being blamed for things that aren’t their fault.)
Then a friend from college reminded me I was not likely to survive without adult beverages. Which, I think, is why we have college friends, isn’t it?
So I added A for Alcohol—by which I meant wine. Okay, and martinis. And right, also I meant margaritas.
A, B, C, and D. I had packed my alphabet into a moving van and left married life behind.
That sound you hear is not just the moving van’s screeching brakes—it’s fate laughing in my face.
I had seven weeks with both dogs in my new place—enough time to settle into a pattern of walks and meals, to chart out who got which portion of the bed and the couch, and to establish our home of three. By the end of April, my thirteen-year-old beagle Richelieu had a series of seizures and eventually, sobbing and cursing but knowing it was best for him, I had to let him go.
In August, the congestive heart failure that the veterinarian had told me would come finally did, and I lost Roxy, too. I came home from work to find her dead in the middle of my living room, right in front of all of those bookcases. My friend Stacey drove me to the vet’s office as I held Roxy’s body and shook with sadness and tears. As she drove me back, I was curled into the passenger’s seat, sobbing again.
When I returned home, all that greeted me was that hideous green carpet. I was five months into my alphabet life, and already I was missing a letter. I had wanted to be alone, but not that alone. I never wanted to be without my dogs. Dogs were the only consistent relationship in my life, and now they were gone, too.
The silence suffocated me for a few weeks. I considered getting another dog, but I’d learned the great cosmic curse that all dog lovers learn eventually—you may have the unconditional love, devotion, and near-perfect companionship of a dog, but only for twelve to fifteen years, if you are lucky. Then your heart breaks. I didn’t think I could take that pain again.
And that’s when I’d escaped to Ireland.
But now I was back and I was dog-less, sitting naked in a steamy bubble bath, sipping champagne with a young, handsome man. Did I have my shit together or what?
“Hey,” Chris jostled my leg underwater, “you still awake?”
“Yeah,” I set my champagne glass down and rallied a smile. “I can tell you the rest of the Ireland stories in the morning. We have better things to do now.”
“I like that,” Chris said, moving toward me and wrapping me in his arms.
I blew out the candles before rising from the water.
• • •
By the time Chris woke, I was on my third cup of coffee and ready to talk. About Ireland. I regaled him with stories of country drives and castles and singing in pubs and my cousin that snuck us into a private club in Limerick without letting us know he wasn’t a member, and the green cliffs and spectacular scenery, the tiny roads and roundabouts (which I dubbed “roustabouts”), the beautiful Irish faces, and that I stood nearly a foot taller than most all of my relatives. Chris listened and laughed and asked questions.
“We got to see our great-grandparents’ graves, which was cool, even if it meant we also had to attend mass.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think you’d get ten days in Ireland without going to mass.” Chris and I had both been raised Catholic; both had gone to Catholic schools, and both were of Irish descent, although Chris was mixed with German. But being raised Catholic is its own special bond, particularly if one survives Catholic school. “Did nuns leap out and begin swatting your knuckles with rulers? Or was it just the proverbial lightning strike?”
“Neither, surprisingly. And I avoided confession, since we only had ten days.”
“Is divorce legal there yet? Maybe in that country you’re still married.”
We were sitting up in bed, and while I at least had a nightie on, Chris was naked. “That would make me a sinner of a whole different kind.”
“A sexy sinner. I like it.” We both laughed, until he said, “Probably the one glitch in your plan to recover from your divorce was picking a staunchly Catholic country. Did your divorces come up while you were there? How did you explain that?”
“I didn’t. I just avoided the whole topic.” I tried to sound more cavalier than I had felt. In truth, I felt like I had worn a scarlet “D” the entire time I was in Ireland, especially given that I never met one divorced person. “They probably think I’m a spinster. If anyone asked about kids or spouses, Jay and I both answered by talking about his wife and kids.”