She appeared in my life like a thunderbolt, she disappeared like the morning dew, and in the middle she changed the very way I have been looking at life.
It had been raining the 2 days of my stay in Delaware, so I decided to press on to Chincoteague, the small coastal Virginia tourist town known for its wild ponies. I rode 4 hours in drizzly intermittent rain arriving cold, tired and soaking wet. With rain predicted for the following day, I gave up on running the Chesapeake bridge tunnel on my motorcycle in the morning. I scheduled a one-day layover, contacting my hosts downstream to move our visits back a day. In the morning I toured the little town and there was lots of water-covered roads and rough seas. I rode out to the Atlantic shore but could not even park my bike due to the wind. I didn’t have to pay the entrance fee, since the Park Ranger didn’t bother to even man the toll booth due to the bad off-season weather.
Then it started to sprinkle, then it started to rain. I holed up in the local coffee shop / ice cream parlor and paid bills and wrote on my blog. It rained and rained then it rained some more. The road backed up with inches, then a foot of water as I couldn’t decide what to do about my rain soaked scooter parked in the lot. Finally, a fellow guest mentioned “it’s gonna get bad at 9pm, when high tide hits”. On that joyous thought, I decided to pack up and head back to the motel, despite the steady drizzle.
And there she was. I was confronted by a big white Victory motorcycle parked under the overhang at the motel (a Harley to an untrained eye). I looked for a big burly bearded rider, only to see a slim and soaking wet woman. Blonde, smiling, and resembling a cat just taken a bath. She was the first solo rider I had encountered in at least six weeks, and the first woman solo rider all summer. There was no way another solo rider would appear on the fifth day of this rain storm. Yet, there she was
Indeed, there she was. “Hello, fellow traveler” I said. “You mean fellow idiot, don’t you?” She replied, and chatted about the horrible rain and wind along the causeway from the mainland to the island. “No”, I said, “I respect you making it in this weather” and I tried to figure out where she was from.
She was talking about New Jersey, and Delaware and North Carolina and the outer banks and I finally figured out she was describing her entire trip. I got her to commit that today she had crossed from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Chincoteage but that the terrible rain did not occur until the last few miles. “You mean, you crossed the bridge tunnel this morning in good weather?” She pulled out her phone to show me a selfie she took at the mid-bay overlook. The weather was cloudy, but fine. I was crushed. I had wasted an entire day, soaked and tired, and had rearranged the entire rest of my trip, essentially for nothing. But in exchange for that lost day, and the hours of calls and logistics, I met this wispy though disheveled apparition on her oversized white machine.
As she checked in, the front desk said to us that between the end of busy tourist season and today’s flooding, the only sensical choice would be to dine at the neighboring restaurant. Sure, why not. We agreed that we would each eat there tonight. So we split up, but from my room I decided I would not wait for her. I’ve spent my life waiting for women (and girls) that either changed their minds or had never intended to make good on an offer to “catch up later”. So I organized myself and my phone charger and headed next door. But I took a table with a view of the door, just in case.
I had a nice private dinner, alone, with warm soup and hot coffee to cap off the rainy rainy day. I paid my bill and shrugged my shoulders thinking “not to be”. Just then she walked in the front door and headed to the bar. “Hmmm”. So I gave her 5 minutes to get herself organized, as I uploaded the last of my grumbling “tired of it raining” posts. I then walked to the adjoining bar.
The small room was mostly empty, and she was facing the bar, signaling the busy bar tender for service (to no avail). I stood a minute, taking in her delightful form. Then approached, trying to figure out when to say hi; so as not to interrupt her order, nor to say quiet so long as to have her to turn and walk smack into my face.
I finally said “There you are” and she turned, looked over her shoulder, smiled warmly and replied “Hey, its you”. I said she looked nice and warm (she had taken a hot bath and had changed into dry jeans and a baggy sweatshirt). She signaled me to her table and laughed that she got soaked walking over from the motel next door, stepping in puddle after puddle. She showed me her pant cuffs. We introduced ourselves.
Would I join her for dinner? No I just ate, but please let me stay and talk and I got only water since I would be riding three hours to Norfolk tomorrow. She ate heartily, smiled easily, twinkled, laughed and filled the tiny room with her presence. I sat first with courtesy, but slowly drawn in to wonder, then awe, then total amazement.
After our names, we exchanged chatter about cities, families, jobs, then both blurted out our ages. And I was floored. She was NOT in her early 40’s like I guessed, but was well within striking distance of my own age. Suddenly the plot thickened. How could it be? She ran, and she cycled, and she watched what she ate. She told about her body getting creaky from bike crashes and pounding pavement. I think I offered a massage from the cold rain, but I know for certain I felt inspired (just by looking at her) that when I got home I too would be able to get myself back into shape. She looked great! I would too. I had been wondering, but now I knew I would do it.
Now I’ve made no secret that part of my summer trip has been to ponder what an idealized woman would be like. As she talked it took another two or three stories to pass before I started to actually mentally check off my list. She was near my age and in great shape; exercising and eating sensibly. She was adventurous and was fiercely independent; on a solo motorcycle ride in October. She was advised “by everyone” to wait till next summer, but told them to pound salt and went anyway. “Best decision I’ve ever made” she said with a smirk to rival the Mona Lisa. She spent time with family, fiercely loyal, but told how for their own good she has held them accountable with “tough love”.
She then told the story of how she ended up with her white Victory motorcycle, instead of the Harley she wanted to buy. When she went in for a test ride, the guys at the Harley shop sent her away, she mocked, with a sing song “there there little lady”. She returned for a test ride the next week-end and was sent off by the Harley shop again (too cold, too big, too this, too that). So, she said, she drove her truck down the street to the Victory dealer, was allowed an immediate test ride, and she bought her white bike on the spot. But I fell in love when she said she then drove her new Victory back to the Harley shop and tooted her horn to make sure they saw. Did she say she flipped them the bird? If she didn’t say it, I’m quite sure she did it.
Was the universe playing with me?
At this point I started asking her questions from my list, which probably sounded creepy. After all, this was not (originally) an interview, although after her first few stories I instinctively steered it that way. How often do you ride? Do you smoke? What happened to the kid’s dad? The details aren’t important here, just to me. But lets say she stood in the batter’s box and just hit one home run after another.
Independent. Confident. Sassy. Empathetic. A big heart. Wise in the ways of the world.
She ate and we laughed. She paid her bill and she sought out our two friends from the motel: “locals”.
They were the permanent and temporary maintenance guys. They were both on-site tonight due to all the bad weather, asked by management to spend the night in case something went wrong there would be no wait. Its off season so tying up a motel room was no big deal, they shared a double around in back.
My new friend announced that she had brought us “Cinnamon flavored Tequila” in her luggage and that we would need to go back to the motel to get the bottle and start drinking shots. But the two guys were indifferent. Now I am tying to learn the art of buying a woman a drink while exuding calm confidence, but I had no coach with me that night. We stayed glued to our seats, in an out of season bar, in a rainy empty tourist town, and ordered a round of beers; while the hottest woman I had seen in some time asked us again to go back to a motel and drink tequila with her. Maybe I was missing something, I’m new at this.
I was still committed to not drinking, due to the “Bottle to Throttle” rule I impose when I’m going to be riding my bike in the morning. But she was an apparition, an angel, a magical fairy, but also a siren packing cinnamon flavored tequila. With trepidation, I gave into her siren song, starting with a beer, by deciding it would pose no problem to spend a third day in this tiny off-season tourist town if I woke up hung over from her tequila.
Warmed by beer, the four of us started laughing, and drinking and telling stories. It is for nights like this that people have a favorite bar, or join the Elks or VFW. There was a bonding; silly stories, moments of clarity, opening of hearts; to a depth and intimacy I have never experienced when the venue is a restaurant or cup of coffee. Within an hour and only one tall pint of pumpkin ale, I had achieved a better insight into my three new friends than I had achieved with others after eight hours spread over two nights. I was amazed by how we shared and how the conversation bounded like a marble on a spinning roulette wheel of topics and speakers; spinning and bouncing between past and present, people and places, events and experiences. Boy, did we make fun of others (ex-bosses, ex-spouses, ex-neighbors) like we were four lifelong friends. I had no idea drinking did this for you. I need to look into it.
And she kept talking about Cinnamon flavored Tequila (and of taking us back to a motel!). Yet the other two gents either were deaf, oblivious, or idiots. We sat. We sipped beer. We talked. She told a wonderful story of wandering into a strange bar with every stool filled by unknown men and asking for cinnamon flavored tequila. When the bartender said he didn’t have it, she walked out and down the street to a liquor store and returned with a bottle. She then poured shots for everyone in the bar and (surprise surprise) was the life of a new found party.
Guys! Are you listening? Lets get a move on here.
But my fellows wanted a smoke, and to tell jokes and hang out in this bar. It was a grueling, tortuous hour before reason prevailed and we decided to head back, me on my wet scooter, the others on foot. We reconvened in the guys comped double room facing the back parking lot (cheapest room in the place). Without fanfare she produced the much anticipated bottle. Of course, our chalice would be the flimsy plastic stacking cups individually wrapped in individual plastic sleeves and stacked four on each motel room sink. One gent retrieved ice from the motel ice machine.
The tequila was smooth, and sprang a surprising bouquet … as best I can remember. I actually remember making those comments although I cannot remember its taste, or the act of first sipping it from my plastic goblet. Actually, I can sit here and hear my own voice making the comments about my surprise at its smoothness, and how the cinnamon touches the palate and sinus without burning. I hear my own voice but do not remember speaking those words. The evening, must I say, was lost in a fog of warm feelings, romantic thoughts, dreamy visions, smiles and laughter, and extended time seated because my legs had just a bit of trouble keeping directly beneath my torso. In other words: a tequila night.
We drank the tequila straight, over ice, from plastic cups. She twinkled and laughed and warned “that’ll sneak up on you”. Oh? Really?
The fellows poured out life stories that were authentic, and sad, and full of morality tales for any young person to hear. They were the lives of men that you would imagine would end up as emergency maintenance guys at an out of season motel, drinking beer together in a bar, now oblivious to the presence of the pearl cast before them. They experienced hard breaks, but also engineered a lot of bad breaks on their own. But leavened into their lives were story after story of heart and soul, understanding the human condition, of giving themselves and sharing love unconditionally. Once again, my summer delivered lessons on humanity from the must unexpected quarters.
And while I sat, inebriated on this Mexican ambrosia, she stood beside me, deep in distant conversation with our two friends. She was confident, and sassy, and cut to so many chases with them that I lost count. She stood no nonsense, gave of her heart, and sincerely cared about the condition of these two guys that we both met only hours before. It was then I realized there was a rip in the thigh of her tight blue jeans. Was it snagged while working, worn out from use? It couldn’t be a purchased rip. And in my immobilized haze I visually traced the threads and the patterns of light and dark dye around the square opening, and around the circumference of her left thigh, and then compared that slowly to the dye and wear patterns on the right leg of her jeans.
Tequila has a calming affect on me, and leads to romantic thoughts. And seated in a chair with her standing beside me, I was able to trace the eye level rip, and the seams of her jeans, both up then down, and the dampness along her pant cuffs from walking in the rainy parking lot. I saw her jewelry, her hoop earrings and necklace. I read and reread and reread the message on her sweatshirt and traced its seams, spotting irregularities of a stitch here and there. With great effort I slowly slipped in and out of the conversation. We laughed about packing too much, and she added that she always brings heels and a black dress, but doesn’t pack a lot of makeup like other women. I sat in my fog and imagined her in heels … and a black dress.
I studied her face. Her eyes, and lips, and earlobes, and her fingers as they held her plastic cup of clear lightning. It was only now, after sitting speechless, lost in a tequila fog for probably 20 minutes, that I spotted little signs of her actual age: a crinkle here, the tiniest loss of skin tone, a wrinkle hidden out of normal sight. She was amazing. She had lived two or three lives, yet undid decades from her own calendar. I had much work to do.
And being with her this way raised the question that I then pondered for the following two weeks, and will think about probably for a year: if you want a confident, independent and “sassy” woman to love you, what do you say, or do, or provide to her? Will it be just luck? A lighting strike, a ‘cute meet’, that certain look? Or can you meet calmly, decide you will win her heart, and do just that? I spent 20 inebriated minutes thinking on that subject, to no conclusion except I needed start a new list. But by then I had sobered up, so I stood up and returned to the party.
Our two gentlemen friends interacted in strange ways, with the dominant and submissive roles reversed. Our strong, silent friend played the guitar for us, and talked of his heart’s secrets and his life in the outside world. Our yappy silly friend filled all the empty air and tried to lead the parade, again and again, where nobody wanted to go. But she was calm, and full of heart, and oozed love from her pores. I watched her try to fan the flames of silliness, then reign the conversation for a serious warning or instruction to our needy friends. She understood “the system”, and they were being eaten by it. I watched her try, with little success, to transfer her secret insights she learned on the road of life.
She graced us until it was time for bed.
We all knew that in the morning I needed to ride to Norfolk, she all the way to New York, and the guys had work to do on the motel. In the end we hugged and jokingly said we should have a reunion visit in a year. I said I would bring the tequila. In the morning I woke up stone cold sober without a hint of hangover. I packed quickly and was suddenly ready to go hours before normal. She appeared, starting to pack her white Victory. We laughed and agreed we had the greatest time.
Then we hugged … and I did not want to let go.