I will call myself Maria. I can't use my real name here, for reasons which should become apparent soon. Back in the '90s, my life was good. Sure, there were rumblings about bad times ahead and things weren't exactly perfect, they never are. Still, I was quite happy. I was with a wonderful man who had a very good job. We had money and owned a home in a big city. I was very fortunate to have been born into a time and place that allowed me to get a university degree, so I also had a high-paying job in an organization where not many other women had the same benefit. This made it possible for the two of us to fine dine and travel the world. But then, after 15 years together, he was diagnosed with an incurable cancer and passed away nine months later.
That is when I started to become aware of how scary our neighborhood had become. During the day it was fine; all the neighbors knew each other. We were all friends. But at night there were always sirens, sometimes gun shots. I would get up in the middle of the night and look out to see cars I'd never seen before. There were people I didn't know, walking the streets. As a woman alone I began to be very uncomfortable living in this scenario, so I decided I needed to move.
I had always wanted to live in that beautiful country to the north of me. Oh, land of the free, equal rights for all, how wonderful it must be to live in such a place.
Over the years I had become an active member of a fun, liberal, online forum where people from all over would discuss what was going on in politics, science, and religion, among other things. They always seemed so wise and well-read. I made many friends there and one in particular was very attentive to me. Like me, Chuck was a total pacifist who cherished all God's creatures. He loved the outdoors and being able to walk around naked in the wilderness, which he was often able to do because he lived in that aforementioned country. I agreed that I would like to be able to do the same. He always made me laugh. Then, when I was dealing with my husband dying, he respectfully stayed away.
About a year later, though, Chuck sent me an e-mail asking how I was doing. I told him all about what I was going through with settling the estate, planning to sell the house, and getting rid of most of my personal belongings so it would be easier to relocate. Since Chuck lived close to the border he suggested I come for a little weekend vacation, get away from my problems for a few days. What a wonderful idea! So I bought a plane ticket.
I was so thrilled to be going there, getting away from the city for a bit. After landing in a huge airport and getting through customs, I then found myself on a 20-seater airplane headed for a small airport in Northview. It was my first time in a small plane and I am quite sure there are still finger indentations in the armrest where I was hanging on for dear life while reciting what I could recall of the Rosary. But after the turbulent flight, we arrived quite safely. Only Chuck wasn't there.
I told myself not to panic, it was probably just a traffic problem somewhere. But after half an hour I did start to freak out because the little airport was now almost deserted. The car rental desk had closed down until the following day. The cafe was being cleaned, chairs placed upside down on the table tops. I started looking around for a pay phone to call a cab.
I finally spotted a phone booth outside. As I went out the door I noticed a truck pulling into the parking lot. It looked like the truck he had described to me and I thought, "Thank God!" I went towards it and saw this guy get out and comb his long, silvery hair into a ponytail. I swear, I got weak in the knees. This was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen in my life. In a sleeveless shirt and cut-offs, his tanned, muscular body glistened in the sun. He had smiling, hazel eyes. "Chuck?"
He seemed surprised to see me and said he expected to find me inside. I mentioned that the inside seemed to be closing down now since the plane had landed about 45 minutes ago. His reply, "Oh. Is it that late? I got stuck in traffic on the freeway. I don't wear a watch."
That seemed good enough to me so I threw my bag into the truck and away we went. It was just before noon so we drove around for several hours and he showed me the sights and talked, and talked, and talked. At one point he apologized and told me he was a bit of a chatterbox. I told him I didn't mind at all. He was charming and funny and I was totally enjoying myself for the first time in a long time.
One of the things he talked about was how he wanted to move out into the woods and live off-grid. He was 55 then and was expecting a pension later and he was sure this was something he could do. He had lots of construction experience and had been studying all about solar power. He said he thought that the world was about to go to hell and the only way to survive was to get as far away from civilization as possible. I couldn't help but agree with him.
I suggested he move to my country; it was cheaper to live there. He told me how much he'd really love to but he couldn't. There were some things on his permanent record that wouldn't allow him out of the country. That caused me some concern, but he explained, "I got caught shoplifting once. And I have a DUI that involved a pretty nasty accident. I almost died. So I just have to stay where I am." Since I have no similar experiences in my background, I figured he was speaking the truth.
We finally reached the motel where I had made reservations and I put my things away. He had recommended this motel as it was right on a lake. The view was really beautiful. The rooms were individual little cabins with a living room and bedroom. I had noticed there was a Mexican restaurant a block away and I was starting to feel very hungry at this point. So I suggested we go get something to eat.
He replied that he should just go home as he had no money. He had lost his job a few weeks ago but he didn't tell me about it before because he just wanted me to have a good time. I told him I would have a good time if he would join me for a meal and I was happy to pay for it. So off we went. We walked.
At the restaurant I suggested we have margaritas. He said, "No, I have to drive home and I never drink and drive now."
"Oh, good for you! Look, here's an idea. We'll have some drinks and food and walk back to the motel. Then you can sleep on the couch, which I was told folds out into a bed. In the morning I'll buy you breakfast and we'll have one more nice day together before I have to go back tomorrow evening."
So, that's what we did. After supper we opened up the couch bed and he fell into it and fast asleep. I went to my bed. I awoke in the middle of the night and looked in on him. He was softly snoring to the light of the TV, so I went in and sat down in a chair by the bed and looked at him. What a beautiful man he was. How did he fit into my future? I just sat and watched him for about 20 minutes. Then I went back to my room.
The next day we spent most of the time just hanging around by the lake, talking, until it was time for me to go. He told me all about his past. He had been married, long ago. He'd owned his own business, automotive repair, and had been working hard to save up enough money so they could buy a house. This meant he was at work most of the time and one day, out of the blue, his wife said she wanted a divorce. She had met someone else.
Chuck was devastated. On the day he signed the divorce papers he threw a few belongings into his car and went to California. He hung around the southern beaches and had quite the wild time for several years. He eventually grew tired of it and moved back to Northview, where he had lived long ago, and was now trying to start over. He had lost his business and all his tools to the ex, so he was really starting over from scratch. But he was determined to get back into his previous financial position so he could buy property out in the woods.
Although he talked like he was one of those “survivalist” types, he was quick to point out that he would never resort to buying guns. Guns only brought trouble, he said. Plus, he had no interest in hunting because he was not capable of harming a flea. Well, a fly maybe. Or a mosquito, but nothing else, no way. I told him about a boyfriend I had once, long ago, who always claimed he was a pacifist and hated guns. One day I thought I'd be nice and tidy up his apartment before he got home from work. I found two guns in the back of his closet, and a stash of porn. That was the end of that relationship.
When we got back to the airport, Chuck didn't want to come in with me so he dropped me off at the entrance. We talked in the truck for a bit and he gave me phone numbers of his parents and others who I should call if I had any trouble at the border. And then he kissed me, softly, gently, on the lips. Then he did it again. Ohhhhhh.