ON JULIE’S BEACH WITH A PADDLE
Dave and I had planned our marriage for two years. We had known each other for almost twenty. He married a friend of ours from high school. She wasn’t right for him and I knew that from the start. Sadly but not unexpectedly they amicably divorced. Dave and Jan had had three gorgeous kids and I love them more each day, wishing they had been my own. Never marrying, I couldn’t find that guy who knew how to deal with my high energy level.
I lived with one guy for five years but he was drama prone and we weren’t comfortable sharing the spot light. I like to look back now and think I was waiting for Dave. He was and is still my Clint Eastwood, Steven Siegel, that wise and stoic figure who lets me exuberantly dance through life; yet imposes loving limits. My ability to figure out when enough is enough occurs somewhere between observers feeling massive annoyance and crowds demanding my public flogging! It was never as evident as the month before our wedding while vacationing with our life long friends.
August 2004 was the month before Dave and I were to be married and I knew I had the world by the tail. I breathed in the overconfidence with my waking breaths and was most likely hell on wheels by the afternoon hours. It took me fourteen years to finally get this guy! I was surfing the biggest wave of my life and nothing was going to stop my sense of sophisticated momentum.
At age 34 it was my first marriage, Dave’s second and that put me even more in the proverbial spotlight in my eyes. I was determined to handle it all with a dignified cool, but with my personality; it was a challenge. Plans had been adjusted time and again to suite each other in just the right areas. While I had wanted a two ring circus, Dave guided me toward just the one. While Dave needed a brief ceremony, I got him to compromise so I could include a poetry reading, flower girl and three bridesmaids. Things actually seemed to be in place. Shockingly my organizational skills were competent, given my propensity toward distraction. I managed to keep our wedding in good quiet taste given Dave’s personality, but managed to infuse my childhood dreams.
It was mid August and we were meeting John and Sharon and their three kids for a wonderful fifteenth annual vacation at the beach. I have always been silly around John. He has this repertoire of comedic characters that make me hysterical with laughter. We are opposite sex versions of each other. Dave finds us entertaining separately and totally out of the box when we are together. Sharon is tolerant, sweet and quieter than Dave, which seems impossible.
“Our” three kids are all close in age so it’s one big kid party. We keep in touch with a yearly vacation at a secluded beach at the end of an island. The ocean was on one side; the marsh was on the other. All year long, all of us think about our week together. With the knowledge that we’d all be together for the wedding in only two months, we were giddy with anticipation. The vacation just before the wedding seemed to have Dave in a particularly sated mood. We could feel his sense of calm. His best friend and future wife were filling the air with jokes and this week I thought everything was funny. John and I are our craziest in front of Dave and Sharon, our favorite audience.
When we do happen to be alone we are very respectful of each other; there are no personal agendas of any kind, except for John trying to help me grasp the marriage style between him and Sharon. Sometimes John pisses me off during our private talks and I’ll carry my anger back with the four of us. Very occasionally Dave will call me off John if he thinks I’m being disrespectful regarding John’s traditional value system. I’ve watched Sharon’s reaction to my comments regarding their marriage style and she’s always so cool and collected, as if she’s got some special perspective that makes all of it all right. I’ve assumed that Sharon’s clearly, yet quietly, on my side. Maybe I’m her vicarious emotional vacation. I could never picture Sharon getting away with my outspoken perspectives. I’ve always felt happy that Dave’s cool with my behavior. In fact he seemed very confident with our roles.
John is a no nonsense kind of guy when it comes to his expectations of women, kids and work subordinates. Maybe that’s why he lovingly tolerates me with humor one week each year. He gets a vacation from being ‘in charge and large’ as I tease him. I challenge him on his everyday thinking and make him laugh at himself. I’ve seen John really mad only twice in my life and I often wondered how Sharon and the kids managed after the vacation was over.
I never knew what exactly John and Sharon had going regarding problem solving. I just observed that they didn’t have power struggle issues. Things seemed simple, too simple for my needs. John would enjoy my discomfort as he discussed with me his ‘master of his realm lifestyle’. I would uncomfortably side step my way through those conversations hoping to change the topic. It was foreign for me to think that I wasn’t half in charge and under my own authority regarding my future marriage. Dave always treated me more than fairly, given my highly competitive nature and we had an easy relationship compared to most. But I will readily admit that I was constantly overstepping his boundaries and had it not been for Dave’s stoicism, I’d have been fodder for my fiancé’s sense of discipline a long time ago.
It was the day before our departure. We were well into our beach routines. Dave fishing, me writing, John jogging, Sharon and the kids on some morning outing. Dave yelled up to me from the walkway to go get John from a run. Apparently he had ‘broken down’. Sharon was too far away with an overcrowded car. Dave was not leaving the beach and missing his fishing. So I was the low woman on the totem pole and not happy about being disturbed. After all, I felt I was performing and productive.
Dave seemed oblivious to my frustration ready to become anger. Except that he spoke slowly to say that I’d have to use John’s new car. Looking back I can now recall that his voice carried a nonspecific unheeded warning. John’s knee was feeling older than his ego I thought as I left my writings. I was pissed having had a real flow going on a new story idea. Dave kindly yelled up to me,
“The keys are hanging on the…”
“Ya, I know”! I barked down to him. ‘On the back of the door’ I rudely cut him off, threw down my notebook and stomped toward their beach house.
I had to admit that at any other time I would’ve been excited to drive John’s Austin Martin V8 Vantage Roadster, but today I had told myself would be dedicated to writing. Tomorrow was last minute pictures and of course the dreaded fucking packing. I hated when I’d be forced to be organized. Dave had always insisted I bundle the dirty clothes into colors so we could quickly throw loads of laundry in while unpacking beach items from the car. I was just satisfied that I didn’t leave dirty clothes under my bed at the beach house!
I smiled grimly as I pictured John pissed that I’d be driving his car. He must’ve known Dave wouldn’t leave the beach to indulge his old track injury. John probably dreaded the thought of me riding his second favorite ride! He had barely let Dave drive it. Knowing Sharon the way I did I figured she’d be too afraid to drive it anyway. You know, really drive it, the way an Austin wants to be - no - needs to be driven.
Now the thing about me is I believe I can recover from disappointments pretty easily. In other words, I’m into the moment, but not necessarily looking ahead to the next moment. If I were to be inconvenienced, it would be my job to compensate for my own losses. My only chance to have fun was now. Deceiving myself and Dave, I calmly backed it out of their driveway. Dave kept looking up the beach house trying to glance at what he had to know was coming. He was always telling me that someday I’d hang myself with my long and tangled rope. I would occasionally answer under my breath ‘fuck you!’ in a spankable tone. Dave would respond in wisdom filled tone,
“Oh Julie, don’t you know what you’re getting’ yourself into?”
I would respond with an unknowing look complete with slightly furrowed brows.
John’s knee pain must’ve have been exorbitant if he thought that I’d calmly leave my writing and beach to come get his sorry yet cute ass. He mistakenly believed I’d be respectful of his aging vulnerability. But I had to feel a bit sorry for him. At my mercy he sat awaiting my arrival. I drove carefully to his waiting spot, getting the feel of his car. I didn’t want to give him what he expected: me flying into the parking lot on two wheels. No, I had already decided that would come just a bit later.
He grimaced and carefully walked on his left leg toward the passenger side. My smile got so wide it was obviously bordering laughter. He pointed a naughty finger wave through the windshield at me as if to say, ‘you had best curb your delight in my pain young lady’. I held back Niagara Falls force words as I let him settle into the passenger seat. But I just couldn’t help myself.
“John,” I calmly and quietly stated, “if you want to put your balls in the glove box while I ride you home in the passenger seat, I promise, that when I do put the car up on two wheels in the curve; I’ll put it down easy for you!”
Oh I was so proud of that blindsiding, funny comment. Laughing hard I couldn’t even look over at his face; I knew it was too perfect a moment but I had to be careful as he was staring at the road – making quality assessments of my every movement, really trying hard to ignore the massive insult I’d just flung his way.
A few seconds later I heard in a quiet tone equally the hum of the engine, “You know,” contemplatively, “Dave really needs to beat your ass!”
“Ya, him and what army?” flew out of my mouth immediately.
Shaking his head he threatened, “At some point Julie, you’ll take responsibility for your actions and heed the consequences.”
“Geez John, give it a rest, will ya? Your pain has gripped your serious side. I’ll have you know that I dragged myself away from writing on the beach to come get your sorry ass. The only good part is I get to drive your Vantage. Can you save your caveman crap for this afternoon when I’ve been able to down at least two margaritas?” I tried to retrieve the delivery with a bit of a dry laugh, but my message was clear.
“Speaking of consequences lets stop at the drug store and I’ll run in and grab you a first aid ice bag. Sharon and the kids will be back in about an hour and you can get a jump start on reducing the swelling. You’ll want to appear less old around our teens with testosterone. Remember, they smell weakness!” He needed ice but wasn’t welcoming my sense of control.
I parked the car and ran inside. I quickly grabbed an ice bag, bottle of acetaminophen two energy drinks and a pack of cigarettes for me. Tossing the bag carefully on John’s lap, I carefully proceeded to back out. John was acting like a frickin’ owl twisting his head this way and that making sure I wasn’t going to hit a pole or pedestrian. I rolled my eyes and John caught my expression. “Look John, I’ve never even had a speeding ticket…. Lighten up! Get that aspirin down your throat already; you’re making your driver grumpy.”
He snorted, “Well the speeding ticket is long overdue, I’ve watched you drive. What does Dave say about your ‘need to speed’?”
“Why does my behavior always have to rest on someone else’s perspective? Do we talk about how Sharon feels about your incessant need to control the family?” Now it was John’s turn to roll his eyes.
“Sharon and I have an agreement”, he said tersely.
“Oh God, if you ever fill Dave in on this scheme, I swear I’ll key your car! Please tell me it’s more complex than the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” ‘head of the household thing’. God John, give it up already, I’m not drinking margaritas yet remember! Is all this fatherly bullshit because you’re walking me down the aisle? Oh wait I get it. You feel like my dad because I’m driving your car. This is like teaching and trusting your girls how to drive. I am clear now. You want to keep the conversation focused on my behavior hoping I’ll drive your precious car with controlled dignity. Then and only then will you calm yourself into tolerating this painful ride home with me.” I rambled on barely taking a breath.
“Well here’s the deal John, you are the passenger, you are injured, you have to suck it up and be at my mercy, while I drive your pristine car – so fuckin’ get over it!” I belted out the last phrase with musical deliverance.
As a turned my head to enjoy his pained expression, then follow up with a drilling gaze into his dark eyes, I could see his expression change from fuming to fear. In the left lane I was speeding through a busy intersection I went through a pink light. Some asshole turned left in front of me. Inwardly I cringed at my blaming attitude toward the other driver, because many times I had used the same technique to make an impossible left turn where there was no arrow. As I jammed my foot on the brakes I veered the car to the left just barely avoiding hitting the turning car. Fortunately we stayed within the intersection mostly in the south bound lanes complete with smoking tires and newly blackened lines in the intersection.
I sat there shocked. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. Looking into the other car I could see a young guy glaring at me. And while I knew he should not have turned into my oncoming car, I also knew he assumed I would stop as the light was almost red and I was speeding and not paying attention. I also quickly wanted to choke myself because my last lucid moments were so filled with my being an utter smartass and I felt ashamed. I could’ve injured John, the other driver. I went into a mental tailspin. And yet could only sit there feeling shock and disdain. Reacting John threw open up the door, stood up and hopped up on his right leg.
“You ok?!” he yelled with urgency.
“Ya” came back in an angry tortured sounding growl. “Your wife needs to understand that around here we don’t run red lights going 95 mph!” His southern drawl delivered the ‘control your fucking wife’ message loud and clear.
“Believe me when I tell you, this will get handled as soon as we get home.” John sounded so far removed from me I couldn’t stand it. I was all alone with my stupidity, dangerous lack of judgment and guilt.
To be continued...
Hang in there folks! This is a long story and we need to take the time to enjoy it. I won't make you wait long. The rest will be up tomorrow right after midnight!! And I will tell you all about the author.