Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Going With the Flow

I didn't like her much. By her vibe she was contemptuous of me as many of my new coworkers were. My boss had preceded me to Carlson Companies by 6 months, and all that time had touted my arrival as if it were the second coming of Christ. A round of layoffs was completed a day before I strolled in, the conquering hero come to meet his troops, and the air was thick with the smoke of a department's slow burn. While there's always a few suckups in any crowd, most didn't even try to be pleasant; Linda simply kept her distance. My boss Jim, ever the optimist, thought making me out to be a demi god would get people excited about the future. What it actually did is make people resent me long before they'd met me; and so every word I spoke was put under a microscope, determined to be power mad, and tossed into the circular file. Leading 22 people who'd pre-decided I was a jerk was a chore to be kind, but at least Linda only scowled.

Over time I thought perhaps she was a lesbian. Not that I usually go around guessing people sex preferences, it was more a stereotypical "Dyke" thing so I said it as a grin getter. (I had a bunch of pals in a club called Dykes on Bikes, so the word was part of my common vocabulary)

She had this look when she was obsessed about something that said "step within a foot of me and lose a body part". And she'd quite often say she hated men; I knew it was a joke of course...or did I? (organ music swells) Whether she actually hated men or not, I was pretty sure she hated me, until I did her first review. Suddenly she warmed a bit when I took her function seriously, talked about getting her better equipment and changing her title so as to bring her salary more in line with her labors. She still thought I was dangerous, but as a boss, tolerable.

For a couple years she saw me walk into all staff meetings a half hour late, keep my own hours, wear cowboy/hippy clothes to client functions and talk to upper management as if they weren't actually gods and goddesses, but just slobs like the rest of us as the song goes. Being raised a goody two shoes in a wealthy rural community, having been a cheerleader, honor society president, first chair flute, all white bread all the time happy camper...she knew I was the devil. When our division dissolved and we were all pooted out the door, I assumed I'd never see any of those people again, least of all her.

As it turns out our Linda was an adventuress, prone to doing risky things like camping alone in a national forest for weeks at a time. Always looking for new excitement, she thought canoeing would be something she'd like to learn; but she had no friends who were canoeists save one, so she called him. And for some unexplainable reason, Bob suggested me. Bob had been my tech and was officed right next to me so we'd spent hours chatting about our common love of the outdoors. It only seemed natural to him I suppose; he didn't know we suspected each other of being from opposing dimensions.

When she called I was stunned, but the lonely panderer that I am I figured any old phone call chit chat was better than none so I let her continue without interruption. She expected me to say no at first, but if yes, to offer an hour of time on a city lake with concentrated instruction and a pleasant wave goodbye. So when I said "tell ya what, let's do a four day river camping trip and you'll know everything there is to know about canoeing once we're done", she was a bit confused.

I made it clear we would stay in separate tents, hell, in separate campsites if that pleased her. For me it truly was an innocent venture, I'd done this particular trip a few times and loved it, but my boat partner wasn't available all summer that year so this seemed like a great opportunity. I was in my late thirties and divorced for a second time. I wasn't finished with using my privates for pleasure certainly, but I was way beyond having them be my first consideration for interacting with females, so the idea of sex never entered my mind...besides, she was a lesbian!

She was bored with her life and needed a big time change. She'd always planned and plotted each step, nearly never acting on the spur of the moment; her impulse control was stifling her fun-o-meter. So before she could think, she heard herself say yes. An hour later the dread began.

We were strangers really, what if I was the jerk everyone said I was? Four days is forever if you're alone in the woods with a rabid coon. In the week between her agreement and our departure she dreamed me into an axe murderer, a serial killer that most likely talked unsuspecting, innocent, bored, middle aged women into long canoe trips, then killed them and chopped them up, burying parts all along the route. I had that look in my eye...and I smoked. What more proof would anyone need?

She actually did ponder that as a possibility; not too seriously obviously, but she considered it. She figured her life was so truly boring that even being chopped up and spread out over half of Wisconsin would be an adventure. If it had to end, at least it'd be while doing something amazing.

We were perfectly matched for that trip really. She rose early and would take a long hike as she loves to do, I got up late and was making breakfast by the time she got back. She enjoyed the fact that once I start something, ie:setting up camp, I'm a Tasmanian devil until I'm done. (She didn't notice it takes an act of Congress to get me to start something, or that sometimes I'll walk away midstream and never return) And I liked the fact that whatever I suggested as the next thing to do, she was eager to try.

On the last day I rose and as is my custom, stripped and swam to wash the night's goo off me. Unbeknownst to me (as she didn't tell me for years) she'd wandered back into camp just as I dropped my shorts, and despite her goody two shoes upbringing, stood and watched me until I started to dry off.

It's only significant really in that she saw me as a human being stripped not only of clothing, but of our history. I wasn't her boss or the demigod of sound, I wasn't the weirdo pompous ass who stuck a middle finger up the nose of authority or a latent axe murderer. For that flash I was just a man, and just perhaps a man she wanted to know more about.

I can't say I noted a change in her demeanor, it'd be too easy in hindsight. But I can say by the end of the trip we were interested in each other in no small way though neither of us had said a word about it to that point or even weeks after.

We talked on the phone a few times in the next month, reliving the woods and discussing general likes and dislikes. She was intrigued with my fascination with fantasy, but insisted she wasn't a fan. So one day I showed up at her door and left my favorite female hero fantasy book on her outdoor table, with a single white rose and a poem I'd written to thank her for being a perfect trip partner.

A year later we took that same trip and married on the steel bridge that crosses the Namakogen river, the wedding party camping in the site where she'd caught me bathing, and had first thought of me as more than a necessary annoyance.

As for her "lesbianism"(a stereotype I shouldn't use I know, throw raw meat at me if you must), she'd had a bad streak of aggressive dates, capped off with a building manager she found was sneaking into her apartment and toying with her underwear. She'd only been divorced from the scum sucker husband for a few years and had followed him with another crude prize of a half man/half beast. She did hate men actually; she'd sworn them off for obvious reasons. But she didn't like women either lol, she was more like me; an equal opportunity disliker.

I don't know if there's any significance to this, but my first two marriages were with women I chased; whose attractiveness made me weak in the knees at first glance and who I made projects of to win their hearts. They both agreed to marry me, and then had second thoughts. Linda just happened by odd circumstance with no pre disposition by either of us. We became friends through mutual interest in something outside ourselves, and as the friendship grew we came together, not vice versa.

When I'd divorced for the second time I assumed that was it; that I'd never trust, love, be happy with another woman again. I'd had my chances and blew them both, and while I did "look for purposes of lust" here and there, I had shut down the process of looking for a partner altogether as had she. It's probably just luck and not the way it should work, but I know the more you desire, the more you're willing to pretend; the more you simply have to have someone, the more angelic they become. Linda's no angel, nor am I, and our relationship isn't at all perfect. But neither of us is faking it; it started with mutual respect and if it ever ends (which I doubt), it will go out on the same note.

No comments:

Post a Comment