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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.