Thinking the unthinkable about Mom, parked in an Alameda Avenue bus stop, mind retching turned to dry heaves then sighs, I finally composed myself. I restarted the car and drove back on the Alameda just as a bus arrived in my rear-view mirror to claim its space where I’d trespassed. The purpose of coming, to attend Santa Clara University's, Parent's Day, put me back to functional mode.
At the University, I first attended Mass at its Mission, one of the twenty-one established by Father Junípero Serra. With third time being charm, it was re-built on high ground after the first two were destroyed by floods along the Guadalupe River. The University and town grew up around it, a holdout of permanence in a rapidly changed world.
When attending Saint Clare’s grade school nearby, we were trooped over to the Mission occasionally. Attending Mass there gave me a personal historical connection, a positive one.
Kneeling in my pew, I first recited the rosary to give me peace after Mom’s revelations. Past the opening Apostles Creed, I dedicated the thumbed Our Father beads to protect a Burma and Mexican woman unknown. The Hail Mary beads I dedicated to thanksgiving for Mom’s escape.
After Mass, I met with other parents in a lecture hall to start Parent’s Day. There, a Jesuit priest droned on about our good fortune to have selected the University for our off spring. I didn't listen. As when attending Mass, I sat with a blank stare and absorbed the revised foundation of my family and who I was.
After the introduction, we were marched out, segregated into groups and assigned to student guides for our campus tour. Our guide, most likely earning school credits or tuition, was uncomfortable with what I’m sure he considered old people. He too espoused our good fortune for selecting his University while our sons and daughters kept out of sight, not wanting to acknowledge having parents except for tuition and allowance checks. The 10 o'clock sun awoke me from my introspective stupor.
Unlike most parents, I was familiar with the campus due to my attendance at the nearby Saint Clare’s grade school. As we strolled about, my reconnection included the beautiful grounds, the little astronomy observatory, the cactus garden all of which reconnected me to my proper remembered past, a past when Mom was my real mother. With the sun's warmth and campus scenery, I drifted from introspection to interaction, even joked with our nervous guide.
At noon the groups re-assembled for a cafeteria lunch, one better than expected. During lunch, my mother in law’s and Mom’s revelations began to switch from shock to acceptance, an acceptance which eased the guilt of my adultery. It was similar to Mom’s housekeeper tale of the priest who brought a married woman to the Saint Clare Hotel, a tale which eased the shame of my soapy showers during puberty.
After lunch, the campus tour resumed but with all the parents as one group to inspect sports fields. I relaxed and dismissed the revelations learned so painfully. Everything looked brighter in the California sun. I displayed my enhanced assets.
Most of the parents were couples or moms like me but there was a lone attractive man. Vixen, never one to dwell on the past, awoke and meowed. My heart thumped and my mind said he was a suitable distraction. I walked next to him and provocatively smiled. He noticed, smiled back and changed his pace to my slower gait.
He wore a blue blazer over a white shirt, tan polished cotton pants and Sebago sailing shoes. A pipe protruding from his vest coat pocket. He was six feet plus in height, had a trim mustache, a full head of hair with gray side walls and was of ruddy complexion. Soon, chit chatting, he divulged it was his son who attending the university, he was from the Puget Sound area, he was divorced and he’d just turned forty-five.
As we crossed the El Camino Real to the sports fields, he added he owned a sail boat, and although still working, was trying to live a roug’ life, a bravado tidbit which skewed the conversation to the risqué.
He didn't ask about my marital status but could see my wedding ring, too big to miss. I was wearing a sleeveless summer dress with two-inch pumps. The dress accented my enlarged assets. This blue-eyed guppy had a hard time keeping his eyes off them.
When Parent’s Day ended, he invited me to dinner, only to be disappointed to learn I was soon flying out. He cheered up when I asked for his business card. It identified him as William, an Allstate Insurance Agent with a Gig Harbor office. Instead of keeping it, I wrote my office number on the back, kissed it to leave a lipstick imprint and told him to tell the receptionist he had an insurance issue when he called. I was pleased he'd diverted my thoughts away from family secrets.
The next Monday he called.
“Hello, William here, everything settled with you at the University?”
“Hi, Yes, I’m glad you called, was just thinking about you. I’ll call you right back. Mini office crisis needs attention. Give me your number please.”
I closed my office door and checked the Gig Harbor phone book. He was an insurance agent and he had a Gig Harbor house address. Checking the Thomas Bros. map book indicated it fronted Puget Sound.
When I phoned back he asked me to go sailing. I explained I’d never sailed and asked if we shouldn’t have dinner instead but he wanted me to sail with him Saturday.
I had no excuse to get away on Saturday and menstruation was due the weekend. Hubby was scheduled to go out of town Tuesday and Wednesday. Vixen would be purring Tuesday.
“Saturday’s difficult, how about Tuesday?”
“Tuesday works. I’ll bring the boat to Olympia and berth at its floating dock, The dock’s just past the seafood market, you can’t miss it. Let’s meet at 10 AM and I’ll show you the basics of sailing.”
“Okay, I’ll bring lunch and wine, hopefully I won’t get seasick.”
“Don’t worry, it’s a mini house on water. You won’t get seasick. If you do there’s a bed to lay on.”
Monday, I went shopping, shopping for a possible overnighter on a sail boat. Looking at sea clothes, family secrets recessed to repressed, then to forgotten. My enhanced breasts qualified me as a sweater girl. I purchased a white turtle neck sweater. A blue Pea Coat, tight fitting jeans and blue sneakers, completed my attempt to look like an experienced deck hand.
Tuesday morn, hubby left early for the Sea-Tac Airport. I got up with him and made his breakfast. After he left, I made the boat lunch with sour dough bread, cheese, meat cuts, lettuces and olives, all kept separate in plastic containers to be assembled on board. I put everything in a picnic basket with a bottle of wine, two wine glasses, silverware and layered dry ice and napkins atop. Dressed in my sea clothes, I took a Dramamine pill, washed down with left over cold tea.
In my night bag I inserted toiletries, makeup and the Dramamine bottle. I added a violet, nylon, baby doll nightie, a change of underwear and my pill box in which I stuffed three condoms, purchased during my shopping spree. I was ready for below deck action.
I had no reservations. I packed for first date sex. I accepted my wantonness. Mom's revelations made it all okay, a lack of guilt possessed me.
It was a beautiful late September morning in 1990. It was calm with an occasional gentle breeze as if the air was delighted with itself. I wondered if there was enough wind to sail when the cab picked me up. Dropped off at the boat dock at 10:15 AM, one hand toting my lunch basket and the other my overnight bag, I saw him. He was waiting at the front of the dock scanning for my arrival. After a Platonic greeting, he guided my step onto the floating dock, Panic set in as we trod forward. The big floating timbers splayed about on the water, moved with our steps. I was already woozy by the time we reached his boat's slip. I was afraid to get on, the risk of seasickness swept aside by the sudden comprehension of danger. I was sailing with a man unknown. I’d be under his control once we left the dock. I knew nothing about sailing or if the boat was seaworthy.
He stood in the boat and noticed my sudden anxiety.
“We don’t need to sail today. We’ll sit in the stern, talk to know one another, then enjoy your picnic lunch.”
Assured, I climbed aboard. I hunched down and peeked in the cabin. Things were compact but bigger than expected. He explained it was a thirty-foot boat, had an outboard motor and had all the safety equipment. I stepped went down the little hatchway and explored the cabin. It, like he said over the phone, was a miniature house setting. There was a bathroom with stainless steel toilet and sink, a galley kitchen with sink, cabinets, refrigerator and dinette all Lilliputian in size. At the end, in the bow, was a wide but low bulk bed, the place of action.
I turned back and looked again at the little bathroom and wondered.
Where does it go when you flush?
I placed my lunch perishables in the little frig and went back up to the open stern. He asked again if I was okay. I was getting sea legs and felt safer due to his concern. After sitting in the stern, he asked if we should stay tied to the dock or did I want to explore Budd Inlet which fronts Olympia.
Sitting comfortably on a port side cushion, I told him to explore the inlet. He tilted the little motor’s propeller down into the water and started its engine by pulling a cord. The whinny engine started and spewed a wimpy stream of water out its back, reducing my confidence so recently gained. Untied from the dock he steered past the tangle of other boats to the open area, not looking at me as he steered. I thought he was probably thinking he made a big mistake taking a chicken like me to sea as I watched the Olympia dock recede.
Once clear of other boats, he cut the sputtering motor and tilted its little propeller back out of the water, looked at me and asked if it was okay to set sail. In the inlet there was a gentle breeze to the north urging us forward. With the morning sun, a gentle breeze, his concern, I nodded ascent. He had me hold the wheel while he busied himself setting up the sails. With the sails set, he guided the boom to catch the wind, took a hold of the wheel and we skimmed the placid water soundlessly.
Clear of the inlet, in the choppy waters of the Sound, he steered the boat into Case Inlet instead of returning. While beyond our agreed scope area, it didn’t matter. The fresh air, blue water, the shoreline enhanced, my bravado. We veered back and forth tacking with the wind, him doing all the work, his attention on sailing and showing me a good time. I let the water; wind and sun relax me while watching his nimble arms and trim body guide the boat.
Case is less developed and wider than Budd Inlet. The sun warmed us. I took off my pea coat and sat on it. After a couple hours of sailing it was past noon and asked if we could eat. We’d ended up in a quite area. I was hungry, not having eaten breakfast and nodded agreement. While sailing, we’d hardly talked other than his giving me directions or explaining what he was doing regarding sailing. He cut the sail and guided the boat near shore using the little motor.
We were no more than fifty-yards off shore. Despite its proximity, the water and a tidal mud flat ensured privacy. He checked to ensure the water was deep enough for the keel, tossed over a little anchor, its chain rattle down, took hold and the boat bow sung to face the breeze. Anchorage secured he turned to me.
“Let’s see what’s in the box you brought.”
Smiling at the 'box" innuendo, now relaxed, Vixen out of control, I went below to the galley, pulled the pill box out of the night bag, came back up and handed it to him, careful not to touch him.
"Here’s my box.”
Without waiting for his answer, I went back below, sat on the bulk bed, and was naked when he came down.
He was taken aback by my boldness. . He was going to say something but I put my finger to my lips for him to hush.
We trashed about in the confine between the bed mattress and the bulk ceiling which created the deck above. As our heads were at the bow end there was not enough head room for kissing. Spent, we inched back to the galley area for space and air. As we redressed, I explained I preferred desert before meals rather than after. We kissed for the first time, the faint odor of ashtray evident from his pipe smoking. He used the little galley garbage bag for the spent condom. I was pleased he didn’t throw it over board.
We sat in the open stern and ate lunch with my bottle of white Pinot Gris.
After a leisurely lunch, he hauled up the anchor while I tidied the leftovers and the galley area. Soon he had the sail up and again we were skimming along the water. I sat back and intermittently watched him, the shore and the water through my sunglasses. Toward evening we sailed back toward Olympia and the marina, docked and ate dinner at the Budd Bay Café.
Afterwards, we went back to the boat and anchored out in the Inlet. It was a warm cloudy evening. He set up pads in the stern for us to lie on and brought out heavy wool grey blankets.
I looked up at the shore lights of Olympia, the Governor Hotel, the illuminated Capitol dome,
We snuggled in. I looked back at the marina restaurant where we’d just eaten and rode my captain. The boat rocked gently to and fro to the lapping sound of the water.
With my enlarged breast in his face, they got their first alien test run. To the lights in the distance, the rocking boat and the lap, lap of the water on the boat hull, we made love.
Once parted, we rolled on our backs under the blanket and stared at the night sky. The stars shown but the lights of Olympia twinkled more. The lap, lap, of waves against the boat now lulled rather than enticed. We talked about ourselves, not about family but he did say his wife left him for another; they had one child who attended Santa Clara University and he was pleased he met me there.
He knew I didn’t like smoke but asked if it was okay if he lit his pipe. With my consent, he retrieved a little leather bag. Inside was a pipe, a tobacco pouch, Zippo lighter and little scraper. I thought of Dad, his dragon Zippo lighter, how he could flip it open and light the wick in one twist of his hand, bring it to his cigarette, light up and close and re-pocket it in another sleight of hand movement.
As William went about preparing his pipe it was evident he was going through a different ritual. With the little scraper, he scoured the pipe’s bowl, tapped out residual ash, opened and pinched out tobacco from its pouch, tamped it in the bowl with his thumb and then admired his handiwork.
With the pipe loaded, he retrieved the chrome Zippo lighter, flicked open its lid and with a thumb twirl of the flint wheel, sparks flashed and viola there was fire. Tilting the lighter on its side, the flame over the pipe bowl, he drew air down the stem, the flame sucked down to meet the tobacco until there was a red glow. Closing the lighter with another flick, a wisp of smoke arose as he fussed to put everything back in place. His actions revealed he was the fastidious type who wanted everything just so, a man who would never marry again, who’s home would be clean but of odd design.
I’d moved to sit upwind but was surprised the smoke gave off a warm pleasant aroma, not the stench of a cigarette. He explained the tobacco was cherry flavored and mixed special for him; another sign of needing things just the way he wanted which probably included sex. I decided to learn his fastidious sexual ritual and let him, “Have it his way.” if mutually enjoyable.
Despite my misgivings of tobacco smoke, it all added to the agreeable glow of the evening. Only the faint ashtray odor of his mustache when kissed detracted.
Soon we were sleepy, the second Dramamine’s drowsy influence taking effect and we took our blankets and clothes below and slept on the bulk bed but with heads facing the open hatch door of the stern, not the claustrophobic bow. I put on my turtleneck to stay warm and never wore the nightie.
He woke me in the morn, spooned up against me. I don't like to kiss in the morning without first brushing my teeth.
We took it relaxed with no hurry. I enjoyed our morning tryst but decided sex on small sailing boats was too complicated to enjoy. It was the last time for sex on a boat except on a cruise ship with hubby.
He made coffee in the little galley while I peed in the little commode which he explained had a reservoir waste tank to avoid feeding fish on the flush. This tidbit pleased my environment bent. We sat sipping a strong black brew and watched Olympia and the Port come alive as the sun rose from the east to bath the Capitol dome and the marina. He suggested we dock and have breakfast but it was time for me to go. We putted up to the marina dock, I clambered out, glad to be back on terra firma,, even if it still swayed, which the floating dock did.
Author Notes: Accepting her need for admiration of men the wife sets up a date with a man met while visiting her son at college.