Chapter 55: Avalon, S.C.

If I’d been a woman, I probably would have changed outfits half dozen times on Friday afternoon.  Fortunately, guys don’t have that gene.  Dress jeans—still seems like something of an oxymoron to me, but it is the Twenty-teens—with a collared shirt, sports coat, loafers, good to go.

Thought it interesting that Sabrina opted for dress jeans as well.  Great minds, maybe?  Subliminal message about not making too big a deal about it?  I’d likely never know.  Subliminal message about protecting her crotch?  Do women think like that?  Maybe I could bring it up on our 25th anniversary.  “Darling, you remember what you were wearing that first night we went out?”

Fortunately, I had the perfect icebreaker: an update on what I’d discovered in George’s journal.  That conversation lasted all the way to Bluffton—I’d opted for a restaurant there, possibly subconsciously avoiding Beaufort although I had no conscious reason to do so.

Sabrina declined a cocktail or a glass of wine.  “I’m not really on the wagon, but the last time I had something to drink I woke up with a powerful thirst and a granddaddy of a hangover in a strange place in the arms of a strange man.  So I’m being a little cautious.”

“Hey, I’m not a stranger.”

“I didn’t say a stranger, I said a strange man.  Rick Whittaker, you’re the strangest man I’ve met in a long time, possibly ever.  That’s not a bad thing, mind you.  Just a fact.”

“That’s funny, because I’ve never been strange before.  Just your average, moderately geeky, liberal arts type guy, trying to make his way in a technological world.”  As I spoke those words, it hit me.  “Actually, I think that pretty much explains what you’re experiencing as strangeness.  Discovering that there are things that science can’t explain and technology can’t control has changed the way I see the world.”

“Boy, you just said a mouthful, mister.  Before I met you, ‘bout the only things I believed in that you couldn’t touch were God and microwaves.  And I wasn’t all that sure about God.  Microwaves are still a miracle, but now I’ve also seen a woman I couldn’t touch who gave me a kickass drink that she brewed up on a fire without heat so she could hold a ceremony in the middle of a circle of rocks I couldn’t feel.”

“And that same woman gives me advice while I’m walking the sacred wheel.  You want to talk about a changed person?  I meditate while walking around a bunch of rocks in my back yard pretty much every day of my life.  And I don’t even have a TV that works.”

“So, Rick, how do you feel about this new you?”

It was a pretty intense conversation, but her question provided some nice comic relief.  I put my hand over my heart and looked up with my best saintly expression.  “How do I feel about it?  Oh, Sabrina, I confess that I occasionally still experience moments of sadness over the loss of a guy I’ve lived with for all of those years, but despite those grey clouds I delight in the warmth of hope breaking through and I feel like my chakras have finally aligned and it makes me feel . . .”  I poked around with my hand like I was trying to find my heart, “feel . . . feel, I don’t know.  Being a man I’m not sure how to describe it.  Feely?”

By this time Sabrina was cracking up and I couldn’t keep a straight face any longer either.

“OK, OK.  I get it.”

“Once we’re married, we’ll have to come to some understanding about how often you can ask me how I feel about something.  How about, once a month?”

“Once we’re married I’ll just tell you how you feel about things, silly.”

“Hey, that works for me.  So, Sabrina, how do I feel about this new me?”

“Maybe I’d better have that drink after all.  As I recall, we were going to have champagne.  Can’t let a little thing like waking up with a hangover get between me and my celebration.”

I signaled for the waiter and ordered a bottle of Mumms.  By the time I’d finished, Sabrina’s wicked smile was back.

“OK, let me put this in simple language even a guy can understand.  You don’t want to admit it, being a guy and all, but you like yourself better now.  How’d I do?”

Hearing it put that way set me back just a little.  Being a guy, I hadn’t actually thought about it.  But her answer seemed clear enough.  “Actually, I do.  I can’t imagine going back to not meditating.  Seems slovenly and undisciplined.  I can imagine owning a television, but it wouldn’t rule my life.  That’s slovenly and undisciplined as well.”

About that time the waiter returned with our bubbly.  Once he’d finished pouring, I raised my glass.  “Here’s to us.  To the liberated you and the new Rick Whittaker, unslovenly and disciplined.”

“Here, here.”  We clinked glasses, reminding me of Chai’s toast to men drinking outside of the box the night before.  So I shared with Sabrina the highlights of how the evening had gone.

“So, did you take your boss as a chaperone?”

“Maybe.  How do you ‘feel’ about that?”

And so dinner went, a feast of witty conversation without effort.  Right up until the coffee came.

“Rick, this has been a wonderful evening.  The best date I’ve been on since way before I got married.  And I don’t want to spoil it by talking about us.  But I feel like we need to.  Right now it’s just a lil’ mouse over in the corner, but it won’t be long before it’s the elephant in the room.  OK?”

“Well, we guys don’t normally talk about their relationships if it can be avoided.  But in this case, I’ve been repressing my curiosity for the sake of politeness.  So, by all means, have at it.”

“OK.”  Sabrina took a deep breath and then looked me directly in the eyes.  “I might be over JD, or at least on the road to being totally over him.  I haven’t dreamed about him ever since I walked the wheel out on the island.  Not even once.  Night dreams or day dreams, either one.  It’s been absolutely wonderful.  And for your part in making that happen, I am truly grateful.”

She reached over, took my arm with both hands, and squeezed hard.  I acknowledged her thanks with a soft nod, not intruding on her train of thought.  Taking joy in what she was saying, although I sensed a ‘but’ coming.

Sure enough.  “But here’s the thing.  I probably won’t know for sure until I see him again.  So I wonder if maybe it would be OK if we didn’t sleep together until after that.”

That wasn’t the ‘but’ I’d feared, certainly not what I’d expected her to say next.  Possibly wasn’t the moment for levity but in my relief, I couldn’t help myself.  “Oh, wow.  In nearly twenty years of dating, no woman has ever gotten in a preemptive strike before.  Usually I get there first with a bunch of begging and whining, and they’re too busy trying to think of polite ways of saying no.”

Sabrina shook her head, the corners of her lips turning up a smidgeon.  Probably smiling despite her best efforts at how hopeless I was at staying serious.

“But to answer your question formally.  Sabrina, I would be most delighted to engage in a platonic dating relationship of uncertain duration with you.”

“Well, I didn’t exactly mean platonic.  But thanks.  I know it’s a lot to ask.  I wouldn’t mind if you slept with your voodoo lady occasionally.”

“Sure you would.”

“You’re right.  I would.”



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