Driftwood (Chapters 1-3)

Chapter 1

I knew from the moment I spotted her on the beach that my life would never be the same.  I don’t know what it was exactly that drew my attention to her.  Yet I knew instinctively that she was it—the catalyst.  I was forever changed before the first “hello.” 
I had just finished washing dishes in my cottage on the Oregon coast.  It was September, and my husband and I were taking the first vacation he had managed to steal away from his interminable caseload.  Paul was a successful lawyer.  I was his wife.  I had been begging him all year to take me to the beach for a change of scenery.  Out of self-preservation, he finally arranged it.  He had tried initially to convince me to go by myself, but I refused.  I wanted my husband by my side.  I didn’t want to travel alone, like a woman who didn’t have a man who cared for her.  It wasn’t long, however, until I began wishing I had left him behind.
It was on the second evening of our vacation that I found myself walking alone on the beach.  The summer crowds had dwindled away, so I was able to amble along without running into more than a dozen people.  I assumed they were mostly local residents and perhaps a few visitors taking advantage of the off-season to spend a peaceful week at Cannon Beach
As I walked on the loose sand, my gaze took in the waves crashing against the dark rocks that lay scattered along the shore.  Huge rocks that reminded me of giant toys left behind by titanic gods of another world.  Their size amazed me.  Their geologic history intrigued me.  As I surveyed the scene, it was hard to tell which was the stronger of the two elements.  I knew that water had the ability to wear away the hard, solid surface. Yet as the powerful waves slammed into the rocks, they were instantly transformed into mere saline droplets.  Watching this interplay of water and rock, I felt as though the rocks were my heart and the waves my emotions.  Feeling a slight chill in these thoughts, I pulled my windbreaker close around me as I walked in the direction of Haystack Rock, the largest remnant of volcanic expulsions found at this particular point along the shore. 
I came upon her at a particularly isolated section of the beach.  She was sitting atop one of the many logs that had washed up on the shore.  She herself looked nearly as weathered and battered as the wood upon which she was perched.  Her long indigo hair was flipping wildly in the ocean breeze, snaking around the acoustic guitar cradled in her arms.  She was wearing a navy blue T-shirt and a pair of faded and tattered blue jeans.  Her feet were bare, although I noticed an incongruently new pair of blue Birkenstock sandals next to where she was seated.
It was her silhouette that first caught my attention.  She was playing her guitar and singing passionately to the waves, though I could hear nothing above the sound of the roaring wind and crashing waves.  Desiring to hear her voice, I ventured closer, hoping she wouldn’t stop her performance before I could get near enough to hear her singing.  I approached from the rear, for I had the distinct impression that she wouldn’t appreciate having an audience.
When I got within hearing range, I was delighted to find that her voice was rich and mellow, like a vintage red wine, smooth and silky, and just a tad sweet. I inhaled the melodic bouquet, swishing the sounds around in my head.  Her guitar sounded full and sensuous, its tones creating resonance with the emotions in my heart.  By the time she finished her song, I was almost close enough to reach out and touch her, but I didn’t.  Instead I waited breathlessly for the music to begin again.  When it did, I eased myself into a sitting position on a nearby log.  
I had seated myself slightly to the right of her.  Hopefully far enough behind her that she wouldn’t notice me, yet close enough to watch her marvelously talented hands.  She was playing an intricate tune on her guitar, her trained fingers finding just the right spots on the neck of her instrument.  Her right hand deftly picking out the melody in a way that made me feel as though she were making love to her guitar, rather than merely playing it.  I strained to understand the words that were falling from her lips.           

Things have changed; I’ve lost my way.
The skies I used to see have faded into gray.
Day by day, I’ve fallen back. 
Memories of my yesteryear
have thrown me off the track.

Looking ahead to the morning sun.
Trying to stop myself from being on the run.
Life is not as I wanted it to be.
I’ve become someone who is not really me.

Choices are simple, as long as they’re not mine.
Answers are easy, but changing takes up time.
I can never face tomorrow from the standpoint of today.
Goals I want to reach are a million miles away.

Letting go of the days gone by.
Praying that the veil will fall from my eyes.
I’m going to find that road again.
It may take time and just a little bit of pain.
Choices are simple, as long as they’re not mine.
Answers are easy, but changing takes up time.
I can never face tomorrow from the standpoint of today.
Goals I want to reach, they seem a million miles away.

She followed a passionate repetition of the chorus with more instrumentation then turned her head to look at me.  She gave me a polite and somewhat shy smile.  Her eyes were guarded, as though she were unsure what to do next.  I half expected her to get up and walk away, but she didn’t.  Instead she turned her gaze upon the ocean while she sat there hugging her guitar.  Then she turned back towards me.  “You live around here?” 
Her speaking voice was nearly as rich and hypnotic as her singing voice.  After having been silent for so long, I managed to whisper hoarsely, “I, no, I don’t. I mean…“  As my voice warmed to the task of communicating, I managed to continue in a normal tone, “Well, actually I do own a house here, but I don’t get to come very often.”
She started to smile, but instead knitted her brows and said, “Where do you normally live?”
Portland.  My husband and I are on vacation.” 
From the moment the words escaped my lips, I knew I had said something that displeased her.  I searched my mind trying to figure out what it was that had painted such a disappointed look on her face.  Was it that I was on vacation?  Was it that I was from Portland?  What was she thinking?
All she said was, “Oh, I see.”  Then she turned away from me to look out towards the horizon again, as though she had ended the conversation and was letting me know that I was free to go at any time.
“Do you?”  I asked quietly, half to myself, not expecting her to hear my words.
She looked back at me with a puzzled expression.  “I’m sorry.  Do I what?”
I stood up to leave, but decided to repeat the question, since she had asked.  I looked into her eyes.  “Do you see?”
She gave her head a brief shake.  “I think you lost me there.”   She looked at me with curiosity, as though I were a quaint little circus sideshow few people would pay to see.
I turned my gaze towards the ocean, trying to avoid her bemused look.  “I told you I was from Portland, and that my husband and I were vacationing here.  Then you said, ‘Oh, I see,’ as though you had concluded something about me from that information.  I just wondered what it was you had decided about me.”
She shrugged then raised one hand in bewilderment.  “I think I was just trying to be polite.  I don’t go in for small talk much.  You’ll have to excuse me.”
I laughed at the look of discomfort on her face.  “I’m sorry.  I’m behaving rather oddly, aren’t I?  I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.  I was just curious about what you meant by ‘Oh, I see.’  Call me vain, if you will, but I wanted to know what it was you were envisioning.  Were you really learning something about me?  Were you finding hidden meaning in my words?  Never mind.  I don’t have the foggiest idea what’s come over me.  I’m not usually like this.”
“Not a problem.”  She got up and slipped her sandals on, as though she were about to leave. 
“Don’t go!”
She frowned at me and cocked her head to one side.  “Are you all right?  Do you need help?  I mean do you need someone to talk to or something?”
“No!  I mean, yes, I’m all right.  No, I don’t need anyone to talk to.”  I paused and took stock of the thoughts and emotions that were violently colliding inside me.  “Well, yes, perhaps I do need someone to talk to.  Do you have a minute?  I could buy you a latte, if you’d like.”
She smiled at me and shook her head.  “I’ll pass on the latte.  I’d be up all night if I drank one now.”
“Okay, so how about some frozen yogurt?”
She laughed.  “Okay, frozen yogurt it is.”  Using the strap that was attached to it, she slung her guitar onto her back and gestured for me to lead the way.
I brushed the sand from my knit slacks and headed up the beach towards town.  I waited for her to catch up with me, so we could walk side by side.  “I suppose you think I’m completely insane by now.  I’m not usually like this.  I didn’t think I needed to talk to anyone.  Then suddenly I realized that was exactly what I needed.”
“And who better to talk to than a stranger playing her guitar on the beach, right?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it in that way.  Am I being weird?  It’s just that I saw you out there on the log, and I felt compelled to get close enough to hear you.  I knew you must have a magnificent alto voice.”
She smiled at me and shook her head again.  “I’m a contralto.  Sorry if I disappointed you.”
“What disappointment?  You have a magnificent voice!  It sounds even better than I expected.”
“Have you been playing long?”
“About twenty years now.”
“Heavens!  How old are you?”
“Thirty-three, I think.”
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t pay much attention to time.  What year is this?  1997, right?”
I nodded, so she continued.  “Then yes, I’m thirty-three, and I’ve been playing and singing for twenty years now.”
“Gracious.  No wonder you’re so good at it.  I can’t imagine doing anything for twenty years.”
“Not even being married?”  Her nonchalant glance was like a blow to the side of my brain.  I stopped walking and looked at her intently.  “What an odd question.”
She stopped walking too, stuffed one hand in the pocket of her jeans, and looked down at the sand, as though trying to avoid my gaze.  “Sorry.  I say odd things sometimes.”
I looked down at her feet.  She was lazily etching an arc in the sand with her right foot.  It looked to me like a smile, a mocking smile.  “I don’t know that I can imagine being married for twenty years, now that you mention it.”
Her gaze returned to my face.  “How long have you been married?”
“Fifteen years this past June.”
She smiled somewhat ruefully at me.  “Then you’d better start figuring out what you’d rather be doing because you’re running out of time.”
I shook my head and stared at her even more intently.  “You’re making my head hurt.”
She laughed a bit.  “Sorry.  I’ve been known to do that to people at times.”
“Make their heads hurt?”
She nodded.  “I’m sorry if I’ve upset you.  I don’t try to do it.  It just sort of happens.  I listen to what people say and try to hear the meaning behind their words before I respond.  Somehow that comes out in a way that makes people uncomfortable.  It isn’t a conscious thing.  I don’t think I could do it if I were consciously trying.  I just state what I perceive to be the obvious.  Only it usually isn’t all that obvious to anyone else.”
I turned and looked back at the ocean.  “But you’re right.  I never voiced it to myself or anyone else, but I can’t imagine being married to Paul for twenty years.  Yet it has almost happened without my being aware of it.”
She shrugged.  “Time gets away from us all.”
“Yes,” I said sadly, “I suppose it does.”
We started walking again towards the ice cream shop.  I couldn’t put the thought out of my head that I had been married for over fifteen years.  The worst part was that I really didn’t like the idea of being married to Paul for that long.  It wasn’t that the reality of it was so bad.  We got along well enough.  Too well really.  We seldom fought, which I sometimes viewed as being an indication that we had a good relationship.  In my rare moments of dissatisfaction, however, I knew that we seldom fought because we seldom saw each other.  He was always at work.  I was always making the social rounds, playing the part of the politically correct wife, who was saving the world through her volunteer work.  Most of the time, Paul and I were little more than roommates.
“Are you married?”  I asked abruptly.
She laughed and shook her head, her eyes dancing with mischief.  “Oh no.  They don’t let my kind marry, and I wouldn’t marry if they did.”
“What do you mean, ‘your kind?’”
“Lesbians.”  She let the word roll off her tongue for dramatic effect.  “We’re not allowed to marry in a legal sense.  Sure, we can have some sort of religious ceremony if we know a sympathetic pastor, but we haven’t yet been given the privilege of legal matrimony.  That’s one of the ‘special rights’ political conservatives are paranoid about granting to us.  They’re afraid we’ll poison society with our perverted love.”  She rolled her eyes in derision then looked at me from the side to see how I was taking this information.
“I see.”
She laughed.  “That’s fair enough.  I’ve just given you my first self-revelatory remark, and you gave me the same response I gave you.  The summing up of an entire life, filled with complications and intricacies, into a single stereotype—radical lesbian separatist.  If we’re going to sit down and have a heart to heart talk, then I should confess that I was probably writing you off as a yuppie heterosexist woman who lives to please men.  An unfair judgment, no doubt, but it’s really difficult when you first meet someone.  Humans seem to have a terrible need to categorize everything.  You say one thing to me about who you are, and I automatically stick you in the yuppie het woman slot and dismiss you as uninteresting.”
“Your honesty is rather unnerving.  Are you always this candid, or did my blithering introduction set the pace for the rest of this conversation?”
“I’m usually this honest, though I have to admit that your initial response to my cursory dismissal immediately removed you from the ‘uninteresting’ category.”
“So how do I get out of the heterosexist category?  I consider myself heterosexual, but not heterosexist.  I do have some gay friends back in Portland.”
She smiled and looked me boldly in the eyes.  “Let me kiss you right here in public.”
She bent over laughing, trying hard to keep her guitar strap from slipping off her shoulder.  “That was a joke.  I’m sorry.  I couldn’t resist.”
I tried to act as though this woman weren’t making me feel terribly uncomfortable.  “You know, you don’t really look like a lesbian radical separatist.”
“No?  What does one look like then?”
“Most of the ones I’ve known have really short haircuts and multiple body piercings.”
“Yeah, well, me too, but I’m not really a lesbian separatist.  That was just the label I figured you would stick on me.  I’m just a lesbian who likes to stay separate from everyone, not just men.  I personally don’t care right now that gays can’t get married because I wouldn’t want to lie to my lover or myself.  Mind you, I don’t think it’s fair that I don’t have the right to marry a person of my choosing, whatever the gender, but I don’t think marriage is the right choice for my life.  I don’t feel that it would be honest for me to take vows of ‘until death do us part.’  How can I know whether I will love the same person twenty years from now?  I don’t even know where I’ll be two months from now.  I may be backpacking across Europe or kayaking along the Alaskan coast.  How can I say to a lover ‘I’ll stay beside you forever and always?’”
“But couldn’t you do those things with your lover?”
“I don’t know.  It’s not that I don’t ever have a lover, or that I don’t ever have a traveling companion.  It’s just that it isn’t usually the same person year after year.  Relationships bottom out, and I’m ready to move on or they tire of traveling.  There’s too much to see in this world to get stuck in one place, working nine to five, day in and day out, just to make house payments.”
“How do you live?  What do you use for money?”
“I sleep in the camper on my truck.”
I felt my eyebrows rise up on my face.  “You mean you’re homeless?”
“Now don’t look at me like that.  And don’t even think about making me into an object of pity.  I’m not homeless.  I just don’t own a stationary home.”
“A drifter.” 
Her blue eyes turned to slate as she looked at me.          
“Yeah, okay, I’m a drifter.  That’s something you do by choice.  Homeless people aren’t generally homeless by choice.  I work for a while in one town—doing odd jobs, waiting tables, or playing gigs, if I’m lucky.  Then I move on to another place I’ve always wanted to see.”
“Like where?”
“Anywhere I haven’t been.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Isn’t what dangerous?”
“Living in your truck.”
“Not any more than living in your house.  I usually stop in a state park or private campground.  Then I stay a few days, weeks, or several months, depending on whether I like the place.  I’m safe enough.  I’m not sleeping on the streets.”
“What about bathing?”
“Campgrounds usually have showers.”
“Oh.  Well, what about food?”
“What do you mean?”
“How do you eat?”
“With two hands, the same way I make love.” 
The look she gave me startled me.  It was both seductive and innocently playful.  I stopped walking again and turned to face her.  “Are you trying to offend me?”
“Why?  Are you offended because I said that?”  Her expression changed quickly to one of guarded passivity.
“No, it’s just that, it seemed like— Oh never mind.”  We started walking again then stopped at the street corner to wait for a line of cars to pass.  When the traffic was clear, we continued up the street.
“If you want to know how I cook, I told you.  I have a pick-up truck with a camper.  It has a bed and a stove in it.  I even have a little television.  Why is it that when elderly people do this, they call it retirement?  But when I do it, it’s called drifting.”
“Because when they do it they’ve already lived their life, and now it’s over, and, and... that doesn’t make any sense to me either.  Don’t look at me that way!  I’m perfectly aware that what I just said was utterly ridiculous.”
She looked at me with an enigmatic smile.  I had no idea what she was thinking at the time, but I would’ve emptied my bank account to find out what it was.  I opened the door to the ice cream shop and walked in.   My blue-jean clad companion followed me inside, still smiling that maddening smile of hers.   

Chapter 2

Once inside the ice cream shop, we slipped into a momentary silence while we pondered the vast array of choices before us.  I decided on a vanilla low-fat frozen yogurt.  My companion asked for a Rocky Road ice cream cone, double scoop.  I paid the teenage boy at the counter then started to sit down on the benches outside the store.  She motioned for me to follow her, so I did. 
“There’s a better place to sit just up the road a bit.  It’s a little more private.  That way we can talk without worrying about being overheard.”
A sudden sense of panic hit me.  I wasn’t sure what place she was referring to, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go anywhere private with this self-proclaimed, rootless lesbian.  She’d already made a couple of unnerving references to sexual intimacy.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into.  I was visibly relieved when she stopped at some public picnic tables just down the road from the ice cream shop.
She looked at me with a smirk on her face. “What’s the matter?  You looked scared there for a minute.  Did you think I was going to take you down some dark alley and smear Rocky Road all over you then lick it off?”
Angered by her words, I responded curtly, “Do you always make this many sexual remarks to strangers?”
“Why?  How many have I made?”
“Three, in just twenty minutes.”
“You’re counting and timing me?”  She shook her head as though I were a naughty little girl.  “You’re not earning many non-heterosexist points, I’m afraid.  And yeah, I probably do make this many sexual innuendoes to strangers.  When you move around a lot, most people you encounter in your life are strangers.  Why waste time mincing words?  I say what I think.  I apologize if I’ve offended your yuppie sensibility, but that’s just how I am.  Perhaps you should think twice before you pick up vagrants on the beach.”
I glared at her.  “I didn’t know you were a vagrant when I picked you up.”
She laughed and shook her head then looked at me sideways.  “So you admit to picking me up?”
“What?  Oh, I didn’t realize that was what you meant.”
“That’s four.”  She held up four fingers and wriggled them at me.
“Please stop.  You’re making me uncomfortable, and I think you’re doing it on purpose.”
She smiled at me.  “I am.  Just wanted to show you how heterosexist you really are, and not just heterosexist, you’re demonstrating your homophobia as well.  It doesn’t matter how many gay friends you have.  You’re afraid of me because you think I’m coming onto you.  That’s homophobia. 
“You can have lots of black friends too, but if you clutch your purse tighter when you pass an unknown black man on the street, you’re showing your racism.”
The truth of that stung a bit, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself, much less to this most unsettling woman.  “What is it you want from me?”
“What do I want from you?  I was the one who was sitting there on a log, minding my own business and playing my guitar, when you came along and started staring at me.  That usually precedes a pick-up line, which is usually followed by a night in the sack.  What was I supposed to think?  I’m the one who should be asking what it is you want from me.  Or are you not in touch with yourself enough to realize what you want?”
“Are you implying that I want to have sex with you?”
“Not necessarily.  Are you inferring that I want to have sex with you?”
“No.  Yes.  I don’t know.  You’re confusing me.”
She laughed behind her ice cream cone.  “Sorry,” she said, though she looked completely impenitent.
“What’s your name anyway?”
“Why?  Do you need to know that before we have sex?  Do you want my history of lovers?  My medical records?”
I started to get and up leave, but she caught my arm and gently stopped me.
“I’m sorry.  You’re just so funny.  You’re trying so hard not to appear homophobic, and yet every time I make a sexually loaded comment, you get more uptight.  Relax.  I wasn’t planning on taking you to bed with me tonight.  That can wait.  And I’m clean.  I’ve been practicing safe sex since before the AIDS epidemic.  There’s more than one sexually transmitted disease going around.”
I sat down again.  “Look this isn’t about sex.  I just wanted to listen to your music.”
The muscles in her face tightened for a moment then relaxed again.  When she spoke her voice was suddenly soft and husky.  “Yeah, well when you listen to my music, you’re listening to my soul.  That makes me feel pretty naked.  Sneaking up on me like that was kind of like me watching you undress through an open window.”
I covered my mouth with my hand, shocked by the realization that I had been very rude to this woman.  I lowered my hand then reached it out towards her. “I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize. That was insensitive of me to interrupt your reverie with my eavesdropping.  I just felt compelled.”
“Do you always follow through on your compulsions or just the ones that aren’t sexual?”
“Why is everything sexual to you?  I just wanted to listen to your music.  That’s all.  Apparently I shouldn’t have done that.  I said I was sorry.  I’ll stop pestering you.”
I got up to leave again.  I threw my empty yogurt cup into the trashcan and started walking back to my house, glancing over my shoulder to see how she would react.  She finished off her cone with a final slurp, wiping her mouth on the napkin in her hand.  When she had disposed of her garbage, she took several quick steps towards me to catch up.  She stopped in front of me on the sidewalk, making it impossible for me to continue walking without detouring into the street.  She put her hands on my upper arms and made me look into her eyes.  Her smile had been replaced by a penetrating look of honesty.
“I don’t think everything is sexual.  I think everything is spiritual, including sex.  My sexual side is part of my spiritual side, and it’s also very much part of my musical side.  You invaded my space in a moment of spiritual and emotional intimacy.  I didn’t think it would be polite if I just told you off, so I guess I’ve been needling you instead.  I will stop. 
“We came here to talk about you.  So far we’ve talked mostly about me.  Now it’s your turn.  And don’t tell me your name, or you won’t be telling your life story to a perfect stranger.  That’s why you don’t need to know mine.  It removes the anonymity.  Isn’t that what you wanted, a stranger to talk to?”
“I don’t know what I want.  You’ve got me completely confused.”
She laughed slightly.  “Honey, I think you were confused long before you met me.  I’m just making you realize how confused you are.”
“Why are you doing that?”
“I’m not doing it on purpose.  Honestly.  I had a lover once who told me I was a painful friend to have.  She said that I was like a mirror.  In order to be around me, you have to be willing to look at yourself in the mirror, to look truth in the eyes and deal with it.  I guess it’s my gift to the people around me.  Trust me.  I would give the gift to someone else if I could.  It has made for more than one uncomfortable moment in my life.  But it isn’t something I can just stop doing.  Or if I did, I wouldn’t feel as though I were being honest.”
I pushed past her and began walking up the street again.  “God help me if I ever ran into you on a bad hair day!”
She caught up with me and fell into stride.  “This has nothing to do with social niceties.  I might tell you your hair looked horrible, or I might just ignore it, assuming you already knew it and didn’t need me to tell you.  On the other hand, I would tell you if you had spinach in your teeth.”  She smiled a disarming smile.
“Good!  But I hope you would do it gently.  My husband points out all my faults with glee almost.  I think he likes exposing my flaws.  He says he’s just trying to help me, so I don’t embarrass myself in public.  But it feels like something more than that.”
“Sounds like a real sweetheart.”
“No, he’s actually a nice guy.”
“I see.”
“There you go again writing me off.  What does that ‘I see’ mean?”
“Nothing.  It’s just a reminder to me that you can put your husband down, but I can’t.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.  I just didn’t want you to get the wrong impression of Paul.”
“Excuse me, but I don’t give a flying fig about Paul.”
“No, I guess you wouldn’t.”
“I’ll probably never even meet him, so it doesn’t matter what I think of him.”
“No, I suppose not.”
“Can we change the subject, or is this what you need to talk about, your husband and his nit-picking?”
“I should let you go.  I’m obviously wasting your time.”
“Only if you think so.”
“I don’t know what I think.”
“Now we’re getting to it.  You’re really confused about something.  What is it?  Is this mid-life crisis time?  If so, I’m the woman to talk to.  I know all about those.”
“Do you?  How is that?”
“Later.  You first.”
“I don’t know where to start.  I didn’t know I had anything to talk about until you asked me if I needed someone to talk to.  Suddenly I felt as though I desperately needed someone to talk to about my life, but I don’t know where to begin.  I have a whole bundle of emotions that have been wreaking havoc on my personal life without my awareness.  So where do I start?”
“How about with your sex life?”
“Oh please, let’s not start that again.”
She put up her hands in front of her body as though to ward off a blow from me.  “No, no.  I’m serious.  How you feel about your sexual life is a good indicator as to how you feel about the rest of your life.”
“Thank you, Dr. Ruth.”
“I’m serious.  How are you and Paul doing sexually?”
“Well, we usually have sex every Sunday morning.  It’s the only day of the week he sleeps in.”
“How do you feel about that?”  She stopped momentarily to shift the weight of her guitar onto the opposite shoulder then proceeded.
I started to say something until I realized how close I was getting to my cottage.  I took my companion by the elbow and steered her back down towards the beach.  “Would you like to take your guitar somewhere and set it down?  I can’t imagine that it would be very comfortable to carry it around on your back all the time.”
“It’s not that heavy, but my truck is down there, if you don’t mind if I drop it off real quick.”
I hesitated.
“Don’t worry.  I’m not planning on attacking you in my camper.  You can stay here if you’d like.  It’ll only take a few minutes.”
Determined not to earn any more homophobic points, I said, “No, it’s okay, I’ll walk with you.”
“You have successfully changed the subject, but I’m going to keep asking the same question until you get honest with yourself at least.  Even if you don’t tell me the truth, tell yourself the truth.  How do you feel about your sex life?”
I sighed.  “It’s boring.  It’s infrequent.  It’s monotonous.”
“Have you told him that?”
“Are you kidding?”
“No, I’m not kidding.  Tell him how you feel then see what he does about it.  That’s a good way to test the waters.”
I stopped and frowned at her.  “What if I don’t like what gets stirred up?”
She shook her head dismissively.  “Then live with the status quo, I guess, or move on.”
“Is that your answer to everything?  Moving on?”
“Just about.”
We arrived at the parking lot where her camper was sitting.  It was not what I had expected somehow.  It was a nearly new green Ford pickup with shiny chrome wheels.  The camper on the back was in mint condition as well.  Aside from the light film of sea salt that attaches itself to everything on the coast it seemed to be clean on the outside.  When she opened the door, I discovered that the inside was more immaculate than either of my houses.
It was a small camper, but an efficient one.  There was a full size bed in the loft over the cab of the truck.  There were two swivel chairs, upholstered in brown velour, in what would be considered the living room.  With a flick of her wrist, the room was transformed into a dining area.  She had pulled a hidden table out of a panel on the wall, and locked it into place between the two chairs.  The kitchenette was done in rich honey-stained wood tones.  There was a sink, a stove, and a refrigerator, all in miniature.  There was also a small microwave oven on the counter.  On top of the kitchen cabinets was a bookshelf that contained several dozen books.
“Is there a bathroom in this place?”
She laid her guitar on the bed before answering me.  “Yes, but it’s very tiny.  It matches the kitchen appliances.  Do you need to use it?  It’s back there behind the cabinet.  I usually use it only in the middle of the night when I don’t have the wherewithal to put on enough clothes to go to the campground bathrooms.”
“No, I was merely curious.  So where are you camping right now?”
“I found a place just north of town.  It’s quiet and fairly inexpensive.”
“How long do you plan to stay there?”
“Now that all depends on what transpires in the next few days.”  She looked at me out of the corner of her eye.
I looked at her coyly.  “That’s another innuendo, isn’t it?”
She nodded, her eyes filled with merriment.
“I didn’t get upset that time.”
“No, you didn’t.  You get lots of positive points for that one even though it was really subtle.”
“It’s about time I earned some good points!”
She laughed then visibly began warming up to her role as hostess.  “Can I get you something to drink?  There’s a Henry Weinhard’s root beer in the fridge and some orange juice too, I think, whichever you’d prefer.”
“I’ll split the root beer with you.”
“One root beer coming right up.”
She opened one of the kitchen cabinets and pulled out two plastic cups.  “I’ll even use my best plastic mugs for you.”
I smiled.  “I guess it could get expensive to have glasses knocking around in the cupboards.”
“There’s a way to do it, but I figure it’s easier this way.”
She twisted the cap off the bottle and poured the contents into the cups, making sure to keep the foam from spilling over the lip of the cups. She handed me a cup then lifted her own by way of a toast, “Here’s to Henry, may he always give good head.”  She winked at me and took a swig of her drink.
I shook my head at her then lifted my cup and tapped it against hers.  “To Henry.  May he stay true to his roots.”
She nearly choked on her drink.  “That was good, even if it wasn’t sexual.”
I beamed under her praise.  “Why, thanks!”
She motioned for me to sit in one of the chairs, so I did.  She took the other one then leaned towards me.  “So what do you think of my little home?”
“It’s marvelous.  I really like it.  Very tiny, but efficient.”
“Perfect for traveling light.”
“Yes, I can see that.  Like a turtle carrying its house around on its back.” 
There was a moment of silence.  Then the woman beside me retrieved her guitar and started strumming it, running her left hand up and down the neck, playing a tune I wasn’t familiar with. 
When she was finished, I asked, “What song was that?”
“One I’m in the process of writing.  It doesn’t have a name just yet.”
“It’s kind of like you then.”
“Have you decided you’d like to know my name now?”
“No, I haven’t, but mine’s Rita.”  I thrust my hand towards her in a friendly gesture.  She took it in her own and pressed it firmly.
“Is that Rita as in ‘lovely Rita meter maid?’”  She sang a line from the old Beatles’ song, pronouncing the word meter the way they had sung it to make it rhyme with Rita.
“Yes, I got called that a lot when I was growing up.”
“Somehow I’m not surprised.”
“Did you write that last song you played on the beach?”
“Yes, I write all the songs I play.”
“Would you play some for me, or is that still too intimate?”
“Well, it helps if I know when someone is listening.  I didn’t realize you were there until I was almost finished.  I think my eyes had been closed.”
“That helped to make the song more mesmerizing.  I could tell you were really feeling what you were singing.”
She smiled, almost shyly.  “That’s the intimate part.”
I nodded in understanding.  Then she began to play again.  This time she beat out a hard rhythm on the strings, her foot tapping in time to the beat.

I’m running out of breath
and my pen’s running out of ink.
I don’t know where to go;
I cannot even think.
I’ve been searching for something,
but I don’t know what.
I act as though I’m free,
and yet I know I’m caught.

Caught in a nightmare,
and I can’t wake up.
I’m locked in a room
that is gonna blow up.
Running from myself;
I’m running from this dream.
Running from the city
with its glitter and gleam.

If there is an answer,
then it better come quickly
I need an overdose of reality.
I thought that getting high
would surely set me free.
But now the walls are moving;
darkness is closing in on me.

And I’m caught in a nightmare, and I can’t wake up.
I’m locked in a room that is gonna blow up.
Running from myself; I’m running from this dream.
Running from the city with its glitter and gleam.
She repeated the chorus then finished the song with a riveting rhythmic performance.  She looked over at me, something she hadn’t done throughout the entire song.  She had either stared at the floor or kept her eyes closed.  She looked as though she expected me to say something.
“Wow!  That was something.”
“You didn’t like it.”
“No, I did like it.  It was very powerful.  It was like you were singing your heart out.  That must take an awful lot of energy.”
“That’s not all it takes, Rita.”
“What do you mean?”
“It takes a lot of trust for me to pour out my soul in a song like that.  That’s the very core of me that’s singing.”
“Thank you for trusting me enough to play for me.  You don’t have to keep on, if you don’t want to.”
“No, I like singing for you.  I can tell you feel what I’m saying.  I’m not just a radio blaring in the background to you.” 
“I do feel what you’re saying.  Your songs make me want to ask you all kinds of questions about yourself.’
“Like what?’
“What are you running from?  Is that why you don’t stay in one place?  And do you still do drugs?”
“I don’t know that I am running from anything.  I wrote that song when I was in college as a memorial to having buried my drug habit five years previous to that time.  I quit doing drugs just before my junior year in high school.”
“What did you study in college?”
She smiled slightly, as though embarrassed.  “If I tell you, you’ll laugh.”
“I won’t laugh.”
“The Bible.”
I snickered.  I couldn’t help it.  It caused such cognitive dissonance to be sitting here talking to this woman who was a songwriting, guitar-playing, lesbian vagabond.  Just minutes before she had me seriously convinced that she was about to abscond with my person.  It was amusing to find that she had studied the Bible in college.
“I told you that you’d laugh.”
“I’m sorry, but you were right.  That is rather hilarious.  How did that happen?”
“Well, I had gotten pretty heavily into the drug scene in the seventies.  I was searching for truth, not just an escape from life’s pressure.  I wanted answers.  I thought I might be able to find them in drugs.  When I didn’t, I turned to Christianity.  When I didn’t find them there either, I began to look inside myself.”
“Did you find your answers there?”
“Sort of.  I’m still finding them.  That’s what this camper is all about and the wandering.  I’m just living for the moment in a society that has a habit of living for the future, while remaining mired in the past.”
“So does that mean you’re into Zen?”
“No, not really.  I’m not into anything formally.  I find philosophical and spiritual teachings of all kinds interesting and helpful.  But mostly I try to find the truth within.  So far I’m to the point where I realize that life is the journey.  It’s not the end of the road I need to be concerned about, but the road itself.  So I took to the road literally, in order to reinforce that truth, I guess.”
“Hmm.  That’s rather interesting.”
“Is it?”
“Yes, it is.  So, Pilgrim, what is your name?”
“Tired of the anonymity or just curious?”
“It’s Beth.”
“Beth.  Hmm, that fits.”
She cocked her head to one side.  “Does it now?”
I nodded my head.  “Yes, it does.”
She set her guitar down.  “Good.  I’m glad you approve.  I’d hate to think I’d lived all these years with the wrong name.”  Her eyes sparkled at me. 
A little uncomfortable with the silence that followed, I said abruptly, “Is there a pay phone nearby?”
Beth looked startled.  “I haven’t a clue.  Why?”
“I need to call my husband to tell him that I’m all right.  I don’t want him to worry.  It’s starting to get dark out there.  I’ve been gone for over an hour.”
She pulled a cell phone out of a backpack that sat on the floor behind her chair and offered it to me.  “Here.  Knock yourself out.”
I took it from her.  “Thanks.  This place really has all the comforts of home, doesn’t it?”
She smiled.  “Most of them.”
I called my house and left a message on the answering machine.  I wondered where Paul was, more out of curiosity than caring.  I figured he must’ve gone to town to pick up something to eat or drink.  We hadn’t yet fully stocked the house for our week’s vacation.  Mostly because I hadn’t been in the mood to plan anything.
I told the answering machine to tell Paul that I would be home later.  I had run into a friend and was having a good time talking with her.  I told him not to worry, even though I knew he’d get caught up in some television program and not even notice I wasn’t there.  Then I hung up and handed the phone back to Beth.
“Not there, huh?  I hope he isn’t out looking for you.”
I had to laugh at that one.  “No, he wouldn’t be out looking for me.  We aren’t that kind of couple.  We don’t keep a close eye on each other.  He goes his way; I go mine.  Sometimes I wonder why we ever married.”
“Have you ever come up with a good reason?’
“No, I haven’t, I’m sorry to say.  It was convenience mostly.  I met Paul when I was in college.  He asked me out, so we started dating.  He asked me to marry him and I consented.  Then I quit school to help support him while he went on to law school.”
“Why didn’t you wait until you’d gotten your degree before you married him?”
“At the time, I didn’t really have a reason for going to college.  I was doing it because my parents wanted me to become a teacher, so I’d have something to fall back on, if I couldn’t find a good husband.  Instead I found a good husband.  They liked Paul and thought he was an excellent choice, so I got a marriage certificate instead of a degree.  College wasn’t important to me anyway.  In fact, I was relieved to be able to throw my books aside and get a job to help Paul.”
“What did you do?”
“I worked for my father in one of the department stores he owned.  He put me in the housewares department, figuring it would be a good way for me to learn more about homemaking.  He was right.  I learned everything I needed to know about becoming a good lawyer’s wife.  I learned about decorating and entertaining.  All those wonderful skills that make a man glad he picked you.”
My tone was becoming more and more acidic the longer I talked.  The bitterness I felt welling up inside me was a surprise, but I found that I couldn’t stop talking now that I had begun.  “Now I’m his liaison on the social ladder in the law firm.  I plan the parties and the dinners, while he jockeys for position in the legal world.  The better social wife I am, the better he looks to the firm.”
“I see.”
I made a face.  “There you go again.  What have you concluded about me this time?”
“I think what I concluded in the beginning.”
“Oh, so you’ve concluded that you were right in thinking I was—how did you put it?”
“A yuppie, heterosexist woman.”
“Is that really what you think?”
“From where I’m sitting, you don’t look as though you’re all that happy with your life.  Sometimes being a success in the eyes of the world requires a prostitution of the soul.”
“Are you telling me that I sold my soul to be successful?”
“No, I’d say you sold your soul for security.”
I found myself getting angry, more at myself than at Beth.  But it was easier to blame her for my discomfort than it was to take responsibility for my own choices.  “And just what was I suppose to do?  Become an elementary school teacher and wipe snotty noses all day?”
“Look, I’m not trying to tell you what you should have done with your life, and I’m not saying that what you did was wrong.  You did what you thought you should do.  We all make decisions we regret later, even though they seemed like the best thing to do at the time.  The important thing now is to figure out what you want to do with your life from this moment on.  Is there anything you love to do that you could turn into a career that you would love?”
“I’m not sure.  Perhaps.  I’ll have to ponder that later.  Right now, I think I could stand to use your bathroom.”
Beth got up and looked out the window of the camper.  “I’ll tell you what.  I’ll walk with you over to the restroom in the park over there.  Then we can both go, and you won’t have to try to use that microscopic toilet in there.  You have to be a contortionist just to pee.  Better yet, I’ll just pull the truck around there so we don’t have to walk through the park at night.  I don’t know how safe it is out here after dark.”
“Me neither.  We don’t get to spend much time at our cottage, even though I’d really like to.  I like Cannon Beach.  I wish we could live here instead of Portland.”
“Why can’t you?”
“Paul’s career is centered there.”
“He couldn’t move it out here?”
“Not without a great deal of trouble.  Besides Paul loves Portland.”
“Does Rita love Portland?”
I picked at a loose thread on my blouse.  “Not really.  I mean, it’s all right for a big city, I suppose, but I prefer the beach to the city.”
Beth nodded then opened the camper door.  “Just sit tight.  I’ll drive the truck around.”  She walked around to the cab of the pickup and drove us over to the restrooms.  I sat in silence, wondering what it would be like to live in Cannon Beach year around.

Chapter 3

After our bathroom break, we settled ourselves into the camper again.  Beth started rummaging around in the cabinets.  “Are you hungry?”
“A little.  What time is it anyway?”  I looked for the wristwatch that was conspicuously absent from my wrist.  “I should probably go home.”
“It’s nine o’clock.  Do you want to call Paul again to see if he’s back yet?”
The thought of going home to Paul was decidedly disagreeable, so I hoped Beth wasn’t anxious to be alone again.  “No.  He’s all right.  So what are you finding to eat in there?”
She displayed her discoveries for me.  “Corn chips or cheddar cheese popcorn.  Which will it be?”
A surge of excitement rushed through me, and I felt as though I were on my way to a teenage slumber party.  “How about the popcorn?  And some water too, if you don’t mind.”
“Don’t mind a bit,” Beth replied cheerfully.  “Hand me your cup so I can rinse it out.”  She got out a bowl and dumped in the popcorn, then poured us both a cup of cold water.  She sat down across the table from me and began to toss popcorn into her mouth.
“How do you keep the refrigerator cold while you’re parked out here?”
“I use a variety of methods.  Mostly I run the fridge off a separate battery that I recharge either with regular electric current or through the solar panels on the roof, whichever is most readily available at the moment.”
“You’re pretty self-sufficient then.”
“I try to be in more ways than one.”
“I’m beginning to see that,” I said thoughtfully.  “I guess you think I’ve sold myself short, huh?”
“That’s not for me to say.”
I put my hand over the one she had resting on the table and felt the warmth of it enter my body.  I tried not to notice how safe it made me feel.  “Now be honest with me.  I’d like to know how my life looks from someone else’s perspective.”
She moved her hand nonchalantly away from mine and retrieved a piece of popcorn that had leaped onto the floor of the camper.  “I don’t know you very well obviously, but I would say that your life is beginning to seem a little empty to you.  You did what your parents wanted you to, had brought you up to do, and now you’re bored.  It may be nothing more than a mid-life crisis.  You may go through some serious soul-searching, only to find that it’s not so bad after all.”
“You really think so?”
“Then why did you say that?”
“Because I thought you might need some reassurance that your whole world wasn’t crumbling to dust.”
A wave of self-pity washed over me, causing tears to well up in my eyes.  “It is crumbling, isn’t it?  I don’t know why I didn’t see it until now.  I’ve had nagging doubts before about my marriage, but I dismissed them as silly.”
“And you may dismiss them again as silly.  Who knows how you’ll feel tomorrow when you wake up?”  She squeezed my forearm reassuringly.
“What do you think I should do?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“I don’t know.  You seem to have it all together.  You don’t need society’s approbation.  You’re content to do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it.  You’re free, Beth.  Truly free.  Isn’t that an exhilarating feeling?”
“Not always.  It was at first.”
“When did you become a drifter?”
“I think I’ve always been a drifter inside.  I just didn’t know how to live the reality of it.  I’ve been driving this camper for close to five years now.  All over the U.S. and Canada.  One of these days, I want to backpack across Europe.  I almost bought myself a Eurail pass last year.  I did get my passport, just in case.”
“What did you do before you started traveling?”
“Oh, I went from job to job, just trying to find something that would hold my interest for more than a year or two.  I never found anything that did.  Except music.”
“Why don’t you pursue that?  Make records and do concerts.”
“Too lazy, I suppose.  It’s not as though I have a great deal of mass appeal.  A lot of my songs have a very lesbian point of view.  There aren’t that many lesbian bars and bookstores in this country.  I’ve been to most of them, so I should know.  I suppose I could sell my records myself, if it came to that, but I’m just not sure that’s what I want to do.”
“You’re really good though.  I think you could be successful at it.”
“I’m not sure I want to be successful.  There’s a price to pay for being Melissa Etheridge or k.d. lang.  I’m not sure I’m willing to pay that price.  I like being able to sit and play my guitar in public, without being surrounded by hordes of fans.  Besides when you’re famous, you never know whether people love you for yourself, your fame, or even your talent.  I don’t want to have to wonder about that.”
“So you hide behind obscurity?”
“Perhaps.  I don’t know.  What do you think?  How does my life look from where you’re sitting?”  She looked at me as though she were only mildly curious about what I thought of her life.  I got the feeling that my opinion wouldn’t mean a whole lot to her and that she was merely engaging in polite conversation.
“Well, part of me thinks that it would be romantic just to drive off and leave behind all my responsibilities.”
“Now hold on there.  I have responsibilities too.  I have to make sure I stay solvent.  I have to keep the truck in tiptop condition.  I have to keep up with the maintenance on the camper, inside and out.  I have plenty of responsibilities.  They’re just different from the ones I had before.  They’re ones I feel I can live with happily, which is more than I can say about my former responsibilities.”
“All right, so you have responsibilities too.  I guess what I was saying is that it would be nice to get away from my particular set of responsibilities.  Which reminds me.  Could I borrow your phone again?  I think I will try to get Paul again.  I hadn’t planned to be gone this long.” 
She handed me the phone.  Then she leaned back in her chair, put her hands behind her head, and closed her eyes.  Again there was no answer at the cottage, so I left another message explaining that we were having so much fun talking that I might not be home for a while. 
Beth sat up again and looked at me as though she were really interested in what I had to say.  “Do you think I’m running from something?” 
“What makes you think that this silly woman has an answer for that?”
“Just looking for pearls of wisdom, I suppose.  It’s an old habit.  We can all teach each other something.”
“I think it’s great that you’re living out what you believe to be true about the world.  I think that’s a courageous thing to do.  I don’t think I could do it, no matter how dissatisfied I may be with my life.”
She nodded.  “So it’s back to your old life tomorrow?”
“What else can I do?”
“I can think of lots of things.”
“Like what?”
“Like figure out what you would do if you had all the money you needed to do it.  Would you leave Paul?  Would you go back to college?  Would you sell everything, buy a camper and a pick-up, and travel all around the world?”
“I might travel, though not in a camper.  Not if I had all the money I needed to do what I wanted.”
She leaned forward in her chair, “What then?  What would you do, Rita?”
I shifted in my chair, leaning back away from the intense energy she radiated.  “Let me see.  Yes, I think I would leave Paul.  Then I might travel around the world.”
“What places would you visit?”
Rome, Paris, Athens, the Swiss Alps, London.  That’s all I can name at the moment, though I’m sure I could think of more, if I gave myself the chance.”
“Okay, so Europe and the Mediterranean.  Good start.  What else would you do?”
“I would buy my parents a yacht.  They’ve always wanted one or at least my father has.”
“That’s great, but we’re talking about you right now.  What would you do for Rita?  New clothes?”
“Yes, but not anything like what I own now.  I have a wardrobe big enough to clothe an army of women.  It’s part of the image, you know, not wearing the same outfit twice.  I do it anyway, but I try to be careful as to when and where.”
“What else?”
“I think I’d...”
“I think I’d buy a house at Cannon Beach and live here year around.”
She finally leaned back in her chair, releasing me from her probing stare.  “It is a nice place, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.  Are you thinking about staying here?”
She smiled slightly.  “There’s that question again.”
“I’m sorry.  I keep trying to pin you down.  I’m just curious about your life.  I can’t imagine anyone not liking Cannon Beach enough to want to stay here forever.”
“I’m not sure I could stand the weather for long periods of time.”
“You’d get used to it.”
“Yeah, and then I’d get bored with it.”
“I don’t think I would ever get bored with it.  It seems to match my mood.”
“But my moods change.”
“So do mine, and fortunately so does the weather.  I know there is a lot of fog and drizzle, but I still think I’d like to live here year around at least for a couple years to see what it’s really like.”
She leaned up again and placed a hand on my knee, completely unnerving me.  “Then do it!”
Startled by the pressure of her hand on my leg, I forgot what we were talking about.  “What?”
“Just do it!  If it’s what you want, go for it.  If you want to travel, then travel.  If you want to live in Cannon Beach, then move here.  You already have a house here.”  She sat back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest.
Missing the warmth of her hand on my knee, I said quietly, “It’s not that simple.”
“I never said it was simple.  Do you think it was simple for me to sell my house and most of my possessions?  Do you think it was simple to pick out just the right truck and camper set-up?  Do you think it was simple to tell all my family and friends ‘Hey, listen up, I’m going to live in a camper now?  Here’s how you can get in contact with me.’  Believe me, it wasn’t simple.”
“I suppose not.  But I’ll have to think about it.”
“I highly recommend that.  Just don’t lose your nerve.  It will be much harder once you go back to Portland with Paul.”
I mulled over the idea of going anywhere with Paul.  I realized that somewhere deep inside me was a person who was longing desperately to escape from her prison.  I wondered if she would make it.
She leaned forward again, and I wondered if she would put her hand back on my leg.  Much to my disappointment, all she said was, “Shall I drive you back to your place?”
“What?  Oh, yes.  That would be kind of you.”
Her eyes were smiling when she looked at me.  “Got you thinking, didn’t I?  Well, that’s good.  You just sleep on all that.”  She patted my knee lightly then stood up.  “You want to ride in the cab or sit back here in the comfort zone?”
“I’ll ride up front with you.  I’d like to see the world through your window.”
“Well, in that case, why don’t we take a ride first?”
“Where to?”
“I don’t know.  Let’s just drive, shall we?”
So we did just that.  We headed south on 101 and drove along the coast.  We talked and talked as the miles sped by.  As we conversed, I found that slowly but surely, Beth was peeling back the layers of my self-defensiveness and knocking down the walls of assumption and projection.  I learned a lot about myself that night.
Somewhere between Tillamook and Lincoln City, we found a coffee shop and propped our eyelids open with a couple cups of java.  We decided then to head back before we were no longer able to find our way for lack of sleep.  We finally made it back to Cannon Beach around two in the morning.  By that time, we were feeling pretty silly.  Beth drove me home then waited patiently while I searched my pockets for the keys to the cottage.  When I realized I didn’t have them with me, I looked at her and burst out laughing. 
“I can’t get in without waking Paul.  I didn’t bring the keys with me.  I was just going to take a walk on the beach then go to town for a few groceries.”
“Can you ring the doorbell?”
“There is no doorbell, and our bedroom is on the ocean side of the house.  That side is on stilts because of the slope back there.  I could throw rocks at the window, but Paul is a very sound sleeper.  I doubt he’d hear me unless I actually broke the window, and I definitely don’t want to do anything that drastic.”
“What do you want to do then?  Can we get in through an open window?”
“Not unless Paul opened a window after I left.  They were all shut and locked.  He hates fresh air, for some reason, so if he opened a window, it would be a first.  I’ve spent fifteen years opening windows, and he has spent it going around behind me closing them again.”
“Well, I guess we can sit up and talk all night.  I don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow, and neither do you, I hope.”
“Hey, I’m on vacation.  The only plans I had for tomorrow were for sleeping late, walking on the beach, and maybe figuring out what we were going to do for meals the rest of the week.”
“Do you want to leave Paul a note on the front door so he won’t worry?”
“That’s a thought.  I can slip something in the mail slot.  That way he’ll find it, if he wakes up.  Though I sincerely doubt he will wake up.  If he hasn’t missed me yet, he’s not likely to miss me now.”  I pulled a pen out of my jacket pocket and started trying to scratch out a few words on the back of an old bank deposit slip.
“Shouldn’t we try to knock, just in case he’s up and is worried about you?”
“Paul worried about me?  Don’t be silly.  If he listened to the answering machine, he will know what I’m up to, if not where I am exactly.  Do you have anything to write with?  This pen doesn’t seem to want to work.”
She reached over and opened the glove compartment then handed me a ballpoint pen.  “Here, I think this one works, though I haven’t used it for a while.”
I scribbled a note explaining my dilemma then got out of the truck and walked up to the front of the house.  I tried to look in the windows, but couldn’t see anything because all the lights were turned off except for the porch light.  I slipped the note in the mail slot on the door then went back to the truck.
“No sign of life within.  He must be in bed.”
“Where to now?”
“I don’t know.  I’m pretty tired.”
“Me too.  I don’t think I can drive any more tonight.  We might end up in a ditch.”
“Can we go to your campground?”
“Sure.  If you want, I can sleep in the chairs back there, and you can sleep in the bed.”
“Don’t be silly.  You sleep in the bed.  I’ll sleep in the chairs.”
“Well, we can fight about that after we get there.  Hop in and fasten your seatbelt, Rita.  We’re going for another ride.”
We drove to the campground, just north of downtown Cannon Beach.  As we pulled in, our headlights shone on a couple of raccoons playing in the trees above the campsite next to Beth’s.  In the dark of night, the lush green trees of the campground made the area look like an enchanted forest.
“Now don’t go messing around with the raccoons when you get out. They look cute, but they can get pretty feisty.  Sometimes they carry rabies.  If you ever start feeding them, they won’t leave you alone.    Hurry around to the door of the camper, and I’ll be right behind you.”
I did as she suggested.  She came up behind me and unlocked the door.  She opened it and gestured for me to go first.  I wondered whether she might be watching my backside as I stepped in ahead of her.  For some inexplicable reason, I found myself hoping she was.  Once inside, she shut and locked the door behind us.  She told me to sit down while she got things ready.  The camper was too small for both of us to be moving around at the same time.  She opened a drawer and pulled out an unopened toothbrush.
“Here, I was about to switch toothbrushes, but I’ll let you have it instead.”
“You don’t have to go to all that trouble.”
“It’s just a toothbrush, Rita, and I assume you don’t happen to be carrying one on you.”
“No, I don’t generally carry one everywhere I go.  Thanks.”  I took it from her and the toothpaste she’d laid on the counter by the kitchen sink.  I brushed my teeth thoroughly then waited for her to do the same.  I wasn’t really sure what to do while I waited for her, but I didn’t want to situate myself on the chairs before she got up into the bed above me.
I watched as she pulled back the covers on the bed.  Then she picked up one of the pillows and was bringing it down with her. 
Much to my surprise, I found myself saying, “Look, we’re both adult women here.  I don’t mind sharing a bed, if you don’t.’
She stopped what she was doing to look at me.  “Okay.  If that’s what you want.”
“But you have to grant me several more points for that.”
She smiled a smile so radiant, it would’ve made the sun jealous had it been around to see it.  “You got it.  You get lots of points for that too.  I’ll even sleep next to the wall.  That way you can escape easier should my dreams cause me to become passionate in my sleep.”  She grinned slyly at me.
“You’re teasing me.”
“You’re getting better at figuring that out.”
“I think your bark is worse than your bite.”
“I wouldn’t say that exactly, but let’s just say I don’t force myself on women.  That’s definitely not my style.”
“Then I’m safe.” 
“For now, at least.”  She winked at me and crawled up into the loft.
Inside I was somewhat disappointed that she had assured me so readily that she would be honorable.  I found myself getting more and more curious about what it would be like to be with a woman like Beth.  She was intriguing, to say the least. 

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