Dear Reader: The truth is never an absolute; it is subjective and it changes over time. So I do not claim that any of what I write is the truth. It is only my perception and recollection of events as they happened years ago. In some situations I have changed names and details to protect the privacy of people involved.
NOTE: I will never write about upsetting details without a warning.
The infernal, unrelenting rain. I thought I’d moved to the rain shadow, where the annual rainfall was more like the desert than the rainforest.
Lori’s directions had been casual: “Take the main road through Port Townsend to the dock.” The dock? What dock? What was the cross road? How many miles? What were the landmarks? I was kind of a direction Nazi. Good directions were extremely important to me, both giving and receiving, and nothing was bound to make me crankier than poor – or wrong! – directions. I drove into town and slowed way down. Port Townsend had a cute downtown; Sims Way was lined with local art galleries, funky boutiques, and cafes. Tipping their cap to tourism, it also housed an old 50’s style soda fountain/diner, an ice cream parlor, and a hot dog shack that was closed for the winter. As I drove through intersections I looked down side streets, looking towards the water. At one I saw a viewing platform, but no dock. I kept driving. I passed through the downtown and the street ended at a marina. There were docks here. This seemed as likely a bet as any. I did not see anyone standing around as I pulled into a parking space.
As the minutes ticked by, I became frustrated. Was this even the right place? I should have insisted on clearer directions. Poor directions always strike me as careless and unhelpful, implying, “I don’t care enough about you to make sure you get to where you’re going.” Ten past. Was she the type who typically ran late? Another disrespectful attribute.
My neck was getting sore from swiveling in all directions, looking for someone who might look like she was looking for someone.
15 minutes late. Why hadn’t I asked her to describe herself? In her last email she’d referred to us as “two beautiful women;” she’d seen my photo online but I hadn’t seen hers.
Was it possible there were two docks and I was at the wrong one? Wouldn’t she look at both if that was the case, knowing I was new to town and might pick the wrong one?
20 minutes. I started up the car. I would drive back through town, looking for another dock. And if I didn’t find one, I would figure out then what to do.
So I drove back through the downtown, which was pretty full of cars despite the dreary day, and again looked towards the water at each cross street. This time on one I saw what looked like an old dock at the end of the road. I’d missed it on my way into town. I turned onto the short street and looked for a parking space.
A slender woman of average height, perhaps late 20’s or early 30’s, was standing on the sidewalk under an overhang. She was wearing a fitted suede jacket with fringe on the bottom, tight jeans, and hiking boots. Her hair was short and unkempt, pixyish, red. She had an impish face, enormous green eyes and a snub nose. She was adorable and she was looking right at me.
I pointed a finger at her through the windshield, and she pointed back with a smile.
I pulled into a space and got out. We made our introductions. Lori’s voice was rough and raw, as if she’d smoked too many cigarettes or taken too many bong hits.
We walked across the street to the ice cream parlor where we each ordered a sorbet and a cup of herbal tea.
I told her about my trials finding the right dock. I hoped for an apology. Instead she said with a shrug, “Yeah I drove in today and saw the other dock. I’d never noticed before. But… you found me!”
Aha. The response of a free spirit: if we were meant to find one another, we would. And what was half an hour more or less if it was meant to be?
“So Lori, tell me how you found yourself in Port Townsend?”
“Well, really I don’t live in Port Townsend. I live closer to Sequim.” She laughed, a harsh, barking laugh: Huh. Huh. Huh. I flinched in surprise.
“I live in a lesbian trailer park.”
“I think I’ve heard of that place! A lesbian couple volunteering at Cape Disappointment was going there to retire.”
“Probably. I don’t think there are too many lesbian trailer parks around here.”
“That’s crazy. I love the idea, though. What’s it like?”
“Well, I’m the young one. Pretty much everyone is in their 60’s and 70’s. Most of the ladies are really sweet. But oooh, can they gossip! Everyone knows what everyone else is doing! I think I provide most of the excitement for a lot of the women.”
Uh oh, what did that mean?
“There’s not much going on around there: bingo night; people complaining about other people’s yard decorations, that kind of thing. I live in a single wide trailer. I love it! It’s tiny, but it’s all the space I need. I don’t spend much time indoors, anyway. I’ve got space for my guitar. And I have some daisies in pots in front. It works!”
She laughed again: “Huh. Huh. Huh.” Surely that wasn’t her real laugh. Her voice was such a contrast to how she looked. She looked like a fresh young pixie, cute, earthy. She sounded like a weathered biker chick.
“OK, then. So what brought you to be living in a lesbian trailer park in Sequim?”
Lori told me about her last relationship. She and Eve had lived in New York City. They had a beautiful apartment. Eve had a demanding, high-powered job in finance. Lori tried different careers: bike messenger, waitress, karaoke bar manager.
They’d had a decadent commitment ceremony on top of a sky rise with two hundred guests, and I was surprised to hear that they made their commitment in front of God.
Eve was an unhappy person, pressured to perform harder and better than her male counterparts and insanely stressed. She was emotionally unstable, warm and loving one moment, and volatile the next.
After being passed up for a promotion she’d been working around the clock for, Eve decided impulsively to quit. They moved to the outskirts of Port Townsend, where they were able to buy a luxurious home. They had a pool. They started collecting art.
“But her emotional cycles just got worse. She would yell at me, and she was always so critical. Everything was my fault. She started getting paranoid. She thought I was stealing things and having an affair. She wanted to know where I was all the time. She’d give me the second-degree every time I wanted to leave, and every time I came home.”
Lori chattered on as if she was describing an outfit she’d just purchased, emotionless and expressionless. “And then she started hanging around this guy. More and more. After a while I knew they were having an affair, and finally she admitted it. But she didn’t know what she wanted, and she asked me to stay. She said it was my fault she was with this guy; that I made her crazy. But finally I couldn’t take anymore. I waited till she was away for the weekend with her boyfriend.”
“Yeah. They’d gotten pretty close.”
“And what, she acted like that was OK?”
“Oh, yeah. Eve was always right. So they were away for a romantic weekend getaway. I packed a bag of clothes, took my guitar and left. Left everything else I owned, everything I’d gotten over the last ten years. I didn’t want anything. I just wanted to escape with my sanity. Huh. Huh. Huh.”
“How long ago did all this happen?”
“Oh, mmm, about half a year ago.”
“And how are things with Eve now?”
“Well, I’m not allowed to call her. In fact she doesn’t want me in that neighborhood anymore.”
“No. It’s probably better; it would be too weird running into her. I hear she’s pregnant, and she and this guy are getting married.”
I took a deep breath. Let it out. “And what do you think about that? I mean, that’s all rather dramatic.”
“Yeah. She’s crazy. Mostly I’m worried that when she has this kid, she’ll completely go over the edge.”
“But I married her in front of God, and I believe that’s forever. So a few weeks after I left her, I drove up to Hurricane Ridge and hiked in. I was the only one around. I found a big tree, enormous, and wrapped my arms around it and looked up at Heaven. I cried, I mean I was just sobbing. I begged God to release me from my promise. I stayed there a long time and cried and just hung on. And finally I felt something and knew that He released me and that He forgave me.”
“Wow.” I didn’t know what to say. Promises to God, begging for his permission to leave someone who was verbally abusive and cheating, this wasn’t my reality. I felt more than a little uncomfortable.
Our refreshments were consumed, and the pervasive smell of sugar was nauseating. It wasn’t the best weather for sightseeing, but I suggested we walk through the town a little.
We bundled up and went outside, started walking down the sidewalk. Stores offered delightful window displays, creative and crafty and funky. Many of the buildings were brick or sandstone, many quite old. It was charming. Similar in looks to Astoria, though more upscale I decided. The rain and wind kept coming at us, and before long we retreated into a café.
“There seem to be a lot of places to explore in this town,” I said, wrapping my hands around a mug of decaf coffee.
“There are, especially if you have money. Huh. Huh. So when I first started emailing you, you were somewhere else.”
“Cape Disappointment State Park.” Lori and I had “met” through an online lesbian dating site when I was still working there. I told her about being a park aide for over a year, then the park offering their ranger opening to the only other applicant – a young man fresh out of college.
“And so you just happened to move closer to me!”
I had to admit, the coincidence was pretty extraordinary. She had extended a greeting when we lived a considerable distance apart, and now we were neighbors. We seemed to have so much in common: an abiding love of nature, hiking, eating local, organic foods, staying fit. It all felt very “meant to be.” But I had learned to be wary of “meant to be” after a love affair had gone terribly wrong a couple years earlier. Still, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this worked out? How perfect.
“Dosewallips was the only park other that Cape Disappointment that I’d consistently been interested in. I’d visited the park early on, then later arranged a ride-along with the park manager. Nice guy. It’s a beautiful park. I’ve already seen the herd of Roosevelt Elk, bald eagles…”
“I’ve driven by. I have a friend who owns property on the Hood Canal. We go there for weekend parties and eat raw oysters and drink whiskey all weekend long.”
“I’d like to come visit you there.”
“Yeah.” Her huge green eyes sparkled. Her hair was perfect: playful, flirty, up for anything.
“That would be nice. You can come on my day off and we can hike around and explore.” I smiled at her.
“All right.” She smiled back.
Having agreed that we’d like to see each other for a second date, we both grinned privately. I wondered what friend she would call first to describe our date to. Me, I could hardly wait to call Lilly.
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