Hey folks ... I just wanted to start out by saying thanks for another great year. It was a year full of changes and highs and lows. Among the highs were getting a lot of great letters and e-mails from you, telling me what you liked and even what you didn't about my stories. Among the lows were losing my long time editor and friend to health problems. But this next year will be one full of new highs and I'm sure, new lows as well. I wish you all the best. Happy New Year. Thanks to my new Editor Sir Charles 5150 for his contributions and especially for his patience.
Okay, this one is a little off the beaten track. It's a bit longer since it's my last story of the year. It also takes a serious left turn in the middle. Whether you like it or not I'm sure you'll let me know. SS06
I've heard it at least a million times, both before my life ended and since. "Ya don't know what you've got till it's gone."
Truer words have never been spoken. The problem is that I know what I had. And even though it's been six years, I'm still not over it. Every man I've met since then only seems to remind me of what I let slip through my fingers.
As I contemplate the man standing in front of me, I look him over like a scientist examining an insect. He's well dressed. And by both his manner and his degree of confidence, he's probably very successful at whatever it is he does.
He moves in and sits down on the stool next to me. And so it begins.
"Hi, can I buy you a drink?" he asks.
"I appreciate the offer," I said, trying to smile and seem friendly. "But I'm drinking mineral water and it's charged to my company's expense account. I'm here for business ... and business is the only thing I'm interested in."
I smiled again and turned away from him, hoping with all my heart that he would just take my polite refusal and go away.
"What business?" he said, sarcastically. "You're a stuck up has-been with delusions of grandeur. You're not even an anchor. You're just a field reporter. You don't even work for a major market city. You're stuck in some tiny ass town in the boondocks. Do you know how much advertising revenue I could have given your station?" He glared at me angrily and shook his head. I didn't even look at him for fear of feeding his anger.
"You think that everyone wants you because you're pretty. Well I've seen better. I've had younger and prettier women ... lots of them. In a few years you'll be too old to even be on TV. What will you do then? I'll tell you what you'll do ... You'll wish you had listened to me, that's what. And you know what else? Your boobs are starting to sag and your ass is fatter than it looked a few years ago when you were still young."
"Thanks for pointing all of that out to me," I said. By that time the bartender was back and she gestured for the bouncer who came and dragged the man still kicking and screaming out of the bar.
"He was a nutcase," said the bartender. She was a woman in her mid twenties. "You know, when I was younger I wanted to be just like you."
"So what happened?" I asked.
"Ahhh, college was boring. And journalism and communications just weren't as cool as I thought they'd be," she said. "I took a break to get my head together and started working here to make ends meet and observe life while I was trying to become the next Barbara Walters or Karla Canard. The next thing I knew, I had a kid and I discovered that the man who swore to love me forever was a magician and a really good one."
"So he has to travel a lot, huh?" I said. "Magic is a tough game. But if he's good, he'll make great money and..." I noticed then that she was laughing.
"He's really not that good a magician," she smirked. "He only knew one trick. As soon as he found out I was pregnant, he made himself disappear." She laughed as she said it, but I got the feeling that she only laughed to cover up her true feelings.
"So what happened to you?" she asked. "Your career was rising like a meteor. I was sure you were destined to become a big star in the news game. And then you just disappeared ... like my asshole boyfriend."
"Pretty similar story," I told her. "I was married to a guy that I thought was everything. My career took off ... I guess we peaked at different times and..."
"And while you were out working your ass off to make a great life for both of you, he resented your success and started cheating on you with some skank," she interjected. "That's one of the problems with men. They can't deal with a strong successful woman. Having a woman whose career is going better than theirs just kicks them in the nuts or something. He was probably telling the little bimbo that you didn't understand him, I'll bet."
"You'd be wrong," I said. "Kevin supported everything I did. He was so proud of me that he got one of those bumper stickers made to show it off. It read, "I don't have to take this crap. My wife is a star."
"So what happened?" she asked. She had actually stopped cleaning glasses and was looking at me so intently that I couldn't refuse her.
They say that talking about your pain helps to make it better. It's been six years now and all the talking I've done hasn't done anything but make the pain more severe. I've talked to friends and family. I've talked to therapists and clergymen. What would it hurt to talk to a bartender?
"It's complicated," I said. She looked at me, even more intrigued.
"I've got time," she said. "This place isn't exactly busy and you've got probably an hour to wait before your room is ready, so..."
"I cheated," I said. My voice was so soft and my tone was so low that I was barely audible. But I could tell that she'd heard me by her reaction. He eyes opened up farther and her nostrils flared. Her entire expression suddenly became more interested and slightly judgmental.
"Ooh!" she said. "Was it some hot guy you met while doing a story, or a movie star?"
"No," I said sullenly.
"Uh Oh! It had to be a former boyfriend right? Your first love?" she asked.
"No," I said again.
"Please don't tell me it was some rich asshole or a guy you wouldn't spit on except for the fact that he had a huge dick, because..." I interrupted her because she was making my head hurt.
"It was my balding, almost fifty year old, married cameraman," I said finally. She looked at me in confusion.
"He must've been really good in b..." she began.
"To tell you the truth I don't even remember," I said. "He ... he really wasn't now that I think about it. It's just complicated. Jerry was more a friend than anything else. It only happened three times and they were very spread out so it's not like we had an affair or anything. The first two times we only kissed. And it was always under extremely trying circumstances. The first time ... actually all three times were during or after life or death situations.
We did a story once during a hurricane along the coast. In order to give the viewers the full effect we had to go out. We set up in a city near where the storm was expected to make landfall. We thought that we'd be safe. Jerry and I took a camera and went out to get some pictures of the area before the storm hit. We thought that we'd show before and after images to give the viewers the full magnitude of the damage.
The problem was that not only did the storm not hit where we expected, it didn't hit when we expected. The two of us were caught right in the teeth of the storm. We had to take shelter in a garage that we broke into to get away from the storm. With the winds howling outside, we were terrified. We had no phone service so we couldn't contact anyone. And as we were putting whatever we could in front of the window of the garage to protect us from flying glass, we literally saw our truck flip over from the force of the winds. We were sure that we were going to die. We huddled together for warmth and security and it just happened. One moment we were shivering and frightened and the next we'd just started to kiss. It wasn't a magical kiss. I would not have traded one of my husband's worst kisses for the entire experience. It was just something that happened. It was just two people who were afraid of dying reaching out to each other.
After it was over, we couldn't get far enough away from each other. We couldn't even look each other in the face. Everything that happened after it had changed. A few moments of our lips touching, ruined our friendship. Although it was only a kiss, I knew that Kevin would have been hurt very badly by it. He would have viewed it as cheating.
As soon as the storm ended and we were able to walk out of the area, we started talking about it. We decided that for the benefit of two marriages, we'd simply forget that it had happened. The only thing that confession would have done was to take away our guilt. My husband, Kevin, and Jerry's wife, Mary, would have been the ones hurt by it.
Over the following few days it just got worse. Even innocent things only served to remind us of what we'd done to the people we loved. Every time I had to go out of town, Kevin would take me to the airport. He'd leave work if he had to. He just wanted to be with me for every second possible before I left. He always said the same thing to Jerry. He's shake Jerry's hand and say, "I'm counting on you to take care of my girl." Jerry had taken care of me alright. And I could tell how much guilt he carried the next time Kevin said that to him.
Kevin had come into the office to take Jerry and his wife out for dinner, to thank him for protecting me during the storm. Jerry couldn't eat a bite, but he didn't want anyone to know that there was something wrong so he forced himself to eat and ended up throwing up everything.
.... There is more of this story ...