breaking up? may I suggest Rye, England?
In November of 2000, I traveled to Europe with a woman with whom I had a tumultuous
relationship. That’s a convoluted way of saying “my girlfriend”, but it was a convoluted
situation. It would prove to help me appreciate Jude all the more.
I already knew that we didn’t travel well together. I think it was because she loved to argue,
and knew she had a captive audience when we were far from home. Once, on a lengthy car
trip, we fought about whether or not a woman should fake orgasms. I took the negative:
“If you truly want genuine communication as you say, don’t cloud the issue.” She countered
with “sometimes it’s just easier.” So you see the problem.
Nonetheless, it was a rare chance for me to get across the Pond. Cheap air fares intersected
with more money than I usually had, and she knew Europe well. Given my life choices and
dwindling career opportunities, I saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime kinda deal.
We flew into London and checked into a B&B near Kensington Gardens. I was wiped out from
jet lag, but she insisted we stay up until bedtime local time. We took the Tube to Westminster
Palace. I remember seeing Big Ben, the Thames River, the London Eye and the martyr statues
at the Abbey, but with the alertnessness of a zombie.
We went back to the B&B. After a brief tussle to retrieve a pair of her panty hose from the
owner’s dog Snoopy, I slept well.
The next day I was back from the living dead. We saw Covent Gardens, Trafalgar Square,
Buckingham Palace, Harrod’s and Soho, topping it off with a play in the West End. As we
were getting in bed, she said “You ruined my day.”
That was the first red flag, but I guess I was still too lagged to pick up on it.
“How did I ruin your day?”
“All you did was videotape stuff.”
I checked my camcorder. I had recorded about 20 minutes of “stuff”.
“Why didn’t you tell me this when I could have done something about it?”
There was no substantial answer forthcoming. The game was afoot. The next day, we took
a train to the southern coast for what we thought would be a day trip. Record rains and
floods, though, as well as increased traffic from Guy Fawkes Day, slowed travel so much
that we chose to spend the night in Rye, this insanely quaint and charming village that
Disneyland couldn’t have designed better.
We stayed at The Mermaid Inn, which was built in the 12th Century and rebuilt in 1571.
Several rooms were haunted, including ours. Weird, inexplicable noises kept coming from
the closet. But since they stayed there, we joked about having a gay ghost and pressed on.
What transpired was more hair-raising, anyway. We argued for four hours. At one point
I took a bath, yelling at her from the tub. The front desk called to ask us to keep it down.
Also, I was splashing water on the floor and it was dripping into the room below. Stupid,
leaky English inns constructed before more stringent building codes.
About an hour into the fray, I realized what it was all about. I tried to put it off. No such
luck or skill. Two hours later she said it: “Are you ever going to marry me?”
After the longest of sighs, I said “no”. I just couldn’t see a lifetime of fights like this. It could
have been the most romantic night of my life, but it was the worst. I think this was the
answer she expected — maybe even wanted. Then the air was cleared. It only took us
another hour for the denouement.
The rest of the trip we had an uneasy truce with occasional sniping. She immediately contacted
a friend in the states to rerun her personals ad. She told me what kind of guy she’d be looking
for this time. I wished her good luck. Since we’d already paid for tickets and reservations, I
couldn’t afford to go my separate way.
But our next stop was Amsterdam, which is the coolest city I’ve ever seen. It’s a fantastic
fusion of the sacred and the profane. My tortured soul and bruised ego were immensely
soothed by walking on air from one of the vaunted coffehouses to the Van Gogh Museum,
where I could be purified by standing in front of the original Wheatfield with Crows.
All this happened as the Bush-Gore election fiasco was playing out in the U.S. Despite the woe
that would later bring, I couldn’t let it concern me then. We flew home on what was literally
the longest day of my life. As soon as we cleared customs in San Francisco, I bid her a terse
goodbye, even though we caught the same shuttle bus back to Sonoma County.
We patched things up somewhat. Then Jude walked in the room where I worked and I’ve been
her guy ever since. When I was preparing to move in with Jude, I called my travel companion/
adversary. She had some vending machines stored at the cabin I was renting.
“I’m moving. What do you want me to do with them?”
“Why are you moving?”
“I’m getting married.”
She told me where to put them. That was the last time we spoke.