14. February 2021 · Comments Off on A love story, more or less, for Valentine’s Day · Categories: Olio

I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. 1975. I’d never done much hiking in the East. I was used to drinking water straight from moving streams. Five days in, I got sick as a dog from the water. Fever, chills. I talked to a hiker, an old dude, about this. You’re going to need some chemicals, son, he said. I didn’t have chemicals. I crawled off the trail, cramping the whole way and found a highway.

I knew my girlfriend, Holly, was visiting a friend who was waitressing in Brunswick, Maine and hitchhiked there. I spent the night sleeping under some trees in a little park next to Bowdoin College. In the morning I went from restaurant to restaurant to find the friend. When I found her, she didn’t recognize me and started to flirt, which was awkward. She was super embarrassed when I told her who I was. Nowadays she lives in upstate New York where sne’s a Buddhist educator and officiates weddings

Anyway the friend/waitress was living in a huge old, falling apart house on the coast where a 90 year old dude had a caretaker who was a friend of hers. That’s where I found Holly. The dude had a wonderful library. I opened up a copy of Leaves of Grass. First edition. Signed ”To my good friend….” The good friend was the dude’s father, who had built the house.

The cramps and fever went away. Holly and I slept in a little room at the top of the house with slanted walls and rose covered wall paper. It was perfect. Three days in I told her I loved her for the first time.

I did some repairs in the house to earn my keep. The fridge was a mess, full of moldy stuff and I decided that for the health of all I’d clean it. I found a dark little piece of god knows what wrapped in paper in the back and pulled it out. The old dude, who was a sweet man, shouted at me, “Do not throw that out!”

“What is it?”

”My parents’ wedding cake.”

“Really? It must be 100 years old.”

”92. Every anniversary day I eat a piece. Then I soak the rest in rum to preserve it.”

”I’ll put it back.”

”Thank you.”

When I was a teen, I was worried that I didn’t have a capacity for love. It just wasn’t in me, I was convinced. I could like things and people, sure. But love wasn’t my thing. I was an innately cold numbers dude. I was prepared to live with that deficiency.

I said ”I love you” to someone for the first time 46 years ago. She became my wife four years later. I occasionally said those words in my twenties. In my thirties, I said them more. Forties, still more. Now I say those words every day and cry at movies.

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