Fall in me, I'll let you bleed. Fall in Love, Phantogram
Ryan was in California at his Sister’s house, on the 2nd floor deck overlooking the ocean.
"A new girl huh? How did you meet her? Wait, let me guess. She was a model in one of your shoots."
"Come on, you know I don't do the models anymore. Besides, they're all like 16."
"I met Lois on a boat."
"Portland Ferry Service, this is Lois, how can I help you?"
Great voice, he thought.
"What time does the Sunset boat leave."
"Are we still thinking rain tonight?"
"Funny, I was just working on that. Looks like around midnight. But I'm doubting a real sunset for tonight."
"Thats OK, if it stays like this we'll probably get some nice red clouds. And if not, I expect you to be on the boat to entertain!"
"Oh sure, you can count on that."
He clicked END and switched over to his Calender. He typed in '545 lois'.
An hour later at 5pm he pulled his truck into the parking garage at the Ferry Terminal. When he got inside he looked across the 3 sales windows and picked the only one that had a woman behind it.
"Are you Lois?"
She looked up a little surprised and tentatively said, "Yes".
"I want a ticket for the Sunset run. Its a little darker than when we talked and I considered not going today, but I couldn't pass up the entertainment you will be providing."
Now she smiled, "Funny. That will be $16."
"Have you ever been on this run? Ever seen all those islands with that late light? Pretty intense."
"No, I haven't, and what late light? Looks like all clouds to me," she said in a contemplative way. She handed me my ticket and stared at me.
"Well, I think you should go. You can tell me about the latest asshole you broke up with."
She frowned, then smiled, her best smile yet, and said, "Gate H2".
Ryan headed out to the gates and saw they were just getting boarding started. Only 2 other passengers so far, he liked that. He headed up to the top deck, turned to look back at the terminal, and saw Lois rush out of the office and board the boat. As she got onto the rear deck, she looked up and saw him up top. She said something to one of the deckhands and headed up the stairs.
"Ok", she said when she sat down on the bench across from Ryan. "I can't figure out if you're a stalker or just weird".
"Weird. Definitely weird, ask anyone I’ve ever known", he replied. "Although if I was going to stalk, I think I might pick you."
Lois laughed at that. "Why?"
"Well", he said, leaning back on his bench, running his eyes up and down over her, and not hiding it. "You're tall, I like tall. You are great looking, not fat, and there's the red hair, I really like red. So, why not?"
She waited a minute and then said, "and how did you know I just broke up with someone"?
"Oh, I was just playing the odds. Men are mostly assholes. During my 38 years I've had numerous occasions, really numerous, where I'm sitting across a table from a friend, dinner/lunch/or just beers, while they tell me of their latest jerk boyfriend. Honestly, we're kinda bred in this country to be assholes."
She looked at the camera sitting beside him. "Are you a photographer?"
"What do you take photos of?"
"Gee, really everything. I guess I'd be called an Architectual Photographer. I have a company in California that does Brochures and Flyers for Realtors. But I have a photographer there that does all the photos, I'm always traveling."
"What's your favorite thing to photograph?"
She wanted to stay on this subject, she wasn't yet ready to get back to the 'asshole' discussion.
"I guess old stuff, mostly man-made stuff. Courthouses, State Capitol Buildings, Ghost Towns, Indian Ruins, Rock Art. Listen, I'm going to go downstairs and get a beer before they close the snack bar. Do you want one?"
"Yes", she said. "That would be great."
Ryan went downstairs, bought two Coronas, put two limes in a little plastic cup, and headed back up. He gave her one of the Coronas and offered her a lime. She took it, squeezed it into her beer and he did the same.
They sat down on a bench at the end of the deck that looked out over Casco Bay and took gulps of their beers.
She looked over at him and did the same perusal he'd done of her a few minutes ago. She'd noticed how good-looking he was through the window when he bought his ticket. But now she looked at all of him really for the first time. Like her he was tall, she guessed 6'1" or 6'2". He also had a good body and she liked that. He had a darker complexion than her and dark black hair. She was thinking Greek.
"Are you Greek?"
"Funny how many people say that. I can never see it myself, but I must look that way. I'm half English and half Cherokee."
"Really?", she asked.
"Yep. My mother was full blood Cherokee Indian. She attended a small college in East Tennessee and that's where she met my dad. My dad was the son of a farmer who immigrated from northern England when he was like 10 years old."
The boat was into open water in the Bay and was headed for Peaks Island. He had rented a house there one year for most of the summer. It was weird living on an island, but he had loved it. He’d done a photo essay on it and had many of them shown in a gallery in Portland.
He pointed to the island and said to Lois, "I lived there for a summer a couple years ago. Ever been on the island?"
“Well, just to help unload cargo and mail. I've never spent any time there. But I have friends who live there, they all seem to really love it."
"It was strange to be so isolated, not being in a 'city'. But it was a great summer. It was right after that I bought a place on LittleJohn Island."
After a couple minutes of silence, she said to Ryan, "you said something earlier, something about men being bred to be assholes. What did you mean?"
"Oh that”, he said. He thought for a minute and then replied, "well, nature has made us males stronger, taller, thicker than women, right? Which makes it SO much easier for men to push women around. Then there's our culture. Men rule. Lets count the number of women Presidents; how many Govenors, Senators, Judges, Police are women compared to men?"
"True" she said, her eyes wandering as she considered this.
"But its more that that. The culture, at least the 'male' culture, just promotes it. Listen to sports talk radio sometime, some of the comments those guys make. Like 'we only have WNBA scores on because it's politically correct.' You hear sexist comments all the time. That's when I usually turn it off. And don't get me started on what a group of guys in a pool hall or bowling alley talk about, what they say about a woman."
"WNBA. Its professional woman's basketball."
"Yes, I think she has figured that out. We've already been to Boston for a Red Sox/Angel game. Other than high school she had never been to a sporting event! And guess what, she LOVED it! Well, she really liked the Hot Dogs, and Cotton Candy."
"And beer? How about the beer?"
"Yep", Ryan laughed, "shes down with the beer."
"OK, OK, back to the Asshole. Jeez, imagine being called Asshole your whole life."
"Well, apparently he was a bigger than normal asshole."
"Being with him for more than an hour should have confirmed to me what a jerk he was. But I was needy. New job in a new town. How stupid I was!"
She had been talking quietly, softly. But those last few words she spat out, looking straight at Ryan.
"He works for the Ferry service. And he was very pretty, of course. That's always my problem, wanting the pretty ones."
"Oh," Ryan said. "You don't think I'm pretty? Didn't take you long to insult me, we're just getting to know each other."
She laughed and softly punched his shoulder. She needed that, someone treating her like a friend.
They reached Peaks Island, the first stop. Normally the passengers wouldn't get off, this was a round-trip type tour, a mail run. But she talked to one of the deck hands and then led them off the ferry onto the island.
They walked up the beach a way and Ryan pointed out to her up on a bluff the house he had rented a couple summers ago.
She looked at the house, then at him, "wow, great house. You must be rich. Now, I DO like that!"
They continued walking along the beach for a short ways, silently. Ryan was thinking two things. One, he really liked this woman. He was thrilled he had met her and he was hoping for a longer relationship. Two, Ryan was wondering if they would get back to the original conversation. He was beginning to believe she really wanted to talk about it, but might be a little afraid to. He knew he was good at this kind of thing, like he'd said, he'd done this numerous times before. But he wasn't going to push it, he didn't want her to hate him before she knew him.
And, he was wondering how old she was. When he had seen her through the window he thought she was in her 20s, but now he was thinking a little older, maybe early to mid 30s. Closer to his age.
The two of them walked across the ramp back onto the ferry and this time sat on a bench by a window inside on the first floor. The wind was blowing hard enough that even with his sweatshirt and her jacket it was turning uncomfortable.
The inside cabin was almost completely empty. Ryan decided he was going to see if he should steer the conversation back to the asshole.
"I think I'd like to know this guy's name, I'm getting a little tired of that asshole moniker. And I plan to be on these ferries quite a bit the next few days, so I want to avoid Captain Asshole."
"Russell Delrod", she said.
"Hell, there you have it. He was a rod."
She smiled meekly but he could see she was thinking more seriously now.
“Funny, even funnier, that is his nickname! Okay, we have a long stretch before the next island. I would never guess it, but I want to talk more about this shit. Its feeling, like, catharsis. So, what are your questions?"
"Well, uh, you meet this Russell guy at work. What is his job?"
She had had her head bowed, but now looked up and seemed to brighten. "He is a Captain."
"Captain? Really? It takes a while to be a Captain, right? How old is he?"
"He just turned 51."
Wow, he thought, she likes older men. That's good!
"How long had you been working there before you two started dating?"
"Almost immediately. I think I had been there two weeks and hardly knew him when he asked me out. But he was so pretty . . ."
"And how long were you dating before it went bad?"
"About 3 months. The weird thing is. . ."
She didn't finish. Ryan didn't respond, he wanted to see if she would continue. Finally she did. Again she looked up at him.
"Looking back on it now, there were so many clues of what a, well, Rod, he was."
"Like what, I need details?"
She stuck out her hand, "Hi, I'm Lois. You're name, Mr Inquisitor?"
"Sorry, rude. My name is Ryan, Ryan Meriweather.”
"Well, I remember we were driving to Cape Elizabeth one night to go to the lobster shack for dinner. And along that little coastal road he was just flying, going like 50-60 miles an hour between stop signs. I asked him to slow down, but he was all just, oh, don't worry, I can handle this."
"And once", she continued, "we came out of dinner downtown, this great little restaurant on York. We were in the parking lot kissing next to his car, and some police cars came in. They started fanning out obviously looking for someone. I said, "let's get out of here. We don't want to be a part of this." But he just kept on kissing me, touching me. He completely ignored me. And I remember how mad I was at the time, but obviously it didn't last."
"So what was the final straw?"
"Crap, so hard to talk about, but maybe it will be easier telling someone I don't really know."
But she didn't immediately answer. She was looking out the window and she suddenly yelled, "look, Seals!"
She went running out of the cabin to the open rear deck and Ryan followed her. There were two seals floating on the water just maybe 10, 15 feet from the ferry. Ryan started taking photographs and the conversation was temporarily lost.
They went back inside and he showed her the photographs he had just taken. As he was moving along from photo to photo of the seals, the next photos were of one of the Lighthouses in the area.
“Hey, that’s great. I love that lighthouse. Never seen a photo with the Ferry in it.
“I shot those last night as the Ferry was coming in from Nova Scotia. I’m thinking of going out there this summer, and coming back on the Ferry.”
After looking at photos they both leaned back on the bench and were quiet for a few minutes. Then she said out of nowhere:
"We were in bed, having sex. It started to hurt. I don't know why, that's never happened before, but it really hurt. I ask him to stop, get off of me. I was pushing on his shoulders and pretty soon screaming. It had no effect. He made me feel so weak, just kept going until he was finished. Then he popped off and said something like, 'what's the deal'?"
"I got up, got dressed, gathered my stuff, and was out of his house in seconds. The whole time he's chirping at me. I don’t think I’ve ever been so mad!"
"How long ago did this happen?, asked Ryan.
"3 days ago."
He raised his head up looking at her, "3 days ago? Wow, I didn't realize this was so raw, I'm sorry."
"No, I'm glad, good to say it all. I've told no one. A couple girls at work have made comments, sensing I was avoiding Rod, I just smiled and shook my head.
"But eventually you have to start telling people, right? Not the details, just, you know, 'we broke up. Just wasn't working. I have a new guy, really wonderful guy, met him on the Island Ferry".
He was smiling freakishly huge as he said that. And she was laughing.
"I think I'm glad I begged off work to take this ferry. Assuming I don't get fired.
"Well, who's the captain of this boat?"
"My old friend, Rod!"
"Yep. I'm sure he was paying lots of attention to the top deck when we were up there."
"Want me to go upstairs and kick his ass?"
"Well, maybe its more important we have a Captain to get us back to Portland??"
"Hmmm, smart. You know us guys, we just think with our muscles. Not to mention, the last time I hit anyone I think I was 10. And that was my father. He didn't hit back."
She suddenly stared forward, "Crap, this is him."
A short, bearded, thick man walked up to their table.
"Hi Lois, are you delivering mail?"
"No, just taking a ride with a friend. Russ, this is Ryan. Ryan, Russ."
Ryan stuck out his hand, but Russell ignored it.
"I've been trying to get hold of you. Leaving you messages. Do we not even talk now?"
"Not now Russ, I just want to enjoy the Bay."
"Oh, you've found something you like, really? You know, you make me "
Ryan didn't let him finish, he stood up taking Lois's hand, and turned to Russell. "Sorry, we want to be up top while we stop at Long Island."
Russell put his hand on Ryan's shoulder, stopping him. He started to blurt something, but Ryan put his face right in front of Russell's and said, "Stop and think. Do you want to lose your job? Everyone in here is looking at us, think it will take long to get back to your boss? Just leave it alone."
Russell stared at Ryan, eyes to eyes, for about 10 seconds. Then he took his hand off of Ryan's shoulder and stepped back. Ryan could see him staring at Lois as they walked by. After they reached the door to the rear deck, he let go of Lois's hand and said, "I'll be right back".
He walked the 15 feet back to Russell and said quietly, "I'm serious. Let this go. If my friend Lois tells me of ANY harrasing she gets from you, I won't hesitate to report it to the company, even if Lois won't. You know its over, act like a man and move on."
Captain Rod walked away, turning once to look at Lois.
Ryan and Lois walked down and onto the ramp to Long Island.
As they walked across the ramp Lois grabbed Ryan's hand. Tightly. She wanted to hang on, things would be better if she just hung on. Ryan understood, he remembered not that long ago when he was in that same mode, trying to hang on.
"Remember Kris”, he said to his sister, coming out of his reverie, “when we were both wasting away here, looking for answers as to why our two ‘perfect’ relationships had blown up? Making each one more depressed than the other? Surprised we survived that!”
“Well, we did have the alcohol.”
“Damn those were tough times. And yes, I do remember the alcohol. I remember thinking, ok, if my big sister is coping by drinking, well hell, that works for me. I spent the budget of a small regime on beer & pizza. Just now getting all that weight off."
Ryan’s sister had closed her eyes, spinning her thoughts back 3 years when she and her Brother were both going through a break up at the same time. Ryan’s wife got the house, so he’d moved in with her. She thought about all the nights they’d sat out on this deck overlooking the Pacific, drinking and eating themselves into time stopping, numbing, wasting away oblivion. Night after night, the gallons of alcohol and pounds of meat lovers pizza streamed down into them. Ryan’s story about the new girl brought it all back in waves of tactile memories.
“How did we ever get out of that string of crippling, recurring sessions?”, Ryan mused, unable to add enough descriptive vocabulary to properly display the disgust he felt from the recollection.
“Sammy”, his sister replied.
Sammy was Samuel Ault, his sister’s college sweetheart. Kristine and Sam had gone there separate ways after graduation from Northwestern University. Kris to Santa Barbara California where she managed a high end mens clothing store. And Sam to Washington DC where he began a very successful law practice by clerking for a Supreme Court Justice. Hearing about the break up of his old flame, he’d come to Santa Barbara to calculate his chances to rekindle the relationship with the woman he’d never stopped loving.
On cue Sam walked out on the deck. “Did I hear correctly, are you guys talking about the recovery days?? Do we really want to go there?”
Kris and Ryan looked at each other and both agreed, “No!”
“Ryan is telling me about his new girlfriend. He’s bringing her West for Thanksgiving.”
There wasn't much mail or cargo for Long Island, so soon they were walking back up the ramp onto the Ferry. Ryan wanted to go to the top deck as the sun was about to go down. Once they got up there he realized this was maybe a little too close to the Rod for Lois. “I’m sorry, we can go down.”
“No, that’s ok, I like watching you with your camera.”
As it got darker, they forgot about the unpleasant Captain and enjoyed the canopy of stars developing above them.
Ryan looked at Lois as she scanned the sky for sparkles, and thought about the day. 3 hours ago he didn’t even know this woman. Now they were holding hands under a summer sky full of stars.
"I think so. Its only been 6 weeks, but we’ve been together almost every day. She’s been spending most nights with me at my house, and even when I was out of town in Providence for a few days, she stayed on the island. She thinks Rod is watching her at her apartment. Sherry and I quit making love like 4 years ago. And since then I’d gotten pretty comfortable being alone. There were dates and one night stands here and there, but this is the first time like I’ve felt like spending all my time with someone. She’s been through a pretty shitty time, and she’s emerging nicely.”
“Well, sounds like you probably have lots to do with that’, Kris said.
“Anymore confrontations with the shithole Captain,” Sam asked.
“Crap, I forgot the best part. Yea, there was. I ran into him on a bike ride, in South Portland around where there’s an old fort. I’d stopped to drink water and take some photos, and he cold cocks me from behind. Me and my camera landed in the sand. He’s a big boy, and I gotta tell you, I was pretty nervous. But those years of self defense classes saved me. After exchanging a few blows, I had him down with my forearm across his neck. I stood and let him get up. He just walked away. And, get this, he quit his job at the Ferry. That made Lois feel good. But I’m a little rattled, I’m always looking around for him.”
“I don’t think you’ll find him here”, Kris said.
Ryan laughed. “Well sis, I’ve got you here to take him out if I do!”
“She’ll handle it”, Sam said, “she kicks my butt consistently.” He bent down to kiss her on the forehead, holding it for a few seconds with his head bowed.
Ryan watched them and felt all gooey inside. He leaned his head back and thought about Lois, probably watching TV from his bed on the opposite coast right now. He wondered, was Littlejohn Island going to be her new permanent home? He smiled and punched her number on his iPhone.
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