Thanksgiving Day, 1998
I’m a prisoner of war, sort of. This is my first year of anesthesia residency, otherwise known as a place twenty miles below where hell ends and the real badness begins. And lucky me, it’s Turkey Day, and I’m on call. For the next 24 hours, I remain imprisoned at Denver General Hospital. During that time, I will have the luxury of putting drunks and criminals to sleep so that the ortho jocks can put them back together. My attendings will chastise and berate me. I will be forced to share a bathroom with a bunch of knuckle-dragging male surgical residents who know nothing about toilet-seat etiquette. Not to mention, I’ll come home smelling exactly like this place — a strange fusion of sweat, urine, stale cheese, and despair.
On my way out of my apartment, I rush to the pantry in search of food. It’s not the nearly bare shelf that mocks me on this dreary morning. No. It’s the single can of Chef-Boyardee SpaghettiOs® with Meatballs that laughs at me with sinister intent. Oh well, my choice is either synthetic noodles or starvation, so I chuck the can into my bag.
Black Friday, 1998
Just like the storybooks and weathermen promise, the sun does indeed rise the next morning, signaling my imminent release from the abyss. Somehow, maybe just to spite my captors, I manage to shake off my exhaustion and head out on the town that night. Eventually, I end up at a very popular Irish Pub called FADOS. I saunter through the crowd wearing my size 4 leather pants and a blue, silk shirt that set off my eyes.
For the record, yes, I do remember the outfit. After all, how many times in a woman’s life do we get to brag about squeezing into size 4 leather pants?
I continue to prance around like some peacock on ecstasy, when a blonde guy reaches into the web of bodies and pulls me toward him.
“Hi, can I buy you a drink?”
I laugh seductively. ”Yeah, sure, a shot of tequila.”
Minutes later, the shot appears.
“I’m sorry, I was joking. I don’t do tequila.”
His buddy gladly takes the glass and downs the goods.
Although, I wouldn’t put blonde guy’s moves in the top ten, I have to be honest — I wasn’t exactly queen of the bar scene, either. Anyway, our beginning was pretty typical. Small talk, lots of cocktails, and several bar hops, followed by really hot macking in every dark corner we could find. In his drunken chivalry, he refused to let me drive myself home. Blonde guy slept over. For the record, we didn’t do the happy happy that night . . . or at least as far as I can remember. My panties were on when I woke up in a fog, so I doubt it.
Sunday after Thanksgiving, 1998
Since Friday night, the blonde guy and I have been inseparable. On Sunday, we find ourselves at a small, intimate restaurant along Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. The air outside is crisp. Dead leaves coat the streets. Inside, the guy buys me real food. Memories of my tin can holiday meal start to fade. As we sit across from one another, holding hands and looking dreamy, it dawns on me that my vacation block is only a week away. I have no money, no close friends, and therefore no plans. But I do have credit cards and poor financial judgment skills, so I suggest that he take a couple of days off of work, and we go up skiing. I will never forget what he said next.
“I’ve got a better idea. Let’s go to Hawaii.”
Somehow, I managed to neither doo doo in my pants, choke on my food, or have a heart attack. Did he just say Hawaii? The world spun around me, my soup went cold, and he kept talking.
“Look, I’ve got enough frequent flyer miles to cover our tickets and enough hotel reward points to pay for the entire stay. I need a vacation, too. What do you say?”
“Wanna fornicate?” was my first instinct, but I force myself to show some class.
For some insane reason, it doesn’t even cross my mind that we met less than three days ago, the dude drives a bright yellow Audi A4, and he wears a lot of plaid. None of that mattered. Something about him told me this was fate. Plus, with that car of his, he’s very conspicuous, so there was a low likelihood that he was a serial murderer.
“YES!” The word flowed from my mouth like lava.
After lunch, we went back to his house and did our best to shake the paint off the walls. For the record, I am not a slut! But jeez, the guy was taking me to Hawaii. My first and only trip to Hawaii. The guy, the trip, the hanky panky, the real food – it was all like some mystical lifeline rescuing me from my miserable existence.
First Friday of December 1998
He arrives at 11 to pick me up for the airport. I am post-call in every painful sense of the word, after being punished severely and relentlessly the night before by the trauma Gods. Somehow, my adrenaline propels me along. I pack an entire suitcase full of shoes, another one full of bikinis, and a third full of clothes. Let’s just say that I am not a seasoned traveller, but I make it a rule to never make important decisions post-call. Yes, that rule applies to attire, so I bring everything I own. The blonde guy doesn’t say a word. He just dutifully acts like a gentleman, carries my bags to the trunk of his bright yellow, somewhat effeminate Audi, and off we go. By the time we land on Maui, the post-call exhaustion beats me down. I pass out and miss the coast-line drive. The guy never says a word. He just holds my hand and lets me sleep.
The next day . . .
I wake before the sun and tiptoe out to the lanai. Staring out onto the beach, with the first rays of sunshine casting shadows across the sand, I feel the warmth of his body as he presses against me and his hands circle around my waist. The guy with the yellow Audi and an over abundance of plaid spins me around and kisses me. Through some cosmic cue, the trade winds sweep over our bodies, embracing us with acceptance and blessing our blossoming relationship. Never in my life had I imagined my heart pouring out of my chest, but it did – to both of them.
On the third day, we sit on the beach with the tropic sun warming our browning skin. My back is to the guy. For some reason, I start crying. Pure emotion, unfiltered and uncensored, seeps from my soul. It was the only time in my life where I just knew.
As the ocean danced for us beyond the sand, I said it first.
“Kevin, I love you.”
He said it right back.
We spent a lot of time after that doing the horizontal . . . and the sideways . . . and the vertical. And talking. Exchanging secrets. Revealing dreams. Discovering each other.
And that was the day I found my two great loves. My husband, Kevin, who no longer drives a yellow Audi or wears plaid in any form, and Hawaii, where my heart will live forever.