Thursday, January 17, 2008

OLD MAN

It was a crowded cafeteria in a bus station in British Columbia, late in the day.

I was sitting by myself. I had a small back pack. I had jeans on and a short yellow top and a red bandana holding my long dark hair back. I was sixteen. I was going West to spend two weeks with my grandmother who lived out on a wild ranch. My parents had bought me a bus ticket, an expensive one that let me take as many rides as I wanted for a month. But I didn’t want to use it much. I wanted to hitchhike, travel like the hippies, be on the road. Greyhound buses weren’t very cool.

“May I join you?” I looked up, interested by the English accent. I’d lived in England for five years. The voice came from an older man. He had grey hair and a navy blue suit jacket on. He looked like a professor.

“Sure,” I said. “Are you English?” I knew my question was an invitation.

Of course he was English and of course he asked me if he could give me a lift and of course I said yes.

“Back home in England I have an MG,” he said. “This station wagon is just a rental.” When he got out to get gas I looked in the glove compartment and saw the registration with his wife’s name on it.

When night came he drove to a hotel, a huge fancy hotel. The Banff Springs Hotel. It’s a famous place though I’d never heard of it. “Let me go in first and see if they have a room,” he said. When he came back a few minutes later he said he had rented us a room. “I’ll go in first. Wait a bit and then come in after me,” he said. I knew he wanted to hide me.

Inside, it looked just like a hotel my father would love, rich and old. I went up to the room, not like a Holiday Inn, more like something out of an English manor house. A double bed.

I was a virgin, but I didn’t want to be and I was hoping this road trip would bring me home accomplished. I hoped that someone would stumble upon me on the road, like me, fuck me and get me out of this sticky childhood that was refusing to let me go. This hotel room was sort of what I wanted, though this old man was not. Still, he was better than nothing.

I went into the bathroom to undress and came out in my nightgown, white cotton lace with blue ribbons, a pretty one I liked. I had my period. I wasn’t sure what people did when they had their period, as far as sex went.

He was standing, naked by then. “I hope you don’t mind,” he said, half apologetically, spreading open his arms a little.

“Oh, no,” I said casually. The important thing was to pretend this had all happened to me a thousand times before.

He held me in bed. He didn’t take my nightgown off. He felt me. He said, “Oh, you have your period!” He said it sweetly, as if this delighted him in a gentle way.

He put his hand over my breast. “A breast shouldn’t be too large,” he said. “It should fit under a champagne glass.”

And when he heard I was a virgin, he held me tight, as if this was a precious thing.

At one point he came. I remember only the small amount of white cream that spurted.

In the morning he ordered breakfast to be brought to the room. We ate by the window – tea and toast. He went out to check on his car and returned, saying, that unfortunately his car was having problems and he would have to drop me off back on the highway. The car, he said, could be driven, but only very slowly. I pretended to believe him.

He drove me, slowly, back out to Highway One, the main highway that cuts east-west across Canada. We didn’t talk much.

He said he would call me. He gave me his number. He said he would meet me in British Columbia and we would walk on the beach and find driftwood.

I called the number from my grandmother’s house but got no answer.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Marta,

Your courage to share how things really are is releasing. Helps me not want to 'pretend' about my memories either...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Okay, you totally scared me in this one! Love, DeAnn

Gail said...

You are such a great adventuress-gail