With Two Cats In The Yard....

I'm going to San Diego for my birthday. Gonna finally try surfing, and maybe go camping with my good friend who lives there. It's been a couple years since I've waded into the Pacific, and I'm ready to greet what feel most like my home waters. 

After I left California, I had a brief but tumultuous relationship with a guy I had known in my youth, and I broke up with him when he, frankly, just got mean. But before I actually broke up with him (he was out of town for a few months, so I figured I'd wait until he got back before I decided one way or another), I was hanging around a lot with a girlfriend of mine who was dating an older guy. He was sort of like a hippie, and he had a lot of older hippie friends who came and went. I think they all lived and worked according to the schedules of various music festivals.

One of those guys was a nice man who kind of reminded me of George Harrison. He had a pensive look about him, he was tall and fit with no beer gut, even at an age where one would have been totally understandable, short grey hair that you could tell had been dark when he was younger, and piercing blue eyes. He was always polite to me and kind of quiet. I never caught him leering at me or anything like that, and he tended to stay pretty reasonable at parties while the others got sloppy.

He was also very good friends, almost like an adopted son, with a super famous folk singer. I'm not going to name drop for the sake of privacy, and also because name dropping is gross, but the singer was a contemporary of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, to give you an idea of the era and genre. I got to meet him once, he came to town and stayed with my girlfriend and her older hippie dude. He was very friendly. The George Harrison guy, let's go ahead and just call him George, took care of him and loved him so much, really like he was his own father. It was sweet to see. When he introduced me to him, his eyes were shining.

One night, I was over there at a bonfire. That group of friends tends to socialize around campfires and bonfires a lot because really, there's no better way to hang out than under the stars in front of a roaring flame. 

My girlfriend came up to me and said, "Hey, George likes you."
"What? Nuh-uh. How do you know?" I replied.
"He told me."
"What did he say?" 
"He asked me if you were with anyone, and I told him that you were. He just said, 'Okay. Well, if she's ever not, tell her that I'm interested.'"

Whoa. 

I didn't feel that way about him, but I thought it was pretty classy of him to subtly ask about me and kind of put it out there in a respectful way, without putting me on the spot. He never let on how he felt to me, he never like, cornered me or even flirted, really. He was just sort of part of the group and chatted with me about regular things. Unfortunately for him, my friend was about as subtle as a box of hammers, she really wanted us to get together because he was such good friends with her boyfriend. So once I did break up with the guy I was with, she started kind of putting the pressure on me to give him a shot, and it ended up putting me off the whole thing. I was still in my twenties, I felt weird about the idea of being with a guy his age, and then the pressure from her (I'm sure it was unintentional, she was just trying to play Cupid) made me more skittish. But it wasn't anything he did. He was a gentleman.

But I wonder about him sometimes, because he and I obviously liked the same kind of music, and he was a caring person. He told me about his home. He lived in a cabin among the redwoods in the hills outside Santa Cruz, California, one of my favorite places I used to visit all the time when I lived out that way. He and his neighbors all lived really close to the land in a little secluded cluster of homes. I think his place ran mostly on solar power and was pretty off the grid. We talked a lot about it, because I missed living there so much. He complained about one of the new neighbors, how he had an old truck leaking oil into the ground and polluting the area and he wouldn't move it. He surfed, too. 

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had gone back to California with him. I'm sure he would have been good to me. I bet I'd have bought one of those pottery wheels I've always wanted, and maybe he would have taught me to surf. I guess I would have found a job in town, and maybe could have even met some of my favorite musicians in cozy get-togethers. I'd probably drive one of those vintage pick-ups I love. Maybe he already had one. Maybe it would have been a nice little life. But I didn't feel that way about him, and I can't fake that kind of thing. It wouldn't have been right.

When you're a woman, especially when you're young, sometimes you get these offers for a whole new life almost out of the blue. A guy will suddenly show up and hold out his hand and be like, hey, baby, come with me. We'll hop in my car right now and you can join my life, I think we'd have a great time, what do you say? Some of them you accept and hop on board, and others you don't. And then you look back and wonder what would have happened if you'd chosen differently. Like that nineties movie Sliding Doors. What if I had gone clubbing with the Egyptian ambassador's son that summer night in Budapest? (If I hadn't been scared of his bodyguards and too shy to say it.) What if I had called the Spanish businessman who gave me his card while I sat and waited for my connecting flight in Heathrow airport? (I was only 18 and that would have been insane, but he didn't know that, he was just sitting across from me and approached right before boarding his plane.) What if I had moved to San Diego to be with a sweet friend who wanted to be my boyfriend? (That one actually could have worked out.) Or stayed with the French guy who climbed mountains and was a great dancer? (We used to be the only ones in the bar who danced old school, in each other's arms, to whatever pop music they were playing, like we were in a quiet cafe all alone instead of a crowded joint in the middle of San Francisco.)

Those would have been fun. Most of the offers I did accept, I don't exactly understand why. Most of the times that I said no were because I wanted to be free. Or because I could tell they weren't looking at me, they were looking at who they wanted me to be. And because I had already learned the hard way that usually, the more somebody tries to sweep you off your feet, the more likely he's got issues and probably is going to take out his mother's drinking or his father's absence on you once the dust settles. 

But a few of them could have been really nice. Maybe I should have said yes.

But you know what? Then I wouldn't have had that little girl who actually held still long enough for me to braid her hair this morning. And she's worth more than all the paths I didn't take. Even the one that would have led to my dream house in the redwoods with a hippie surfer who would have been good to me.














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