March 14, 1980
I didn’t go right back to Massachusetts. Actually, I’m not back yet. As I was driving, out of Las Vegas, I decided to go the southern route, I wanted to delay the cold weather as long as possible. I took Route 10 along the border through much of Texas, and eventually through Louisiana and Alabama before ending up in the Florida Panhandle.
I’ve been staying in a town called Destin east along the Gulf Coast from Pensacola. When I saw the sign, it felt like I needed to stop here, that was back on February second.
The first thing I did, before I even bothered to find a place to stay was to get a postcard. On that final meeting with Destiny, she had given me her P.O. Box number, so I could keep in touch. I don’t think she was expecting much from me, but I had written her two times before I sent the postcard.
I got checked in at a small motel, it was a popular place for surfers to crash at. After a few days of lounging around and walking along the beach, I decided I wanted to stay a little while. I got a job as a bartender to help me pass my time, and have some regular interaction with other people. After leaving Destiny, I had receded back into a feeling of disconnection from anything, I figured bartending would kick me out of it, plus it would be a good way to minimize the impact on my funds before heading back.
I am surprised by how much I’ve been hit on. This is my first bartending job, and honestly, I figured as a man that it would be minimal, but it seems like at least two or three times a week some group of girls is giggling at me and asking when I get off of work. I haven’t taken any of that seriously.
I did meet one woman though, she was being set-up on a blind date, and he never showed up. Melanie and I talked for nearly an hour as I continued to serve her more wine, and eventually she realized he wasn’t coming.
“What an asshole!” she had said, her cheeks flush from the house red.
“Maybe he was just too nervous,” I offered.
“No… he’s an asshole.”
I nodded. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
Once she had accepted that he wasn’t coming, we began to talk about her. It turns out, she has just finished med school, and is going to be starting her internship at Tallahassee General in a few days.
Even drunk, she is clearly the smartest person I had met since leaving Dr. Troy, and she is pretty. She has light brown hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. She is much paler than anyone I had seen here in Destin. Her facial structure is severe, angular, but when she smiles all of the lines compliment her smile.
She ended up staying until closing time, and she was too drunk to drive back to her place, so I drove her back. At her place, I wished her a goodnight, and told her I had let the owner of the bar know that she’d back for the car in the morning.
To my surprise, she knocked on my door the next day at eleven. I had mentioned where I was staying in passing during our conversation the night before, and she had remembered. She asked the front desk which room, and they promptly sent her over. I had to remember that in case I pissed anyone off who might come looking for me.
She brang me lunch, BLTs, and thanked me for driving her home the night before. We ate the lunch sitting across from each other on the double bed. I was amazed at how perky she was after such a hard night of drinking. I had always found wine to be the worst hangover.
After that, I started seeing Melanie any day that she wasn’t working or she’d come see me at the bar, before going into a night shift. I knew she was attracted to me, and I was overwhelmingly attracted to her, but I also knew the consequences of romantic entanglement for me.
I tried to keep us on a friendship level, she was filling a void in me that was like a chasm, just by being my friend. But eventually, after a couple weeks of hanging out, and seeing each other, it became physical.
Melanie, it turns out, was a little surprised when I offered to run out for condoms. I hadn’t realized that before the AIDS outbreak how infrequently they were used. I made an excuse about having extremely potent sperm in my family, and not wanting to impregnate her. Luckily the rational, intelligent side of her won out over the passion in the moment side.
That was last week, and while the physical contact was as badly needed as the emotional, I’m starting to realize that I’m being unfair, and that I cannot possibly risk impregnating someone in this time.
Last night, Melanie came over, and as things were heating up, but before we began, I explained that I was going to be going back to Massachusetts today. That I had a job lined up, and that I had to take it. It isn’t true, I don’t have a job lined up, but I needed to let her down as gently as possible.
To my surprise, she seemed ok with it. She stayed the night and we held each other—this being the most important physical part to me, despite the fact that I couldn’t admit that to her. She said that we should keep in touch, and perhaps we should continue on a long distance basis. I agreed, and my hope is that she will lose interest, or meet a handsome young doctor, and I will fade from her memory, but I don’t think she’ll fade from mine.
When I checked out of the motel, I asked them to hold onto any mail that might come through—I had received a two letters from Destiny—until I called when I had a permanent residence. I gave an extra $20 and he agreed.
I’m not sure what route I’m going to take. It’s still too early to go straight back. I don’t want the cold weather at all until next winter. I think I’m going to drive down the Gulf Coast, around the tip, and up the East Coast. We’ll see.