(Editor’s Note: Though submitted for the “Forbidden Pleasures” issue, we chose to publish this with “Wasteland” as a pleasant distraction)
Granted, sex and the city has its challenges. Keeping up with the world of fashion alone is exhausting. Walking the city streets in 4-inch designer heels could be considered a candidate for an Olympic event. Then, of course there is obtaining and maintaining the overpriced and undersized apartment, the daily scramble to survive in a Piranha-rich job market, keeping up with the latest social gathering places that change almost daily with the fickle whim of the patronage and last but not least, ferret about seeking that perfect, special someone who is out there just waiting for you to show up in the right outfit… at the right place… at the right time. If the movies have it right, this is what The Devil Wears Prada implies and Sex and the City confirms.
If you think the city offers a mine field of complications to personal relationships, I suggest you consider looking into sex and the country.
I’m not talking about the charming little town off the beaten path with a one-room
Schoolhouse and a dry goods store where crusty old men exchange stories while sitting in rocking chairs on the porch, where the Sheriff takes the time to help old ladies cross the street, sort of like Mayberry, USA. No, I’m talking about seventy miles down the rugged coast of Big Sur, California and seven miles up a mountain road carved out and sculptured by the winter rains and requiring four-wheel drive to traverse…no electricity, running water, modern conveniences and definitely no cell phone service. Now that’s a challenge for a city girl.
Until the time I met Buck, my idea of camping out was walking barefoot through the lobby of a Ritz Carlton Hotel on my way to the pool or a forty foot motor home in a luxury motor park, equipped with every modern convenience plus a satellite dish. Nothing in my childhood or early adulthood, for that matter, prepared me for actually camping out in the backwoods via Louis and Clark accommodations.
We were in our thirties, in love and the thought of being carried off into the wild with my well being totally in Buck’s capable, masculine hands definitely appealed to my unexplored primitive side, a side of my nature that received a very rude awakening about five minutes into this adventure.
First came a gourmet breakfast at a lovely cliff-side resort, then the two hour drive down the winding coast road with Buckie (Buck’s dog) and I competing for space in the front seat. We bid farewell to civilization as the truck turned off the paved road and the tires began to grab and scratch their way up and around the curves and S turns leading up the mountain. Billows of dust seemed to dare us to hesitate or stop as the clouds of dirt nipped at the tailgate and stretched to enter the windows of the trucks cab.
In places the ruts were deep and wide, making the road resemble a dirty brown river boiling its way over the rocks to the sea. The seat belts seemed stressed to the max, yet Buckie, with the agility of a tightrope walker, somehow managed to maintain his balance while keeping his eyes transfixed on the road ahead.
We finally arrived at a large foreboding gate with a warning sign:
I assumed that the sign had been posted “back in the day,” since no one in his right mind goes around “shooting” in this day and age…or do they?
As we stopped to open the gate, the large cloud of dust that had followed us up the entire road from the highway engulfed the truck and its occupants. The dust coated my hairspray and mascara and I could taste and smell its earthy, dry flavor.
Once past the gate, another smaller but equally rugged road led to the acres of mining claims that had been in Buck family for well over 100 years.
Finally, we arrived at a clearing where I saw, the living accommodations for the first time: a rustic cabin about the size of my closet in the city, but at least it had a roof and four walls.
Buckie excitedly exited the truck and joyfully began his adventure, catching the scent of wild deer, fox, and who knows what other creatures lurking in the shadows.
By this time, my morning coffee and orange juice had made its way south and a powder room was definitely required. I inquired as to where I might find one and after Buck stopped laughing he picked up a shovel, disappeared into the thicket and returned, handing me a roll of toilet paper and stating, “Your powder room awaits, my lady,” he pointed to the bushes.
I must have looked like I was about to burst into tears because he wrapped his arm around my shoulders and said, “Don’t worry, Hon, I have an outhouse almost finished just down the path. I’ll have it ready for you to use by this afternoon.”
An outhouse like in… outside bathroom? A situation I hadn’t contemplated.
But sure enough, just as promised, the outhouse was finished by that afternoon with three walls and a million dollar view of a majestic redwood canyon. That’s right, three walls, a magnificent view…but no door!
Buck’s warning about tapping the toilet seat before sitting down to scare away any spiders and bug life was of no comfort whatsoever. I eyed the area in question with apprehension, and I was considering the feasibility of how one could hover over the hole, not actually sit on it.
The rest of the day was a flurry of activity. Buck unloaded the huge ice chest containing everything from champagne to New York steaks to be barbecued for dinner. Sleeping bags were unrolled and laid out, the cabin/closet was swept and aire, and wood was cut and stacked by the small black wood stove that stood in one corner near the makeshift kitchen sink area.
Day’s end was fast approaching. Buck gave out a special whistle and Buckie obediently ended his snooping about and raced through the meadow toward the cabin.
“There’s something I want to show you,” said Buck.
He bundled me into a hunting parka, grabbed the champagne, two glasses, and a blanket, and herded me reluctantly back into the truck.
“Where’re we going?” I asked with some trepidation.
“You’ll see,” he said with a warm, reassuring smile.
The gnarled road we had taken up the mountain earlier was a paved superhighway compared to the road we were now taking. With ruts deep enough to swallow a Hummer, we bumped and bounced our way along what seemed to be a brown dirt roller coaster. As we advanced towards an extended point of land, the road narrowed to a sliver with steep cliffs rolling down the mountain on each side.
I closed my eyes and clung to the hand rails along the top of the door, praying that I hadn’t underestimated Buck’s abilities to traverse such rugged country and get me home alive.
Finally the truck came to a stop. I opened my eyes to find myself at a place that can only be described as “On Top of the World.” Hand-in-hand, we walked the few yards to the end of the point.
There, miles below us, was the huge vastness of the Pacific Ocean which was about to accept the setting sun as it acquiesced its supremacy for the day. Hundreds of miles of magnificent coastline stretched before us in either direction. Young green hills and stern craggy cliffs fell to the sea along a tiny, twisting ribbon of highway that was outlined by the white froth of the relentless surf. The only sounds that could be heard were the goodnight wishes of a few mountain birds and the distant rustle of the wind floating over the canopy of trees below us in the canyon. To say it took my breath away is a vast understatement.
The afternoon wind gave way to a warm, gentle breeze. We sat on our blanket drinking a farewell toast to the day, and watched as the sun melted quickly into the horizon. The clear blue sky began to burn with the vibrant colors of the sunset. As quickly as it came, its radiance began to fade into the deep anonymous colors of twilight.
One by one the stars fell through the floor of heaven, sprinkling themselves across the night. A cream colored crescent moon rose in the northern sky. I had never seen anything like it. No sunset over a cosmopolitan landscape, no full moon over a high rise, no stars twinkling on a crisp winter night in the city can compare to this vast openness, this quiet peace, this feeling of being the only two people on earth.
The depth and immensity of the moment even swept Buck away. For those few hours I wasn’t just the city girl who felt like a tricycle with one wheel here in the mountains, and he wasn’t just the ultimate survivalist babysitting a clueless urbanite. Intimacy and wonder followed like sunrise follows the dawn. We were taken up in the night, in the splendor, in the moment, in each other. Little did we know that this memory – this gift we gave each other – would shine in our hearts, like the North Star for decades to come.
As life would have it, all good things come to an end and reality bites. In our case, that also included an army of famished mosquitoes, which seemed the size of well-fed cats. I had mosquito bites in places where no mosquito has ever ventured. Buck, on the other hand emerged biteless and unscathed.
By the time we jostled and bounced our way back to the cabin, my mosquito bites had grown into big, red, ugly welts; most were on the back side of my body and out of my reach (well, you get the picture). The itching was unbearable. Buck laid me out on the bed and tenderly covered the affected areas with Calamine lotion which helped some but didn’t elevate a very restless night.
Somewhere in the middle of the night of tossing and turning, I knew I would have to face the fact that the powder room was out the door and down a dark and spooky path. I put it off as long as I could, but soon the impending trip became a must.
With great stealth, I quietly got out of bed, slid into my 1-inch-heel slippers and clutching the flashlight tightly in my hand, bravely headed out the door followed by Buckie, now my constant four-legged companion ever since I shared part of my steak dinner with him.
My sense of direction is so poor that I have a tendency to get lost in a phone booth even in the city, so I don’t know why I was surprised that somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn and ended up standing in an unfamiliar clearing with no outhouse or path in sight.
Ah, there I was, standing in the cold, shadowy darkness somewhere in the woods, in my sexy little black teddy and high-heeled slippers, covered with Calamine lotion, totally lost, talking to a dog!
“Buckie, where in the devil are we? Let’s go home boy,” I pleaded, directing the flashlight’s beam along the fringe of the woods, where I heard a strange and unknown rustling and movement.
Obediently, I followed my canine guide, who led me back to the cabin and directly past the outhouse, where I made a brief stop.
“Let’s keep this just between us, okay boy?” I whispered, slipping him another piece of leftover steak and scratching his ears just before I crept back into bed.
The next morning I awoke to the smell of fresh coffee and sizzling bacon. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder and opened my eyes to see Buck’s lively blue eyes and smiling face looking down at me as he handed me a hot cup.
“You and Buckie sure took the long way to the outhouse last night. It’s probably not a good idea to be prancing around the woods in that sexy little city outfit. You might give the wild animals the wrong idea,” Buck said, with a broad, impish smile.
“How did you know where Buckie and I went last night?” I asked with astonishment.
“Well, I sort of followed you guys just to make sure you didn’t fall down the canyon or get carried away by a mountain lion,” he said.
“Why didn’t you say something? And by the way, I wasn’t prancing!”
“I, uh, sort of thought if you found your way back to the cabin all by yourself, it just might boost your self confidence,” said Buck.
What a sweetheart. He didn’t mind a bit that I didn’t have a clue about the country life, or that I was covered in welts and Calamine lotion, or dressed like a peacock in a chicken pen. Maybe it was our differences that made us so appealing to each other.
Now, fast forward thirty plus years. There has been a lot of H2O, murky and otherwise under our bridges…many a missed sunset and sunrise, an ex-wife, a deceased husband, grown children, and grandchildren added to the mix.
The little black teddy has been replaced by a navy blue sleep-shirt that reads, “I do my own stunts,” and the 1-inch-heel slippers are now slip-on Uggs.
After my husband of twenty-three years (a dear, gentle, man ten years my senior) passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s, Buck sent me a very sweet, but appropriate, sympathy card. Several months later I received a phone call from Buck that was, “…just to say hello and see how you are doing….”
A little later came another phone call and an invitation to lunch, then an invitation to dinner, and thus began our second time around.
Almost a year after receiving Buck’s first phone call, I found myself sitting on the same point, “On Top of the World,” with the Daniel Boone of Big Sur. This time his hair was grey, not the strawberry-blond I remembered, but then, if not for a fabulous hair dresser, so was I.
Buck’s biggest life regret was that he had ever let me go instead of insisting we resolve the issues that parted us so many years in the past. In retrospect, it’s ironic how things that were of such importance back then, today have little or no merit.
I sit looking out over our world that is spread like a giant canvas miles below us, and watch that same sun repeat its daily ritual just as it had some thirty years before.
The same warm breeze gently washes over us, replacing the frisky daytime winds. Stars illuminate the darkening sky and we exchange the old memories for new ones that are just as intimate and passionate, if not more so. For now we are older, wiser, and realize what a rare gift we have been given: a second chance to reclaim what we had lost so many years before.
Even late in life, special surprises and gifts can come our way. Buck was such a gift and surprise to me. I thought of him from time to time, but I never allowed those thoughts to linger as I carefully immersed myself into my new life and tried to keep my past just that…in the past.
Somehow even in our rather small community, our paths never seemed to cross. I had no idea that during all these years, he thought of me daily, tracked my well being through acquaintances, and suffered such a long sentence of regret.
I do consider love a gift, a jewel of the heart, and the masterpiece of emotion. Appreciating its worth and value is the greatest gift of all. Love is such a precious element of life, whether it be sought after and discovered among the skyscrapers and cement pathways of an energetic, busy city or somewhere on the top of a mountain at the end of a rutted, dusty road with a small rustic cabin and an outhouse with three walls and a million-dollar view.