We visited back and forth every few months for the next year and some, arranging to share vacation time or long weekends. The visitor would stay in a motel, and the visitee would pick up the entertainment tab. Quite chaste for nowadays, although the goodbye kiss more or less started as soon as we saw each other, and was occasionally punctuated by meals or sightseeing.
On a pleasantly sunny day in San Francisco, we were sitting on the steps that lead down to the beach of Aquatic Park below Ghiradelli Square. He was sitting below me, leaning back against me, between my legs, which was causing a lot of heat in my body, as one can imagine. I had my arms around his neck and was leaning my face against the side of his head, drinking in the fragrance of him, a faint hint of cologne and him, him, him. His scent was making me drunk with love.
"What do you want out of life, Adam Berman?" I murmured by his ear.
He purposely leaned his head against me before replying. In later years I would come to recognize gestures like that for what they were: things to make the woman so crazy with desire that she wouldn't care what he said or did. Pretty much worked every time with me, and this time was no exception. "I want it all," he said, his voice just like good cello music. "The house, the car, the kids, the boat, the backyard patio with the gas barbecue. A motorcycle. Two Rottweilers. Water skis."
"What about a swimming pool?"
"Got to have the swimming pool."
"What about ... golf clubs?" I was thinking of all the things I would love to put under the Christmas tree for him, or just give him to make him smile.
He laughed and turned to look up at me, "Would you be my caddy?"
I kissed his temple. "No, but I'd wait in the clubhouse bar and have a drink waiting for you."
"Forget the golf clubs, then. How about, instead of golf clubs, a king-sized canopy bed with those filmy curtains?" Was that a purr of sexual tension in his voice?
"Yes, just for you and your Rottweilers." He grinned, and I grinned. "Are you ready for some seafood yet?"
As much as I wanted the passion, I wanted the visit and the dinner to be uncluttered by a sexual challenge. This relationship was becoming too precious to me to risk some go-too-far squabble screwing us up. The first lunch we'd had together in San Diego had been nerve-wracking, and it's a wonder we got past the chips and salsa.
Both of us had shown up at Sancho's in a twitter of nerves and twenty minutes early. He was just stepping up to the walk in front of the restaurant as I was getting out of my taxi. I was wearing my black silk shirt with jeans, and a broad shawl in earthy colors. They had a warm look against the chilly white of the marine fog that kept the sun from the city, and made my reddish-blonde hair glow. Adam was wearing jeans, too, with an ugly, oversized, misshapen turquoise sweatshirt and a baseball cap.
"You're early," he said, sounding surprised. "I wasn't even sure you'd come."
"How could I not?" I said, looking up at him. In daylight, he was a portrait in pale pastels, pink and golden and blue. Discounting the sweatshirt and the black baseball cap, of course. We went in to the restaurant, ordered lunch plates and beers, and tried to make conversation.
"So, what do you do for a living, or are you still in school?" he asked me.
"A bookkeeper, how's that for exciting?" Where was any inspiration? Why couldn't I think of anything interesting? "And you? A movie star, up and coming, or a law student?" Flatter him, I say. The movies wouldn't be that much of a stretch with his unearthly beauty, even in that damned cap, but law? No, too horny-looking.
"You're going to think I'm just not worth your time," he said, pressing his lips together. "I drive truck. That's all."
"Why would I think you weren't worth my time? Can I drive a big rig? Not bloody likely!" Suddenly I had the urge to reach out and touch his brow as he looked down, avoiding my eyes. If I touched his eyebrow, would the light make it look invisible or would it make it look dark under my finger?
He looked up, tilted his head to the left. "Want to try? I'll show you my rig and I'll let you drive it around the parking lot."
"No, thank you!" I gasped. Was he out of his mind? Did he think I was? "I've never driven anything more complicated than my old college roommate's stick-shift Volkswagon!" Quick, turn this into a yes, somehow! "What if you drive the truck around the parking lot and just tell me what you're doing? I've never even seen the inside of one of the big trucks!"
Adam beamed, and my heart crashed into a thousand tiny bits like a pane of safety glass. He said, "Excuse me," and pulled the cap off of his gilded hair and then tugged off the awful sweatshirt to reveal a black t-shirt that clung to every sculpted muscle of his upper body.
A rush of sweat made me remove my shawl; I´m surprised I didn't lose control of my bones completely and fall out of the booth onto the floor. My muscles were all trembling. My fork was going to shake so badly he'd think I was a baton twirler. Perhaps he wouldn't notice.
Our food came, and neither of us ate much. There was no taste to any of it, neither salsa nor guacamole nor beer. Hard to swallow. Hard to sit still. All I could think of was that there was bound to be another 'goodbye kiss', and I had this overwhelming desire to memorize those chest muscles. "Oh! What about catching up with your relatives in Barstow?"
"I can always get there tomorrow. It's a long weekend, and they all think I'm a loser, anyway. As long as I get there sometime, it'll be fine."
"A loser? I can't believe that." I couldn´t finish my portion, though it wasn't that big. Something had hold of my guts, my throat. My heart was racing. Who needs food? Who needs -- Adam? Ninety-three percent of my cells raised their hands and clamored, "ME! ME!!"
Then "catch up with them tomorrow" turned into "Monday" and then "I'll drive up and see Grannie next week" as we walked, chatted, and danced through afternoons and evenings, kissing goodbye for a half an hour at one in the morning and meeting for seven o'clock breakfasts again.
"He's too good-looking to be true," said Joan, glad enough to be left alone with her bag of weed to smoke herself into a ham.
"Bet he's got the law waiting for him somewhere," said Dogboy, chomping on his gum on the drive back home. "Honey, if you just needed a good-looking guy to lay you, you could have come to me."
Adam and I were so much smoother together now, in spite of the undischarged sexual energy, by the time we got to dinner in San Francisco so many months later. Yet that was the first time I ever saw him grow horns, so to speak.
He stood up from the cement steps and dusted off the seat of his pants. He nodded, acknowledging my parry about the canopy bed, and he was still smiling at me, but there was a slightly different light in his eyes. A light that said, "I know you are going to have sex with me before very long at all." A light that glowed a recognition of how our bodies were going to fit together. No, in thinking about how he looked at me, his eyes didn't have a horny glare. The gaze was subtle, aware, animal, magnetic. I knew that I was not going to resist this man much longer, too.
Probably the only thing that kept me from inviting him to my apartment was my nosy neighbors. I'd lived in the same complex for four years, and some of them attended the same parish that I did. I never liked neighbors knowing my business, not even when I was a kid, so I tended to keep what adventures I had away from my residence, or out of town. On the drive back to Modesto from San Francisco, I tried not to think of Adam lying naked on his motel bed. Stop thinking about the scorching hardness of his body against my legs and belly! Check the speedometer, slow down! A pack of baying wolves in heat was in my mind, all of them lamenting that this was the last night we'd have the chance until next spring ...
And that chilled me right down. I don't like one night stands, I don't like to hear about the guys who jump up once they've slept a little after sex and say, "Hey, that was great! Gotta run!" I think sex is for lovers, and that needs ... time. Adam would have to leave relatively early in the morning, and what? Leave me in his motel room to pick up my clothes and slink out, make-up smeared and alone? Uh-uh. We can wait, wolves.
Adam was fiddling with the radio to find a station with music he liked. Usually country, but sometimes pop. Never jazz, and don't even mention opera. At least season opera tickets are one thing we don't have to add to the list of what all he wanted in life. His list of perfect suburbia wafted through my mind again. What else could we add to his list? A sharp stab of apprehension speared my heart as I realized what was missing from his list. Then I dismissed the feeling, called myself paranoid and childish, and let it go.
What was missing from his list of his pursuit of happiness was -- a wife.
One night, I was ready to go home, and I headed for my car. My dark blue Corolla was parked in a parking lot adjacent to the dock. A dim security light burned above the dock, not one of those orange sodium ones, but rather one of the old incandescent ones with the corrugated metal caps. There was one like that in front of our house when I was little, and this one could easily have dated from that time. The metal was pitted, dull with rust. The asphalt of the parking lot looked just as old. The edges sagged downward, the lines of the paint were indistinct; some of the outermost spaces were crumbling into the water of the dark lake.
I started the car, and welcomed the glow of the dashboard lights. In order to get around the cement divider in front of the car, I put the little car in reverse, and backed up a little. Turning the wheel, I felt like there was a slope to the car that shouldn´t be there. I hit the brake, and pushed the shifter into 'Drive', and then stepped on the accelerator. Harder.
The wheels spun but the car continued to slide backward, while my view of the world got to be more and more of sky and less of ground. Then there was no more traction for the spinning tires, and sickeningly I dropped from the edge of the lot down into the water. The Corolla sank, floated again, sank deeper, and then disappeared.
I sat on the muddy shore of the far side of the lake, cold and alone, my feet and legs wet and slimy. Gordon Foster, the agricultural extension agent in charge of 4-H groups in the tri-county area that included my home town, was sitting in the water, beside another dock on that side of the lake, submerged up to the middle of his chest. He seemed comfortable and calm, and said, good-naturedly, "You're going to need a rowboat to get back across."
It doesn't take a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to figure out the meaning of that one! My subconscious was very clearly struggling to get the ol' mind around the helplessness I felt at that time. The darkness is my symbol for uncertainty; the crumbling parking lot a symbol of deterioration in the situation I had found in my life; the car that can't help me escape the fall is a symbol for me of what I've already done that has failed to help me. The fall is a symbol of fear of failure for me, and the far side of the lake a symbol of how far I am from a solution. Gordon Foster, though I had not seen him for decades, was a symbol of Truth. (Gordon had a good heart. He was honest and hard-working, patient and funny. He was always the man in charge of our 4-H camps, and he was loved by every one of the kids. Probably because he loved every one of us. And with that kind of love, I suppose that in that dream he was a symbol of the Almighty, too.) What Gordon says in the dream is a truism: You have a problem and you need to find a solution to it; you feel all alone in this and you need to get some help.
That particular dream came to me with its accompanying feelings of fear, disgust, and resignation in The Year Everybody Died, as my sister and I would later come to call it, but it should have come to me as a portent in the spring of 1982, and had it come, I should have attended to its warning as if it were written in fire across the sky. That was the year and the season that I married Adam Berman and began my descent, feeling my life sliding backward out of control, desperately gunning the engine and still falling into darkness.