Lost Days Make for Memories and SouvenirsbySplendidSpunk©
(This story is the result of a combined effort by three people. I had the true pleasure of working with Angie Everhart, aka Angie E, without whose help this would be a jumble of words and not a story, and with dianah the audio diva whose voice makes this story even better. Angie has also taken this concept and written her own version, which she will publish separately. I invite you to visit her site and read her version, as it is quite good, perhaps significantly better depending on the reader's tastes. If I am fortunate, Angie and I will do this again, if only for our own pleasure.).
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Click Here to listen. (32 min/mp3)
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Anyone who travels occasionally as part of their job understands how much time can be lost due to delays in transportation, traffic tie-ups and bad weather. As a project manager for a manufacturing company, I am now and then asked to visit customer sites, sometimes for days at a time. Fortunately, that part of my job is small and travel is infrequent. Yet, I'm still plagued with the same aggravations that those who travel more frequently suffer. And as a woman, I have different issues than a man traveling alone. I know its 2011 and all, and women are as capable as men, but when a woman walks into a bar alone she's more often than not seen as a piece of meat; where in the same bar a man walking in alone is just another customer. The same can be said for a single woman alone in a restaurant; we just don't fit with societal mores somehow.
So, as a woman, it took me a few trips to learn how best to handle these situations. When I travel now, I plan better than I did at first, doing my best to avoid difficult situations. For example, I will bring a six-pack of Heineken to my motel room, rather than go in a bar. I frequent family-friendly restaurants rather then the more trendy chain locations. Lastly, I never stay in cheap motels, even if I have to cover the additional cost myself.
I am 30 years old with chestnut-colored hair that I wear to my shoulder blades. I like it that length because of its versatility. I can pin it up if I like, or let it sweep forward to mask my lack of boobs. If I had a bit more chest, I might be considered an ex-cheerleader type, pretty and chased by the cool guys in high school. However, with a 34B cup-size, a slender body (OK, a nicely formed ass) my biggest issue is that I look like I'm still in high school. Hardly a week passes where I am not carded when purchasing beer or wine and in some ways it pisses me off. I know that one day I will be grateful to look younger then I actually am, but right now I'm just a bit tired of having to show my ID.
Charleston, West Virginia is a teeming capital city of about 50,000 brave souls. It was snowing and blowing when I landed, which is not unexpected in Charleston in January. I'd known there'd be a storm, but Barry, my boss, reminded me the client was important and that places like Charleston, West Virginia see a lot for snow and know how to handle it. He didn't foresee any problems and I had to agree, as I'd been here before in the winter. However, something about Sunday travel, bad weather and West Virginia made me question Barry's determination for this meeting. My meeting with the client was scheduled first thing in the morning, and based on what I was seeing, now that I was on the ground—literally, I slipped in the parking lot and I was on the ground--I knew with an innate certainty that nothing would be moving tomorrow. I didn't care how good the plows were; this storm was more intense then what I recall they'd predicted.
I checked into the Sheraton, the same motel I'd stayed in every time I made this trip. It was clean and gave me options and some of the staff knew me well enough to smile when I approached. The ride in from the airport was an adventure; the kind people pay for at a six flags amusement park, not the kind one enjoys in the back seat of a cab. I'd given the cabbie a decent tip and told him to invest in driving lessons; his rear tires spewing dirty, slushy snow at me told me he didn't appreciate my humor.
I recognized the desk clerk and thankfully his nametag told me what I didn't remember: his name, Clark. He is a serious jerk. I smiled and let him be his usual lounge lizard self, grinning and nodding at all the appropriate places. Then I took my room key and bag, said thanks pretending to mean it, and dashed to the elevators and the sanctuary of my room.
By the time I'd settled in, the skies had significantly darkened, but being January it got dark early anyway. It wasn't until I left my room for dinner that I knew. I mean really knew that the forecaster was wrong. I knew a number of other things, as well: one, there'd be no meeting tomorrow; and two, I was stuck here because the airport would be closed or closing very soon; and three, it wasn't worth the effort to go out for a six-pack of Heineken. It would either be the mini bar (Barry would never approve the expense) or the hotel bar. If the bar was as bad as I feared, there was still room service for dinner.
"Excuse me, Miss Everhart?" I stood with my coat over my arm, looking sourly out the front doors. I turned to discover Clark the clerk addressing me. "The bad weather has made it pretty treacherous out there. You might want to consider using our dining room. I hear the roads are already a disaster, fender benders everywhere because of the ice."
I'd already come to that decision myself and was ready to take my coat back upstairs. Knowing I'd be staying here again, I smiled and replied in my most casual-friendly tone.
"Thank you, Clark, I think that's very good advice. I'll stay where it's warm and dry tonight. I didn't see anything on the weather this morning. Do you have any idea of the forecast?"
He nodded authoritatively. "Seems to have fooled all the forecasters. They say it could be a big one."
I thanked him and returned my coat to the room and considered the situation. Looking out the window I saw nothing but falling snow. Sighing, I closed the drapes and made a call to my latest boyfriend, Eric. I told him about the storm and that it might force me to remain here until the roads were clear.
"I might not make it back tomorrow," I said. "Can I reschedule our date?"
He worked to sound cheery. "No problem, Ang. Just play it safe. The forecasters here are saying it has the makings of a really big snowfall. I can imagine what it might be like out there in the boonies. We'll get together when you get back. I'll miss you, for sure, but stay safe and remember, no matter how bad it seems, it's West Virginia and it's natural, OK?"
I laughed. I mean, don't we always laugh at West Virginia jokes?
When I hung up I felt bad. I really liked Eric and we got along well. I had been looking forward to our date. Well, nothing to do about that, I thought. I again left the room and headed down to the bar for what I liked to call "Plan B." Plan B involved looking over the bar and sitting someplace safe; most times it was near a couple or an older man or woman. In all cases it meant staying as far away from the men to whom I might look like an appetizer.
I stood in the entrance and scanned the room and found a perfect option. An older couple had left an empty seat between themselves and a single, older man. I scooted in and asked if the seat was taken. The older man on the right said: "Not that I know of."
The couple to the left shook their heads and continued with their own conversation. I claimed the stool and when the bartender came by I ordered a Heineken. Before he could finish asking I'd flashed him my driver's license, which he took it and examined carefully before fetching the beer. I heard the man to my right snicker.
"Something amusing?" I asked, though of course I knew what it was.
"Sorry, no. I just didn't see the need to card you. Granted, you have a young look about you, but given the circumstances and where we are, it seemed stupid to me."
"And that was because?" I urged, amused.
He said: "We're in a hotel, stranded by the storm. Did he think some local kid would be out trying to beat the system for a beer in this weather? If he had half a brain he'd realize all his customers are guests here and unlikely to be underage."
I had to admit his logic was sound, so I laughed and said: "Well, when you put it that way, I agree with you. But I'm carded just about everywhere, so as the commercial says, 'I never leave home without it'.
The man smiled, and then put his cell phone away. Then he said: "Well, it looks like this day-trip is wasted, and no longer a day-trip either. I had an appointment tomorrow morning that just got cancelled. Seems this storm is going to shut the whole area down for a bit."
I nodded and said: "From what I've heard, it's a really big one. No telling how long we'll have to endure the food and drink of the Sheraton Charleston."
We both laughed at that and he introduced himself.
"I'm Kevin, and I do some consulting work. I was in town to meet a potential client. Now I'm still in town and so is the client but the means of us getting together are sort of blurred right now."
I introduced myself, and offered my hand. "I'm here to meet with a customer tomorrow, but I'm guessing my meeting will be cancelled too."
"I wouldn't be surprised in the least."
We sat and chatted about our respective jobs and the shared agony of travel. At some point one of the more aggressive male types wandered over and, after putting his hand on my shoulder to turn me towards him, offered to buy me a drink. Before I could politely fend him off Kevin said: "You know it's really not polite to reach out and touch a young woman like that, especially when she's obviously in the middle of a conversation with someone else. In fact, it's a bit rude. I think you'd be best served by apologizing to the lady and retreating while you can. I've got her tab."
The young man looked offended. "I was only asking to buy her a drink; no need to get all "old man" on me, Pops!"
Kevin snorted. "See, that's part of your problem. You're playing the caveman here, with no respect for this young lady. You grabbed her and forced her to turn away, not caring if it may have left bruises on her shoulder. When you grow up--if you make it--you'll learn the words, 'excuse me' should always preface any action, son."
The young man turned beet red. "Go fuck yourself old man!" he snapped, and then stomped off. I was stunned at how easily Kevin had just dusted him off. I watched him retreat, and then turned to Kevin, who only smiled.
"Thank you, but why did you do that?"
"Well, I assume you chose this seat because it appeared a safe bet. You have an older couple on your left, and an older fellow on your right. You were doing what any smart single woman on the road would do to keep from fending off various studs--or in his case, a caveman--all night long. Was I wrong?"
I looked at him closely for the first time and saw him for the man he was, or the man he thought he was: a Knight in Shining Armor, avowing to protect me from the scoundrels of the world. I said: "To be honest, I'd forgotten about cavemen and studs and was just enjoying the conversation. The way you handled him so easily though--no lost tempers, no macho bullshit, no fighting...just a firm voice and he was gone. I wish I had that talent," I said, laughing.
He smiled at me and said: "Talent? I guess maybe it is. In my work--and I guess in yours too--you learn how to deal with the idiots. And a few intelligent people along the way I treasure the intellects and tolerate the idiots. That fellow I'd categorize as a potential, life-long idiot, but he could still fool me. And, yes, I am enjoying your company. You should know better then I, how darned boring the road can be. If it weren't for ESPN, I'd have nothing to keep me occupied at all. Heck, a sane conversation with someone not serving me food and beverage is a real treat. Actually, I'm ready to eat, so unless you'd like to join me, I guess I'll say goodnight."
I didn't want to eat alone. So, in keeping with his Knight in Shining Armor standpoint, I said to him: "Kind sir, having so thoughtfully defended the lady's honor tonight, would you allow her the pleasure of your company at dinner? At my expense, of course?" I offered my hand, most lady-like.
Kevin laughed. "I'm a knight in shining armor, am I? Well the laws of chivalry would never allow a knight to dine at a lady's expense. But said knight would deign to sup with milady if that is her desire!"
I laughed and grabbed his hand, pulling him towards the restaurant. "At least let me buy you a drink?"
"I don't drink much other than coffee and water, so I guess my code of honor won't be too strained, allowing you that pleasure."
We enjoyed a meal together and Kevin picked up the tab while I was visiting the ladies room. When I realized what he'd done, I complained: "That was manifestly unjust of you, dear sir."
He bowed graciously. "Milady, a knight such as myself lives by the code of honor." He straightened. "Now I know this is going to sound really weird, but I am about to get my coat and take a walk outside. I love walking at night in a snowstorm. So, if you'll excuse me?"
"No, I won't excuse you!" I said. "You'll take me on this walk of yours. Dear sir," I tacked on.
He laughed. "I'd be honored by your company, milady. But truth be told, I intend to enjoy a fine cigar along the way. If that bothers you...?"
"It doesn't. I love the smell of cigar smoke," I lied. "Just let me get my coat and we'll meet in the lobby in a few minutes. Will you wait for me?"
"Always, milady." He bowed again and I curtsied in return, generating looks of surprise and smiles from our fellow guests.
Outside, it was cold but not unbearably so. Al least not if you're used to winter weather. If it's too cold, it won't snow. We trudged through the deepening snow and away from the hotel. Kevin lit his cigar and we continued our conversation.
"So, did you ever drink, Kevin?"
He blew out a streamer of smoke that twisted and drifted away on the wind. "I did when I was younger, yes. Younger then you are now. I also partook of other means of getting relaxed." He smiled, depreciatively. "Cigars were not the only things I smoked in my youth. I enjoyed the bit of occasional pot as well. Well, maybe more then a bit, actually."
I laughed at his honesty and said: "Well, the truth is, your lady enjoys a bit of occasional pot herself. If you'd like to renew an old habit?" I pulled a joint from my pocket and held it up.
His eyebrows beaded. "Is that what I think it is?"
"It is, and if you had not taken me for this walk, I'd have come out later myself anyway. I figure tomorrow's a lost day, so why not? Interested?"
He seemed to ponder the situation and then after a moment said: "If you're willing to share, and willing to make sure I don't do anything stupid, I'd love to split that with you."
I lit the joint and inhaled deeply, then passed it to Kevin who did the same. I did what I always do: held the smoke in too long and spent the next couple minutes coughing fiercely. Kevin coughed a bit also, but handled it better than I, getting in a few hits while I recovered. Then he handed me back the joint and relit his cigar.
"Nights like this are rare. It's so quiet and peaceful out here. Nothing but the clean white snow, blanketing everything. By midday tomorrow, the world will have armed itself and gone to war with it; but right now it's just amazing."
I had to agree: it was quiet and if you forget how cold it is, enjoyable. I handed him back the almost-gone joint and after slipping his glove off to better grasp the roach, he took a last hit and indicated returning it to me.
I shook my head. "Too small, and I'm not taking my gloves off. You finish it up."
He nodded and said without exhaling: "Trust me, OK? Don't' forget to inhale."
Confused, I watched him take another hit, adding the smoke to his already full lungs, then take three steps forward and wrap his arms around me. I started as he brought his face to mine, his lips to mine, and kissed me. Wide-eyed and shocked, it took a moment to understand. Then, light bulb on over my head, I opened my mouth and he exhaled the smoke while I inhaled it into my lungs.
We worked fast, finishing what joint there was, Kevin giving me another two hits mouth to mouth. I loved the feel of his lips against mine, wishing I had another joint so that I could extend that meeting of the lips and enjoy it even more.
"Oh, my God," I said, breathing out my last lungful of smoke. I watched Kevin pop the roach onto his tongue to extinguish it. Then he swallowed. Then, hand in hand, we wandered while the joint did its work. Ten minutes later, stoned and freezing, I finally tugged on Kevin's hand and said to him: "I've got to get back inside. I'm really cold, really stoned and I really need to pee. Oh God, I mean I need to 'powder my nose"," I corrected, giggling. Kevin laughed with and at me. If you've ever smoked pot, you'll understand my reaction. If you haven't, then you'll never understand.
We rushed into the lobby a few minutes later, still hand and hand. Though I choose to think we had the capability of hiding our drug induced inebriation, I doubt it. We hurried across the lobby to the elevator bank and lucked out as the elevator on the right opened even as Kevin pressed the button. We stepped on, and I pressed nine, my floor and Kevin pressed ten.
For the first time since my bottom hit the barstool earlier, I thought about the night ending, and I didn't like the thought. Before I could debate the right and wrong of it all, I remembered our earlier dialogue and said: "I expect Sir Knight to escort his lady to her doorstep and assure that her virtue remains intact. These old rooming houses on the King's Road aren't always a safe place for a lady traveling without her maids."
Grinning, and bowing, Kevin replied: "Milady: I'd be honored to see your virtue intact."
Then we were both giggling so hard—yes, even Kevin--that I leaned against the door just as it was opening and reflexively reached out to grab Kevin to prevent my fall.
"Shusshhhhh!" I hissed as the two of us stumbled down the hall to my door.
"Shuuuuusssssshhhhhhh," Kevin repeated and we both did our best to stifle more laughter. Which, as the informed know, never works.
Somehow we made it to my room and instead of saying good night at the door, I pulled Kevin in and engaged both the deadbolt and the door security guard. I sort of pushed him into the living area and towards the one stuffed chair and said: "Take off your coat. I've got to go powder my nose. Then we can see how badly I can run up my account by emptying that damned mini bar."
Kevin laughed again and then grunted, fighting his coat. I went to go pee, looking at myself in the mirror afterward, deciding that my red cheeks and shiny nose did little to affect my looks. In fact, they made me look quite fetching. I grinned at myself, not only checking my teeth, but enjoying the way my smile made me feel. I felt as fetching inside as I looked outside. Satisfied, I opened the door and discovered Kevin sitting at the edge of the chair, removing his boots. I tried unsuccessfully to hide my grin. I kicked off my own shoes. And then I shocked us both by walking over and plopping down on his lap
"Ho, well!" he exclaimed. "Hello there!"
"Hello," I said back. As though we'd done it a thousand times, I guided his arm around my waist. "I really enjoyed your mouth to mouth method of smoking a joint. I've rarely smoked with others; is that your invention?"
He laughed, his arm snuggling tighter around my waist. "Actually, no. A girl I knew about thirty years ago taught it to me in San Francisco. We'd see how far we could extend a hit. Lots of fun, smoking and kissing both." He blinked his eyes, shook his head side to side. "Man, I'm stoned. That was some good...stuff, you had there, Angie."