About Music and Determinism


(You're in trouble Mea... father figures shouldn't be working you up like this!)

Once they were both standing on Front street, Matthew bowed, offered his arm and bequeathed "Mademoiselle, lead the way!" Mea, talking the arm and heading them westward toward the restaurant, giggled and replied "Wow! You really weren't kidding about your clowning around!"

"Normally, I would agree and begin banter in earnest but you should know, Mea, that humor is an interrupted defense mechanism and, around you... well... I feel defenseless... so right now, actually, what you see, and hear, is pretty much what you get."

"What I see is an old fart laying it on way too thick!" Mea said while giggling, which turned into rich and warm laughter as she saw Matthew mimic a recoil from obviously being hit from an imaginary bolt or bullet.

"Touche... I will now remain on my best behavior, promise." Matthew straightened himself and latched himself on her waiting arm.

"Good... I think." And, on that playful note, they arrived at Clawson's 1905 Restaurant. Seating was not a problem as it was still early.

"In the spirit of tourism, I believe I should let you order for both of us. I have no food allergies, so feel free to choose whatever you think best."

"Challenge accepted." After ordering, it was Mea's turn to break the ice. "So, Matthew... you obviously have been boating and mentioned arriving from the Bahamas. Tell me about that."

"All right. My parents had taken a sabbatical year. Starting in the late-summer of 1979, after trial runs from our usual lake Champlain port-of-call, they took their brand new sloop down the Hudson canal and the Intracoastal Channel, right down to Florida. From there, they crossed into the Bahamas and fell in love with the place. They were set to do a half-round-world trip, but instead spent the whole winter and spring period around Nassau and the Exuma islands. When I visited them there, after school, I quickly understood why. Mea, you have no idea what a paradise that place is! Sea breeze, always sunny, swimming in immaculately transparent seawater around dolphins, stingrays and the occasional barracuda, feeding iguanas on pure white beaches of weathered coral sand... I would have remained there forever. I worked a scientific and progressive sunburn program to allow me to have a tan that would rival yours, I let my beard grow and passed my leisurely days in my trunks, Ray-Bans and straw hat, feeling like a pirate. But all good things have to end, and dad wanted to experience the ocean. So, instead of heading back to Florida, he planned a straight north route from the Abaco islands to Beaufort. We figured four days of sea travel in all. The first day was all about getting use to a watch schedule. Mom kept a regular daily routine, so dad and I traded watches at the helm and navigation. When I woke up, on the second day, and saw nothing but water, I had a moment of divine introspection, as I never experienced, to this day, something quite so humbling. When reality returned to my thinking brain, I lowered the sails and started the engine, as we were crossing the Sargasso sea in dead calm conditions. And then I remained and slept on deck because the absence of waves combined with the gentle swell gave me seasickness for the second time in my life, so sleeping in my bunk was out of the question. When I took the helm early on the third day, dad had us back on sail power and we plowed through some small weather systems. I was back on helm on the following night watch and the weather had calmed. Around the time dad came to relieve me, we almost bumped into the entry buoy marking the inlet. Ninety-six hours on the nose, and exactly on target. Dad praised my navigation - we didn't have GPS back then, only SatNav fixes every six hours or so - and then we had to admit we were blind as a bat! There was such a thick fog on the inlet that we were really scared of running aground on one of the shoals or maybe bumping one of the wrecks that the maps marked nearby. So we stepped just outside the inlet passage, anchored in the shallow water, even if it was open sea, and I went to sleep... for only two hours. By 8h15, the fog was lifting and there was a myriad of small boats swarming around, completely oblivious to our presence, so we pulled anchor and headed for Beaufort; that's when I saw them, those magnificent horses grazing in the lifting morning mist..." Matthew grew quiet, obviously reliving that moment. "Thank you again for letting me see the horses today, by the way..."

Mea had not said a single word and Matthew, worried, asked if he was boring her. Mea only answered by another question. "Tell me, Matthew, you told me you had a Masters in science and you spoke of divine introspection. Do you still believe in God?"

"Well, Mea, I may not be able to quote the bible nor I am going to church on Sundays but yes, for me there will always remain a frontier between knowledge and faith... besides, from the very little I know about the Universe and its general laws, I would hate to think that all this beautiful harmony is a fluke from some cosmic lottery, you know..."

And on and on it went. Mea only had to prod Matthew softly, with a question and sometimes just silence, and Matthew willfully obliged with tall tales, excited explanations and recalled fond memories. And Matthew was not fooled one second by his enthusiasm: he knew full well he was falling in love and behaving like an infatuated teenager wanting to share his heart, his life and heartfelt truths. The difference now being that he had a long life to share and Mea seemed, amazingly, intent on absorbing it all with a patient and loving smile.

It was only between the first and second coffee for Mea, while Matthew was very slowly, and intensely, nursing an Amaretto Di Saronno on ice, that he managed to briefly reverse the flow of conversation with - what else - another compliment.

"Mea, please... you are being so good at getting me to go on and on about myself that I can't even find the time to complement how stunningly beautiful you look with your hair down. That being said, please explain to me how come there is no Monsieur Cordoba or at least a steady stream of boyfriends vying for your attention... not that I mind since it gives me the pleasure of your company tonight but... I just don't get it."

From the delayed blushed silence, Matthew recognized Mea was mirroring what he had done a couple of times today: pondering her answer. "In truth, Matthew, I have pretty much sown my wild oats in Las Vegas, when I was working and studying veterinary science part-time. And Vegas is a great place to do that. But now I am happy here, with the job that I hope will blossom into a career and this beautiful city, even if I find it a bit quaint at times. For me, it is a perfect fit right now, and I am learning to enjoy spending time by myself. Now, tell me, Carmichael is an Irish sounding name, how does that make you a Quebecer?"

Just like that, normal flow came back. "A lot of Irishmen fled the Great Famine to Canada, were they were quarantined at Grosse Isle, near Quebec City. Those that survived mostly settled in that region. Or course, now we say the names with French pronunciations but the pride and heritage remain. In fact, my mother's maiden name was Maguire, but I never asked her if that played a part in her romance with dad. I was only two years old when we moved near Montreal, after my dad got a job at the La Presse newspaper. I moved to Gatineau in the late 80s also for work reasons, when I won the job at the City after completing my Masters degree in environmental science, which was a new domain at the time. By that time, Lupe and I already had Emily and we conceived Oliver soon after arriving in Gatineau." Then, for the first time of the evening, both Matthew's smile and conversation started to fade.

But he soldiered on. It was after realizing the pregnancies were getting more and more difficult that Lupe agreed on some medical investigation. Upon realizing that her brother had recently underwent a kidney transplant and that the Vargas family tree was strewn with young deaths in her native Honduras, the family doctor recommended a genetic testing and a nephrology consult. Then the hammer fell: Alport syndrome. And both the kids quickly tested positive for protein in their urine. From that point on, the marriage made in heaven remained strong for another 26 years but was marred by ill health. Lupe and Oliver were transplanted the same year, she at 39, him at 16, as Alport is more severe in males - in fact, Oliver is also hearing impaired and has stains in his eyes. While Oliver recovered very well from the transplant, Lupe developed type II diabetes from the immunosuppressant cocktail she would consume twice daily for the rest of her life, too weak and tired to return working. Then came the two additional part-time jobs, for more than 10 years, so Matthew could sustain the family home, at a cost of leisure and family time. For the final straw, Lupe had to slog through menopause without any hormonal treatment, so that for every snappy repartee, silly argument or full-fledged fight, Matthew had a bevy of excuses, including hormones, hypoglycemia, insomnia or just her plain mercurial temper, to rationalize it. He knew he was loved, but he was living a lonely day-to-day life nonetheless. Despite it all, he kept at it, holding on and hoping for brighter days, until a thrombosis unexpectedly swept his beloved Lupe away. Like for the death of his mother and father before, Matthew was away when it happened; he had yet to forgive himself.

It was at that point he realized Mea's hand was in his. Contrarily to the afternoon jolt, it felt natural, unforced and welcoming. He took that hand in both of his, raised it to wipe away a tear and kiss it. He whispered words of thanks and then realized he probably scratched her porcelain-soft hand on his stubble. And poor Mea was still in her uniform. Something had to give.

"Mea, help me please... I don't know what to do, I don't want you to go and I don't want this evening to ever end. We only met today and I still barely know you - your fault, by the way - but I know down to my last fiber that I am utterly smitten. At the very least, I have a huge crush on you. Possibly I even fell in love today. But I am a stranger, a foreigner, old enough to be your father, with nothing to offer you. I feel like a foolish knight errant who offers nothing but love to a princess, mostly because he has nothing else to offer, but it remains the truth. Mea, I hope you would want to be my princess and have my heart."

Mea's grip tightened on his hand. "I don't recall a man ever being so transparent with his emotions... or so able to make my heart flutter. Tell me, Matthew, how do you do it?"

Matthew chuckled sardonically. "With difficulty. I'm an only child and very good at living by myself, and that includes having solo conversations or discussions if need be. But having to consult regularly for medical and psychological support has slowly opened me up to asking for help and expressing why it is needed. Also, in this specific situation, I have Lupe to thank. Believe it or not, for all my chatter I consider myself shy. We met while both volunteering at a children's hospital. I was 20, she was 16, a very tricky age difference both for sentimental and moral reasons. And yet, on a Christmas eve, just like that she called me, not just to send her wishes, but for a whole declaration of love. I could have died right there on the phone. It was also killing me I couldn't reach out and kiss her. I held fast throughout our family carols and diners until, two days later, we finally met outside the hospital and the rest is history. Well, here I am about to lose you forever so I figure for once I should be as brave as she was and you deserve nothing less than my bare truth. Love is still love, even if it is unrequited."

Mea gently raised Matthew's head so their gaze could meet and now gave it her all. "It is not unrequited Matthew. I don't know what it is, and I do agree it is completely senseless, but we both know very well, since early this afternoon, that there is something in the air between us. I don't want it to end either, and I had an absolutely lovely time today, but you are right: I do have to go. Please walk with me. And keep on making me happy for a short while longer".

"I make you happy?" Matthew said as he caught his breath and walked out the restaurant, only to be greeted by an impenetrable fog he was familiar with. "Wow! Talk about Deja Vu, or not!"

But as Matthew gazed longingly at Mea, she chuckled and started the flow again. "So, what's with the Vulcan salute at your age? Is it a Leonard Nimoy tribute thing?"

"Hmmph ... Oh all right! Star Trek was beginning syndication when I was old enough to watch TV unsupervised. It modeled my life when I was alone or avoiding arguing with my parents in my teenage years. Sure, I was a Trekkie, and to this day I still watch and read a bunch of science-fiction stuff. In fact, I think everybody should. Whether it's hard SF or Space Opera, the one common thread is a world that has changed, or needs changing, and I sincerely believe our current world would be a better place if its people were more open to change. But Spock was not MY main character. I'm a non-cool loner, that lead me to be a sidekick much more than a leader. My main character was Bones; in fact the episode Journey to Babel, an excellent one to begin with, remains my favorite because of the end scene where Bones finally has the last laugh... I cried when I learned of Deforest Kelley's passing, but then again I cry while reading and watching anything that pulls at the heartstrings... it annoyed Lupe to no end!!!"

(Even about Star Trek he's intense. Could he be this intense with me?)

At that time, they walked in front of the Inlet Inn and were closing in on her car, which was still in the ferry parking. Matthew felt he had to offer. "Mea, maybe you should wait it out in my room. I would sleep on the other bed, of course, and you could wait that this lifts before driving home... wherever that is." Matthew felt lecherous and embarrassed just saying it.

"Thank you!" Mea gushed. "Spoken like a true knight... but could you really remain chaste in front of your scantily clad princess?" She could not resist the urge to tease him and yet, watching his hurt reaction to the barb, she regretted it, feeling she somehow abused his trust. "Don't worry, I live nearby and this not a freak occurrence. And please don't sulk, Matthew, when I tease you, it's meant to be harmless and in good fun".

"Alright then... well, Qui aime bien chatie bien, I suppose"

"What does that mean?"

"The literal translation of the saying is Spare the rod and spoil the child, which is why I kept it in French, because then it can paraphrased with a broader meaning, something along the line of whoever loves well can irritate well."

"That's the spirit, Matthew..." and then they reached her car, a seemingly well maintained old red VW Golf. The moment of truth that Matthew dreaded.

"Mea, thank you again for this entire day now... a day that will mark my life as much as my first arrival here. Have a safe journey home and please allow me to kiss you goodnight and take you out on a real date tomorrow."

Mea was really getting to enjoy this romantic mood of his. "Do please kiss me, Matthew".

She expected him to fully try to seduce her, knock her socks off with a kiss that released all his pent-up passion. But when she saw him close his eyes and forward his mouth ever so slowly, she was starting to reassess, as he looked like an excited youth about to give his first kiss... and then their lips met and her train of thought ground to a halt. His lips were moist and soft - he obviously was excited - but the contact was all about vulnerability and longing... and hope and love. There was honesty and truth in it. As she returned the kiss, Mea could not help but wonder could he really love her, so soon and knowing her so little? But that also came to a stop as the kiss was winning over her mind, her fears and even her body, and she felt a tingling that could not be denied. Mea felt Matthew's tongue tentatively caressing her lips and yet not probe for her own, as if he pulled it back to keep the kiss unadulterated by carnal need and remain true to the universal language of love, and Mea followed suit. She also felt his hands trembling on her shoulders, fighting the urge to grab her hair or her breasts maybe, and in so doing made his need of her felt so abundantly clear. Time was still, and eternal all at once. And Matthew, sensing his own losing battle against his urge, slowly pulled away.

"Wow" was said in unison... and their laughter released the tension. It felt good.

"Can I call you tomorrow, Mea?" And Mea collected her thoughts and took her decision.

"Yes Matthew, I would like that very, very much... here is my number and my texting address" and she was surprised to see Matthew take out a notepad instead of a cell phone. Sensing her bewilderment and suddenly feeling like a relic, Matthew blurted out.

"I'm going shopping tomorrow... and you don't know me well enough yet to appreciate what a big deal this is!" He was grinning now, obviously waiting to kiss her again when she finished getting into her car.

As she lowered her car window, she caressed his cheek and sensed him shudder. "Matthew, please know that I also had a day I will remember forever. Thank you very much, have a good night and please call me tomorrow." The goodnight kiss was short and tender, a peck on the lips promising better things for tomorrow.

"I love you" Matthew whispered, forlorn, as she drove away and vanished in the fog.

**** Supper's Ready ****

Matthew had a fitful sleep and, the following morning, tried to contain his excitement as he threw himself into his morning routine. After getting out of the shower, he took his daily blood pressure monitoring and laughed at the erratic numbers. "Yeah, right... like I don't know why that is!" After having breakfast and his morning medication regimen, he had to ponder his shopping options, considering he did not know either Beaufort or, in fact, retail shopping in the US. He quickly decided on a sure option he knew about, even in Gatineau: Walmart.

By 10h30, he was entering the Supercenter alongside highway 24 in neighboring Morehead City. There he tried to unearth a narcissism he kept buried, and deeply so, ever since his mom took him shopping for his private school uniform and accessories. The motto of the day was "what would she like... how could I be pleasing to her" as he chose an assortment of clothing, both casual and semi-formal, plus an outfit for nature in case more outdoor activities were planned. Next on the list was a cell phone with prepaid minutes and texting capacity. Last, but not least, he stopped at the pharmacy to purchase both condoms and Viagra. He was surprised to learn he did not need to transfer his usual prescription for the latter.

(Who are you kidding? But your mother brought you up well... and dare to dream...)

After a quick lunch, and a short struggle with cell phone basics, he triumphantly texted for the first time, sitting in his parked car.

"Good afternoon Mea. How is your day going? :)"

He waited, impatiently and feverishly, for the reply.

"Hi Matthew! Welcome to 21th century. My day long. Wish I could see you :("

He then realized he did not know what to do.

"At what time can I call you? In my car right now"

The answer came with agonizing delay. She must have been helping a visitor.

"3 PM. Can't wait ;)"

On this hopeful note, he drove back to the Inn, quickly read a pamphlet on Historic Beaufort and took a quick nap, with a wake-up call set at 2h50 PM.

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