I was two-months divorced and fresh back from an amazing trip to Ireland, the night I met Tina.
I’d gone to Farmington to visit one of my oldest friends to regale him with tales of my adventures, have a few drinks and laughs.
It was a warm June evening and the sun was just setting.
I met Donovan at the run down, ancient former farm house that he was renting for his family at the time.
Donovan pretty quickly mentioned that there was a street festival called Dew Days going on just up the road. That sounded like a rare diversion for the area, so we took to our feet and went to check it out.
After securing some wrist bands that indicated we were old enough to drink, we procured a couple beers and wandered around the fair-like environs.
There was a bandstand set up and some local “talent” was performing some loud, but not particularly well executed hard rock music. We lost interest pretty fast.
After a bit more wandering and eating some cheese curds, Donovan suggested a place to hang out, get a drink other than the beer proffered on the streets and smoke a few cigarettes.
“Let’s check out Pizza Man,” he said.
Didn’t sound like a very exciting hangout to me, but he insisted it was cool.
We started in that direction and ran into some old acquaintances who were there for a classic car parade. We’d missed the parade, but a lot of the old hot rods were still parked around, so we ogled them a bit and got back on our way to this vaunted pizza joint.
The place was pretty packed and a DJ was keeping a group of young women dancing in the front. Squeezing up to the crowded bar, Donovan ordered us a couple mixed drinks. Whiskey-Coke for me and Rum and Coke for himself.
It was busy, so it took a while. The music was loud – modern pop-ish dance music sprinkled with some dirty country. The crowd swirled, the girls shouted raucous remarks as they got their funky white girl groove on.
Drinks eventually in hand, Donovan led me to the back of the pizza restaurant-turned nightclub and pushed through the back door.
We emerged onto a spacious fenced-in patio replete with several open tables, ashtrays, unused outdoor heaters and speakers, so we could continue to enjoy the urbane beats the DJ inside was spinning at a thankfully lower volume.
We sat at a wire mesh table in a corner, lit our smokes and sipped our drinks, catching up with each others lives. We hadn’t seen one other for a while. No doubt, I dominated the conversation, so enthused was I about the trip I had recently returned from.
We ascertained, after a while that a bunch of the younger ladies at the pizza joint-turned-party spot were together for a birthday party. One of the revelers was a very intoxicated young woman in a wheel chair being pushed around by a long-haired blondish girl. She had a cast on her leg, so we had to ask.
“Skiing accident?” I teased.
It turned out that she had simply stepped off a stair or some bleachers too hard, or something like that and broke her ankle. She didn’t seem too sure about it herself and I imagined that she was probably less sober then, than at the moment I was observing her. Her name was Shayna and she was quite a boisterous character. A tiny little elfin brunette.
“Can I sign your cast?” I asked, after a bit of chit-chat.
“Yeah!” she slurred enthusiastically. I made my mark, large and bold and was amused, since I didn’t know the girl at all (yet).
My friend Donovan also made a more modest “Get well soon” signature on Shayna’s pinkish cast.
There was a twenty-something young man making his rounds on the patio, hitting on everything with two legs and lumps under their tops. My forty-something friend and I observed bemusedly, almost taking pity on the poor soul. Almost, but not quite. He was striking out left and right. Probably a problem with his technique, I thought, which was very much confirmed just moments later.
The blonde who’d been pushing her chair-bound party mate around needed a break and seemed to see safe harbor with Donovan and I. Donovan, who like myself is a bit of a sci-fi and fantasy nerd was wearing a rather loud Dragonball Z shirt. Myself in a wool flat cap I’d just obtained from Ireland, with a conservative, but colorful button down shirt and slim-fitting jeans. We must have looked approachable.
“Is this seat taken? She asked us.
“Nope. Have a seat,” Donovan replied.
She lit a cigarette.
“So we’re wandering down this sleepy lane for a good half-hour, and hadn’t seen a car at all, taking in the sights on our way to the Irish Sea,” I said.
“Rich and Thea were on the right. I was on the left looking over a wall with a high hedge row at some pastures below. All of the sudden, from a blind curve behind us, a car came roaring in doing at least 60 miles an hour. Being an American, I was startled, because it’s on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and coming right at me with no signs of intending to stop.
“There was only a walk path on the right, so I had nowhere to go. I pulled a Spiderman leap up on to the hedge row. I was saved, but bleeding. The damn hedges were all thorny! The car never even slowed down.”
“Oh my,” Donovan exclaimed.
“After the car had gone by, I peered to my left and saw the drop. It was easily 40 feet to the ground. If I’d missed the hedge, I was dead. If I hadn’t made the leap up, I was dead. I was bleeding from a hundred little cuts, but alive.”
“Holy crap,” responded Donovan.
“Wow. You got really lucky,” the blonde at our table interjected, taking a drag off her cigarette.
“I gingerly climbed back down off the hedge, over the wall and onto the street. Rich and Thea were smirking at me from across the street and then, the best part… An elderly couple was walking down the designated pedestrian path on the right. The Irish gentleman doffed his flat cap towards me and said, ‘Very elegant, sir.’”
Donovan and our blonde interloper howled with laughter. I did too. I almost died, but it was pretty fucking funny.
“Do you travel a lot?” The blonde asked me.
Almost noticing her for the first time, I turned towards her. “Not as much as I’d like, but I’ve been around.”
“I bet you have.”
“Ireland was my first trip overseas, but I’ve been pretty much everywhere west, not too far East, except DC in the states. What about you?”
She thought a moment. “I just got back from Florida and I’ve been to Guatemala,” the young blonde informed me. “I’ve been to Alaska, too. I’d like to go back there someday.”
We talked about the seemingly endless days and nights, the Aurora Borealis and other things Alaska is known for.
“I bet that was really cool up there. I’ve seen the Northern Lights from my family’s cabin once or twice, but it was very faint. No colors. I’d like to see it from Alaska.”
We went on like this. Our conversation began to escalate in intensity. The world grew smaller.
“My dad works for an airline, so I’ve been able to travel a bit,” she explained.
“Awesome. I’ve mostly done road trips, until I went to Ireland, but I’ve flown to Los Angeles a few times, Houston and DC.”
By this point, Donovan ceased to exist. He noticed a growing connection between this blonde wheelchair pusher and myself, and left us to it, turning his attention to a woman closer to our own forty-something age whom I later learned was suffering a plethora of cancer-related problems. She was out on the town, though, having a good time.