Do you believe in love at first sight, serendipity, synchronicity, fate or meant-to-be?
Sara commented on my story the long way ’round” my favourite ever stories are ‘how we met’ stories” and other commenters shared snippets of their own.
Kate said… “You only have to read Celi’s account of how she and Our John met, missed, met again and married. One of the most fascinating ‘how we met’ stories and clear evidence that some things are just meant by the universe to happen” and “It sounds like the start of a collection of stories to me”.
For myself, being slow on the uptake, it took literally a word in my ear from the Universe to finally set the wheels in motion for us, as the G.O. so inelegantly phrases it, to “hook up”!
If you have a happy ever after or a relationship stepping-stone in life story, I’d love you to share it by commenting below, or posting and linking back to this post.
This is mine.
It’s so easy to see now. But for many years I didn’t. I know there are a few doubters who look at us with speculative eyes. All I have to say to them is don’t judge us by standards which are not ours.
I can feel the autumnal Saturday afternoon, daylight waning. I can see the place: scruffy shops adjacent a suburban Sydney railway station. I remain connected to the moment as if by a long silver thread. A thread that twisted and tangled but joins us still twenty-five years later.
I’d escaped a too-young marriage and utilitarian country town to seek better in the city. I’d come without a job but with a man. It was complicated. I should have known it was never going to end well. It took fourteen years and the failure of a second marriage before I gave up trying to deny to myself that blind naivety had given what ought to have been a misguided fling an artificially long shelf life. Abetted by impossible pride, I’d made another mistake.
Its redeeming legacy was my friendship with the G.O. Husband#2 had introduced us in the beginning; on that autumn afternoon so indelibly inked into my story. For more than a decade after that day, the G.O. came and went from my life. Familiar to my family and friends. Beloved of my cats and dog. Sometime sharer of households and long late night conversations. We attended each others weddings and wished each other happiness.
In the end, it took a serendipitous job where I spent week-nights away from home to distance me literally, figuratively and sufficiently to see clearly and disconnect from my marriage. Finally forced by foolishness and deceit to view it with honest eyes.
Although Husband#2 and the G.O. had teamed up once again working together, just as the marriage couldn’t withstand the increasing chicanery nor could their friendship. The G.O. also had had enough, and returning to his country life, left Husband#2 to his own injudicious devices. The G.O.’s withdrawal was another clue how far Husband#2 had gone. Too far.
Change was in the wind before I consciously realised it. Months before I physically left, a chance remark tipped me off to what would soon eventuate. A work colleague commented about my long daily commute and my spontaneous reply “I’m moving back to the city” surprised us both. But sure enough, as inevitably transpired, sufficient responsibilities and impediments fell away to enable me to rent a small apartment in the inner city – alone.
Lingering obligations tied me to Husband#2. His problematic life continued to encroach my progression to freedom. I couldn’t save him from himself and I damned sure wasn’t going down with him. Holding him up financially and materially simply perpetuated his imprudence. One of the last accommodations I made was to indulge his claim I had gotten the better of our two mobile phones, and swap. It was a gesture that would go on to change my life.
Just when I’d had enough, thought I’d done enough, there was more. Several months after I removed myself, the significance and permanence of my absence revealed itself to other parties inveigled by Husband#2 into involvement with his business affairs. I swapped phones but kept my number. It started ringing; revealing mendacity I hadn’t been involved in and couldn’t explain.
Husband#2’s phone came complete with contact numbers I didn’t bother removing. After one particularly harrowing late night call I scrolled through the list and saw the G.O.’s home number. If there was one person who might enlighten me about the dealings I was being confronted with, it was him.
Although not feeling it myself, the time of day I waited until to call the G.O. was civilized. He was surprised to hear from me, somewhat surprised at the news of my marriage split but unsurprised at the purpose of my call. He’d been aware of escalating dubiousness in Husband#2’s conduct, had interpreted my apparent tolerance as acquiescence and prudently refrained from interfering.
Neither the phone call nor confirmation of Husband#2’s further transgressions had an immediate effect. By and by once the complainants believed I neither had knowledge nor influence their entreaties fizzled out. Eventually I extricated myself from the snarled web woven by my good intentions and Husband#2’s schemes.
While I sorted out peripheral details, the core of my life was strong. Half a year before the dam of my denial broke, the contract role that had taken me away from home morphed into a permanent job. The decision to move back to Sydney freed me not only from the marriage but from a four hour daily commute. As if by magic the small apartment that felt like home manifested at the right time and place.
I didn’t miss having a man in my life. Monday to Friday professionally the law firm partner I assisted was sufficient. Lovely man that he is I revelled in shutting the door each evening and not hearing him call my name. I explored the streets of my new neighbourhood. I invested my spare time variously in the blissful peace of aloneness, books, meditation, massages, a spiritual development group, the cinema, and volunteered with an asylum seekers support program.
And so the months pleasantly passed until just-another-Wednesday evening in the last days of winter I was leaving work waiting for the lift to arrive at my floor. In the moment before the doors opened I heard a clear silent voice say “Call Wayne”. There’s no mobile coverage in the lifts so I had twenty-five floors to digest this communication. It wasn’t until I’d exited the building, descended the escalator, walked the expanse of the near empty food court and stepped onto the next escalator that the authenticity of the message registered.
Half way down the second escalator I pressed the G.O.’s number on my phone. He answered by the time I stepped onto the street. He hadn’t been expecting my call, rather hoping as he was working in the city for a few days, intended to call me but inadvertently left his wallet containing my phone number at home.
He suggested we catch up; it had been some time since we’d talked on the phone, longer since in person. He was busy that night but not the next. That suited me as well so we agreed on time and place.
The next evening when I climbed the railway station stairs he was waiting for me on the overpass. We greeted each other like the old friends we were, proceeded to drinks and dinner. As with our past long late night conversations the hours flew, until it was nearly midnight and we were again standing at the steps of the railway station. I was about to get on a train when he kissed me goodbye. I missed that train and the next.
At last seated on a homeward bound train, I knew it would be a long time until my whirling thoughts let me sleep.
This story would be a real life fairy-tale if our happy ever after started at that point. In reality we lived disparate lives; him country, me city. It would take another year before the lovely possibility of us became a true Us.
The G.O. has been waiting for me at railway stations whenever he can manage ever since.
We got married last year ten years to the day after that first kiss.
The G.O. and I have just passed the 25 year milestone since we met…
Regardless of not having been a Coffs Harbour resident since living there as a teenager with his grandmother on the family farm, whenever we make the drive about an hour from our home at Taylors Arm for business, shopping or recreation in the CBD, the G.O. habitually parks as he’s done since the 1970’s in the same street one back from the main road around the corner from The Coffs Hotel adjacent to the Coffs Coast Advocate newspaper offices.
Each time I step out onto the footpath, I marvel at the inscrutability of life’s journey.
About a year before I met the G.O. in 1990, I was at those same newspaper offices applying for a job on their staff. At which time the G.O. had been working off and on throughout NSW and Queensland for several years with the man who would become my Husband #2 and via whom we would meet.
At the time, I was married to Husband #1, living in the rural Hunter Valley coal mining town of Muswellbrook, had a good job at the local council and was studying part-time for a Bachelor of Business in Local Government. Husband #1 bored with his carpentry job decided to try his luck bricklaying with his cousin who lived on the Coffs Coast. He went over for a couple of weeks on trial, me tagging along on holidays, and decided to move over permanently. Seeing the job at the newspaper advertised, I’d tried my luck, scoring an interview but unsuccessful as I wasn’t a local resident.
Returning to the Hunter Valley, in preparation for the move Husband #1 & I bought and renovated a large-ish caravan, relocating to his parents’ farm from our nice rented town house to live in it, with our 2 Rottweilers & 2 cats, and quit our jobs.
The day before we were due to hitch the caravan to the ute and depart Husband #1 changed his mind. His parents were unconcerned. Husband #1 had been employed in the main by one or another family member so he simply resumed work. Their blasé attitude at my unemployed status suggested they were hoping I’d come to my senses and produce a grandchild.
I immediately applied for any job listed in the local newspaper for which I was remotely qualified, and took the first offer I got as a receptionist at the premier hotel in town mainly patronised by visiting sales reps, executives, managers, etc. for local industry.
I worked 2 shifts: 7 am-3 pm and 3 pm-11 pm week about. Days were routine. Nights were more interesting with a procession of various guests, diners and occasional local minor celebrities into the hotel and restaurant. The hotel, part of a group, was managed by a cultivated but eccentric middle-aged couple who mostly left reception staff to their own devices.
The lady of the house was inclined to airs & graces and if it could be managed liked to have a couple of pre-dinner cocktails then descend the curved staircase from their private quarters elegantly attired, fluffy dog in hand to greet the guests. At which point whoever was on reception had to simultaneously attempt to persuade her back upstairs and locate her husband.
I kept one eye on the positions vacant, several months later landing a job as office manager for the NSW branch of a heavy earthmoving equipment company. It was there I met Husband #2. Soon, riding the last wave of the excess of the 80’s I was at the same hotel 3 nights a week lavishly hosting guests at the expense of the company or hosted by corporate colleagues.
The G.O. also had been working for the earthmoving equipment company, but his visits to our site didn’t coincide with my presence. It wasn’t until the company and my marriage to Husband #1 folded, and I moved to Sydney in April 1990 that we met.
We discovered that over the preceding years our paths had come close but not connected numerous times; me holidaying as a kid on the Coffs Coast and the G.O. working in the Hunter Valley. And even once they did, it would take another 15 years, another marriage each to other people before the light dawned…
And with thanks to the commenters on my post out on a limb whose suggestions inspired ideas for several stories, this story included, and a ‘branching out’ theme short story which if I get time to polish it before May 29 might be a contender for submission to Country Style Magazine’s short story competition.
Not much older and only a little wiser after the demise of marriage #1, I embarked optimistically on marriage #2. Two of the players stayed on for the second act, Baddy and Jack, my cats. The cast welcomed Bo, an Australian Cattle Dog, who adored them both.
I met the man who would become Husband #2 for the first time a fortnight or so after I started a new job as Office Manager for the state branch of a hire company for mining and construction heavy equipment. He was the Branch Manager, somewhat elusive until that point. He’d been absent during my negotiations with Head Office and initially his existence substantiated only by a few phone calls from locations unknown, deferring his return.
Arriving at the yard early one morning I was curious to see a strange vehicle parked out front. The wanderer had materialised, and invited me to have a seat in his office. As I sat myself in the chair opposite his desk, I experienced a tangible but inexplicable sensation of cogs shifting then setting into a new alignment. We had a lengthy get-to-know-you discussion about the company, his role, my role, our backgrounds… and the way in which we most feared dying. This was something up until that point I’d not considered but the words by burning spontaneously but surely uttered from my mouth.
Several years later I read an article about a woman in Tasmania who did past life readings from photographs. I sent her a photo of Husband #2 and myself. She sent me a letter back describing a previous life connecting the two of us, in Cornwall where I’d been a healer in a small village neighbouring a larger settlement. Husband #2 had been a member of a church community who objected to my practices, and was responsible for me being burned as a witch.
If house sharing was the frying pan, marriage was the fire, and I carelessly fed my life to the flames.
Both Husband #1 & I were barely in our twenties when we set up house. He wasn’t averse to sharing household tasks but was shy of public knowledge. I was bemused one night cleaning up after dinner when he reacted to a knock at the door which I went to answer, by directing me to wait. As I hovered, he stepped away from the sink, dried his hands, walked to the living room, turned on the TV and settled on the couch. Only then was I free to open the door.
TV was central to Husband #1’s existence. Back in the 1980’s there were two channels – ABC plus a local commercial station, and VCR. Enthralled, he would sit for hours, gazing at the screen. On one occasion, I’d had enough. Awoken from solitary sleep in the early hours by noise seeping through the floor to the bedroom, my exasperation with the habit of his absence in favour of the idiot-box got the better of me. I stomped downstairs, eliciting no reaction though he was awake, engrossed. So rapt, he didn’t blink as in a single movement I pulled the TV out from the wall with one hand and cut the power cord to it with the scissors in the other. That got his attention.
Early on when the G.O. and I realised that he and I were an “us” and were negotiating our way through a new kind of relationship, his wise words were it doesn’t have to be hard. Last week we clocked up 8 years of cohabitating, and that simple philosophy stands us in good stead still.
During the week one evening before the G.O. had arrived home, changing from my office clothes into my around the house ensemble I caught my reflection in the mirror, laughed and thought what a woman to come home to, lucky he’s not fussy… My attire, as usual, was a checked flannie over an old t-shirt, with equally old, faded ripped jeans and Ugg boots, and wild hair scraped into a sort of bun-knot.
The moment brought to mind a conversation last weekend after a family lunch to celebrate the G.O.’s mum’s 80th birthday. We were discussing various family members, and my M.I.L. mentioned a cousin’s wife “she’s the talk of the town, she goes to the shops wearing his old holey shorts”. I said nothing but I could see in my mind summer-me attired in a pair of the G.O.’s old boardies, nipping into the shops after the beach. I have never seen my M.I.L. and her sisters dressed in anything that could be considered casual… even the M.I.L’s gardening clothes put many items of my holiday clothing selection to shame. Different generation, I guess, is the explanation. Read the rest of this entry »