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“I’m okay. C’mon Jan, it was your standard California earthquake. Well of course it’s all over the news, it’s an official natural disaster. There is no need for you to drop everything and fly home. Just imagine that conversation with your agent, your editor, and the publisher – exactly. Look, I’m fine, the house is fine, and the rest of the houses in the neighborhood are fine – really. No, I haven’t been out to the garage yet. Yes, you’re probably right; I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some stuff fell off the shelves in your office. The way you…”
Geez, there’s nothing more relentless then a wife half a continent away on yet another book signing tour. Once the kids were grown up and out, my wife Janet redirected her “focus of concern” on to me. Suddenly, I was barely able to care for myself. Although, even I could appreciate her concern this time – a 6.3 earthquake with a nearby epicenter was nothing to laugh about.
“Of course I’ll be careful. Why don’t you call back after whatever you have going on today is finished? I know it’s a signing. Okay call me about six, my time. I’ll have a complete report. Great, love you too.”
I finished my morning coffee, and walked through the side yard to the garage. A quick check revealed all was well. No pipes were leaking, nothing had fallen from the shelves, and everything looked okay. I exited the garage and turned left, pushing open the gate into Jan’s little hideaway.
“Yes, step right this way good readers. This is a rare treat indeed; you are entering authoress Janet Matheson’s World of Romance Garden. Did you know that she rarely lets her husband in here?” I wasn’t talking to anyone but myself – just a bit of an inside joke.
In truth, Jan’s transition from high school teacher to highly successful romance novelist had been anything but smooth. After twenty years of teaching English and Creative Writing she was burned out and ready for a change. She applied and was accepted to a very prestigious Masters level Creative Writing course. It wasn’t that I didn’t support her. I did.
The challenge was that the University was three states to the east of us. She would have to live there during the week and fly back on weekends and holidays to visit. It meant that I had to re-arrange my work schedule to be more available to our kids’ while she took this year-long course.
You want a challenge for one of those reality survivor shows? Try managing the lives of a fifteen-year-old daughter and fourteen year old son. Events in the kid’s lives, school/homework situations, sports practices, even the shopping was all delegated to me. In this crucible of dealing with life, the kids and I forged a relationship and closeness that endures to this day. Sometimes I think that Jan is a tiny bit jealous of how close the kids and I are.
It wasn’t that Jan and I were estranged or anything like that. It’s just that at the time we never seemed to do much with each other – except sex. It was weird, very enjoyable, but still weird. While many elements of our basic marriage were suffering greatly, our sex life was incredible. When we talked by phone she would inquire about things, I’d give her a status report, and we’d be on to the next issue. It was almost like she was eryaman escort living two separate lives.
When she flew in for the weekend or school holidays she overwhelmed the kids with questions and concerns. As for me, as for us, I know that I’m exaggerating, but it seemed that anytime Jan and I had a private moment, we were having sex.
Great sex, too. During our “Golden Age of Sex” Jan became an accomplished fellatrix (her term, she was uncomfortable with saying cocksucker), and we experimented with great variety and enthusiasm. I swear I would get hard while driving to the airport to pick her up. I don’t know how we made it safely home sometimes. My opinion was that if this was the price of her focusing on creative writing, I sure as hell wasn’t going to complain about the method of payment. Which was why, when she graduated, I gave her a bright red 1939 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable typewriter. According to those in the know, this was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite typewriters. Jan was absolutely blown away. I jokingly told her that just because Papa Hemingway had his mistresses and lovers that didn’t mean that she, Mama Matheson, could have hers.
The typewriter was immediately declared off-limits to all family members, including me. It was for her exclusive use. Three years and countless reams of paper later, Jan had her first romance novel published. Seventeen variations on the same theme later, Jan was making a nice six figure annual income.
After the success of her first book, I had suggested converting an unused garage apartment into a writing room. The “English cottage” writing garden was added after book number six. And the whole thing enclosed and carefully shielded from the outside world after number eleven. About the only way I’m allowed inside anymore is if I bring her something chocolate.
I closed the gate behind me and walked along the gravel path (Jan’s Early Warning Approach System). Everything seemed as it should. I ducked beneath the overgrown Bougainvillea that framed her view of the garden. She’d left the shades down so I was unable to see inside. I unlocked the French doors and opened them. I was greeted by the sight of bright white paper dumped across the floor like snow drifts.
Jan hated filing cabinets. Her preferred system (and I’m using that term lightly) of storage was stacks of Kinko’s boxes. The contents of the boxes, which had been placed one atop the other, were everywhere. Good luck, Jan; no way was I going to touch any of this.
At least “Red” was okay. Red was Jan’s name for the typewriter. Red was sitting on the antique writing desk that I had bought for Jan after book number three. Red’s sole purpose in life was for the typing of story manuscripts.
Red’s partner in creativity was “Reddy Freddy.” “Reddy Freddy” (I gave him that name) was a big, fat, bright red lacquer Waterman fountain pen that went everywhere that Jan went. She had gotten the pen toward the end of her Masters’ course. Red and Reddy Freddy were Jan’s tools of the trade.
As sure as Red never moved from her writing desk, Jan didn’t go anywhere without Reddy Freddy and a leather portfolio filled with bright white, high rag content, letter-size esat escort paper. She wrote constantly throughout the day: poems, bits of dialogue, scenes and impressions. And, dated journal entries.
Jan started journaling right about the time she was completing her writing course. The weekend I gave her Red, Jan and I spent getting to know one another again. Lots of sex, but also, and more importantly, lots of conversations. Deep, intimate conversations. It was surprising how far we’d grown apart. I hadn’t realized how hard the year had been on Jan until I observed her crying in private one night.
I’d awoken that night to find the bed empty. I glanced at the bathroom, no Jan there; the door was wide open. I got up and walked quietly down the hall. There was a light on in the dining room.
Jan, wrapped in a silk robe, was sitting at the dining room table writing as she sniffled and sobbed. It was the first time I had seen Reddy Freddy in action. I watched silently from the hallway as page after page was filled and turned face down. After a while, she stopped writing, placed the red pen on the top paper and stood. She gathered her tear-sodden tissues and walked into the kitchen. I approached the table and looked down at the pen and paper. I couldn’t help but pick up the bright red pen and examine it. Pen inspected, I naturally read the words that flowed across the page:
Feeling me. Fulfilling me How did you know? Completely me Completing me Why did you go? Alone so long. My solo…
I was just turning over the top face down paper to see what had preceded these words when Jan returned. She freaked out when she saw me there. Snatching the pen from my hand, she demanded to know what I’d read. It took a while to calm her down. She explained that when she was journaling she was being completely vulnerable; open and honest. She asked that I never look at her writing, unless invited to. I agreed.
I mentioned the one page I had read and told her that I hadn’t realized how much she’d missed me during the previous year. With that she burst into a fresh torrent of tears. I took her back to bed and simply held her, telling her again and again how much I loved her.
Needless to say, to see those many years of journals spread across the floor was a huge temptation. Oh how I wanted to read, but I would not violate her trust. I was backing out of the room when I saw them.
“Them” was a sweep of off-white cheap recycled paper beneath the desk that Red sat on. Even across the room I could see that the hand-writing, closer to printing actually, was unmistakably masculine. Something deep within me was trying to push me out the door. I really needed to leave. ______________________________________________
“Hey sweetie, how did the book-signing go? Really? That’s great! Good. Well now that you bring it up, there was a casualty. No, no, nothing wrong in the garage, the Benz is just fine. It was in your writing place. I looked in through the doors of your writing room. No, I didn’t, and there’s a good reason I didn’t go in. All your Kinko boxes came off the shelves – it looks like a blizzard in there. But that’s not the casualty.
“It’s Red. Somehow the quake caused ankara escort him to slide off the desk. He must have hit just right. There are pieces everywhere. No, totally destroyed beyond any hope of repair. I’m really sorry, Janet, I can’t imagine how much he meant to you.”
I watched Jan walk across the living room to the fireplace. Her blonde hair was perfectly styled. Her clothing too. With dramatic nuance she positioned a small book stand on the mantle, and then carefully placed a black cylinder on the holders. It was a typewriter platen; Red’s typewriter platen.
“Is this the official viewing, or will this be his final resting place in the House that Red Re-Built?”
Jan turned and looked down at the floor, sighed, and then looked up, straight into my eyes.
“All of the words ever typed on Red, mine and anyone before me, are on that platen. You can’t see them, but they’re there. The joys, the sorrows, dreams and fears – everything. I was always so focused on the keys, the words, the meaning of it all. I never really thought about the actual impact.
“I was surprised at how Red seemed to have exploded when he hit the floor. Then I saw what Red was lying upon. Letters from long ago, letters I no longer needed, or wanted. I decided to shred them immediately. That’s when I discovered the three deep dents in floor beneath Red.”
Jan turned and pointed at the platen. “This is a reminder, not of what we’ve built together, but of what I almost threw away through my selfishness. That’s why I kept his letters – as a reminder of my own stupidity.” She started to cry.
“I can’t imagine the pain I’ve caused you. I want you to know that it was that one time, during the writing course – just him, no others. It never happened again. I know I can’t give you any good reasons …” Tears were really flowing now. “I love you so much…”
We hugged and I told her that I loved her too. I looked at the platen. In the weeks since reading the letters that Jan’s lover had sent her I had thought much about what was in them. Letters filled with passion. Letters detailing activities that Jan had long denied me. Letters that revealed a woman of passion that I barely knew.
I thought about the seventeen romance novels that had been written on it. Seventeen stories with their recurring theme of the heroine trapped in desperate or insipid circumstances, rescued by a sexy stranger, their passion lifts them both out of their ennui. He moves on, and she returns to her previous life, transformed by waves of remembered passion.
That was going to change. If there was going to be memories of passion in our bed they were going to be ours. My years of self-denial were over. It was time to give Jan something to think about.
I excused myself for a moment. When I returned I reached into my pants pocket and walked to Red’s platen. I carefully draped the red, silk panties over it.
“This is my reminder. It reminds me of a man who discovers that what he thought was really his – wasn’t. He questions the passion in his life, is it really his? And like the proverbial chicken, he decides to cross the road to see what’s on the other side. Only he didn’t have to cross the road; do you know where he found all of the passion he could handle? It turns out that it was right next door.”
Jan looked past the panties out the dining room window at the house of recently divorce Diana Brown and then looked back at me. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish. “That fucking bitch!”
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