And I had, after that giddy day at the Flat Rocks with Terry, really considered the possibility of following him back to England and trying to create a life there, just as I had considered going with Rick to Chicago. My high school friend Nikki had met a Canadian in Europe in her twenties, followed him back to Quebec, and married him. If only I could be brave enough, daring enough, I’d been telling  myself, maybe I could finally find my true life path. But now I’d made my decision. Nevertheless, I wrote Terry the following letter:


Dear Terry,

     Halloo! How’s England been treating you? My homecoming was poignant and happy, though some friends expressed indignation over my early return, saying since they were prepared to miss me all summer, the least I could have done was stay away. I’ve been in a lazy, meditative, mood, and since the college doesn’t open until September, I can kick back and enjoy myself. I’m playing the guitar again after a five-month intermission. I promised myself that I would look for a classical guitar teacher as soon as I got home, but judging from present performance, I’m destined to become a virtuoso procrastinator, at best. I’m also taking disco lessons again. My ex-dance-partner found a replacement for me in my absence, and now I’m wondering morosely where I’ll find another man so stoical about having his feet stepped on.

     After Cadaques, it ain’t easy to adjust to life in the “big city”—particularly when you live in a poor, run-down section, where everything that’s not nailed down is likely to be stolen. Last midnight I had to drag myself out of bed and get dressed because I remember I hadn’t padlocked my car hood shut after adding water to the radiator. Mornings when I wake up before dawn, I drive my car to Lake Temescal or one of the reservoirs, and, scrambling over fences with “No Trespassing” signs, I hike until the fog burns off. It’s a magical time of day to me—the yellow hills missing their tops, sheared off by mist, and the water’s edge looking like the world’s edge—a gray impenetrable-seeming void beyond.

     On one of these excursions I discovered a little hole-in-the-wall British bakery that advertises salt-and-vinegar potato chips and British bangers where I now stop for coffee and a muffin. I took refuge there one Saturday in the midst of a thunder and lightning storm—almost unheard of in the Bay Area.

     Terry, it seems strange to me now as it never did in Cadaques that I didn’t try to find out more about you. And since I still feel puzzled about our relationship, I wish I had. I wonder why you thanked me for “comfort” and why you left me waiting at the Café Maritime—would have, indefinitely, I guess—the afternoon of the yacht party. As for me (it’s easier to say at this distance), I was afraid of getting close to you, or anyone, too quickly, after a whirlwind romance that ended painfully for me a few months ago. Also, I felt there was some constraint on your part that I didn’t know how to account for. Perhaps you’ll enlighten me?

     I hope all is going well for you.  Say hello to Maynard, Annie, and Jess for me—actually, you might say “good-bye” to them first—I didn’t do a proper job of that in Cadaques.



Not surprisingly, I never heard back from him.



     She woke up after only a few hours, feeling refreshed and peaceful for the first moments before she remembered…and that put the ache back in her chest. Wanting to comfort herself, she lay back and smoothed her hair over the pillow, then held a mirror over her head—which pulled the skin taut around her cheeks, accentuating her cheekbones—and dabbed her mouth with pale pink lipstick, her lashes with mascara.

     Sometime later she thought she heard a knock. At the window she saw Terry below, holding a pot. It couldn’t have been more than 8:00 a.m. “Wait!” she called, and, still in her silky white nightgown, she ran down the steps. He knocked a second time.

     “I just wanted to return this…and the money I owe you,” he said. “I’ve written a note.”

     She took the pot in one hand and glanced at the scrap of paper, scanning the words out loud. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” it said, “but it would have ended the same, anyway—with me leaving on a jet this morning.”

     “I have to go,” he stammered. “I have someone waiting to take me to the airport.” He was embarrassed by her reading the note in front of him, she realized.

     “I’m sorry too.” She reached out and touched his shirt, staring at his button for a long moment—wondering what more she should say—before looking into his eyes. He stammered another apology and gave her a fumbled kiss on the cheek. “I have to go,” he repeated. “Maybe you want to give me your address…”

     The following morning she washed her sheets and hung them out on the balcony to dry, swept and tidied her room. She chatted with John Michel briefly, and before she left for the post office, she found a note on the stairs. It said, “I think you go—a kiss, Jean Michel.”

     She went to the post office to find out what time the bus for Figueras left, then carried her suitcase out to the road and waited with the other passengers. That night on a train to Madrid she stood in the crammed, cramped corridor; all the other loiterers were men. She opened the window and leaned out, the wind whipping her hair across her eyes and open mouth, and she felt free, freer than she had in a very long time—because she’d finally made her choice. She was going home to California, where she would make her life.



     Jean Michel was smoking in the living room when she arrived, and drinking brandy. “There’s a good idea,” she said and helped herself to a glassful, though she hated the stuff.

     “What’s wrong?” Jean Michel asked.

     “I got stood up,” she said, feeling foolishly like she was going to cry.

     “By the actor?” She nodded, feeling a tear get away from her.

     “So what are you so upset about?” he asked with amusement. “You hardly know him.”

     She left after that, walked down to Dr. John’s and found him making a curry supper. They sat in his front yard at his splintered table and drank wine until they were both quite drunk, then went down to the discotheque to listen to the band. She stood in the front row of a crush of onlookers in the tiny bar, swaying and clapping, amazed at how much better she felt. Liquor really does work, she marveled. When the place finally closed she went home, a couple of hours before dawn.

     She slept a few hours and woke up tired but without a hangover. All she wanted to do was find Terry and apologize to him. What if he’d felt hurt, rebuffed when she wouldn’t go with him to the Flat Rocks the second time? she’d realized. What if he thought he’d failed as a lover because she never had an orgasm? Putting herself in his place, she saw how her actions might have wounded or confused him.

     She spent the morning searching for him all over town, but strangely, not one of the gang was anywhere to be found. The yacht was still anchored off the point, but now it was quiet. In the afternoon she walked up into the hills south of town, where there was a villa. Thinking about all that had happened, wondering how much of it she’d brought on herself, she felt an anguish, so sudden and monumental, it came crashing down on her like an avalanche, crushing her chest with such oppressive weight, she could hardly draw breath. She staggered along the path, scarcely able to walk, she felt so hopelessly defective—that she always found a way to wreck every opportunity life offered her—and finally collapsed on the side of the road, then forced herself to get up and walk again. She heard herself sobbing and talking wildly out loud. It was as though the suffering of a lifetime had born down on her in a single moment.

     Hours later, back in town, she looked for Terry again; it was the evening of the dinner, but she still couldn’t find him.



     At five she hurried down to the café—he wasn’t there yet—so she ordered Fanta and sat and talked to Dr. John. After a while he began directing his comments to a couple of young women at the neighboring table who were speaking in German, and soon he’d invited them to their table. He was charming; they were charmed. Eventually she got up and left him to his new conquests, wondering what could have happened to Terry.

     She walked along the beach, then went back to the café. He still hadn’t come. Dr. John was gone, and she sat alone waiting for a long time. Finally she headed off down the street that bordered the ocean; if they were coming back from the lighthouse, she would meet them on the way. She was passing the second cove with its little shops displaying baskets of fruits and vegetables when she noticed a yacht anchored a ways off shore. It was close enough so she could hear some of the voices, and, straining her eyes, she even began to recognize some of the revelers. She saw Aaron first, then Victoria, then Terry. Not knowing what to do, she paced back and forth along the shore, started for home once, then came back and, standing on the point, began to holler. Someone on board recognized her and pushed off in a dinghy. When she came on board she found Terry singing drunkenly, Victoria behind him, draping her arms over him possessively.

     “What happened about the dinner?” Seely asked.

     “Oh, Alana thought we should have it tomorrow night instead,” he said, a little shame-faced. “Here, come on over and sing with me,” he added expansively, making room for her on the bench.

     She swallowed and shook her head. He shrugged, again hangdog. The bottle went around and the carousing continued, while she sat, not participating but trying to look unfazed. He would have let her walk all the way to the lighthouse—an hour and a half round trip—she realized, only to find he wasn’t there. And the fact that it was Alana’s preference and not his commitment to her that mattered to him made her even more sober. She remembered him telling her he “adored” Alana, and now began to suspect that if Alana hadn’t been with Aaron, she was the one he would have wooed. “Why do you always have to be so serious?” Susie chided her supercilliously. Which reminded her of Dr. John’s account of how Susie and Gwen’s boyfriend had gone home to have sex together, leaving Gwen behind at a bar—a story she’d taken with a grain of salt at the time.

     Half an hour later it was suddenly decided to go ashore. Everyone piled into two dinghies and a motorboat. Terry sat down next to her in a dinghy, but they’d barely set off when he announced he was going to swim…and, more tumbling than diving, he flopped into the water. He arrived on shore just after the boat and followed her up the slope, towards Jean-Michel’s.

     “Hey,” he reiterated, “I’m sorry about the dinner, but Alana thought we should have it tomorrow night.”

     “Alana?” she said angrily.

     “We could still go out to dinner tonight,” he suggested.

     “No,” she said.

     “Well, I’ll look for you tomorrow,”

     “Don’t bother,” she said evenly. And she walked away from him up the hill.