The Road Taken: Swimming Upstream

Chapter 10:  It sucks to be me. That’s what I kept telling myself when the happy wanderers arrived at our doorstep. Joanie and Spock. Only Joanie wasn’t so happy.

She was practically in a tailspin from having driven seven hours straight without stopping.

Salmon, swimming upstream.

“Damn that Spock,” blurted Joanie, as she dumped her suitcases and shopping bags in the middle of our living room floor.  “The toilet wasn’t working on the RV and I told him I needed to pee, but he kept saying we’re almost there. Almost? That was 5 hours ago!”

She hugged me tightly. It’d been a long time, and I stiffened slightly. She must have felt it, because she put her hands on my shoulders and looked me squarely in the eye.

“You’re not still mad about the trip, are you? I told you I’d pay you back.”

She was referring to the $250 I’d given her to put toward the purchase of the RV so we could go on our cross-country trip. Only she canceled the trip at the last minute.

“Hey, what kind of place is this, anyway? What happened to the sunlight?”

Joanie had just noticed how dark it was inside our home, even in the middle of the day.  I switched on a light, and pointed Joanie in the direction of the bathroom. Meanwhile, G and Spock were brought in the rest of their belongings.

“So what are your plans, Joanie?” I asked as nonchalantly as possible, as soon as she came out of the bathroom.  “Now that you’re here, I mean.”

She looked at me askance. “Well, we’re taking the RV up to Vancouver, BC, for some sightseeing. Why do you ask?”

Spock walked in, carrying yet another box. He shot a wary glance at Joanie who ignored him, then said,

“Don’t worry, Monica, we’re not staying here. Just leaving our stuff. G said it’d be ok. When we get back from British Columbia, we’ll find a place and be out of your hair.”

I liked Spock. He was a mild-mannered, easy going sort of guy. He was also completely devoted to Joanie. You could see it in his eyes, the way he looked at her.

“With any luck we’ll even find a place close to you, so thanks for letting us keep our stuff here,” Spock added with a wink.

I looked at G who simply shrugged. “I didn’t think you’d mind, so I said it’d be ok.”

“Of course, it’s ok,” Joanie interjected. “Monica doesn’t mind.” Then, looking at me directly, she added, “And don’t worry about the RV money.  I’ll pay you back as soon as I’m able. Promise.”

Joanie came from money.  Her parents owned land in the Rockies, including a few buildings in downtown Denver, so she never lacked for it. Which was why she and Spock didn’t have to worry about working. Joanie had a trust fund and that gave them plenty of leeway to follow their dreams and whims. Like moving to Seattle.

While G and Spock gathered their gear into the room that was supposed to be our study and guestroom, I pulled out a Carly Simon album, “No Secrets” and placed it on the turntable.  Joanie dug through one of her suitcases and grabbed a sandwich-sized bag of pot. Sitting down at the kitchen table, she rolled a joint, with the precision of a Cuban cigar maker. Ah, memories of college started flooding back! I realized then that some of us were still stuck back at school.

I could not roll a joint to save my life, but Joanie was a professional. Back and forth she rolled until she had a very tight joint. Licking the edge, she lit it, took a hit and passed it to me.  I shook my head.

She looked surprised. “Come on. Let’s have some fun!”

“Joanie, I have to work tomorrow.”

“Oh, whatever.” She shrugged and took another hit.

I could hear G and Spock in the other room, heaving and stacking boxes.  “Let’s put this one on top,” G was saying.

Joanie leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes. I calculated how soon before she’d be having the munchies. No doubt, once the boys finished organizing, they’d be getting high too. In anticipation, I pulled out a box of sesame crackers from the cabinet, along with some Swiss cheese and leftover salmon filets from the fridge. G and I had gone, the day before, to Pike Place Market and stocked up on our favorites, salmon being one of them.

I had never tried salmon until I moved to Seattle and now it had become our mainstay. Salmon–grilled, baked, fried or smoked. Alder wood smoked salmon was by far the best. Seattle seemed to be the salmon capitol of the world. You could even watch them swim upstream at the Ballard Locks, not too far from where we lived. Fascinating creatures, these salmon are, determined to go against the grain, pushing upstream, against all odds, just so they could lay their eggs.

As I carefully placed the crackers on a plate, and sliced the cheese, Joanie said abruptly, “You know, if I didn’t have Spock, I might be married to G right now.”

I dropped the cheese slicer and looked at her quizzically. She looked so comfortable and at ease in my small kitchen, that seemed to be shrinking with every second passing. I could hear Carly Simon singing, “You’re so Vain,” and I wondered for the umpteenth time, exactly who she was singing about.

Joanie continued. “Yep, freshman year, G definitely had the hots for me.”  She said, “Hots” slowly, mouthing the word in an exaggerated way, then adding coyly, “We made out once and, well, you know.”

I felt my cheeks burn. I didn’t know what she meant or why she was telling me this.  But before I could say anything, G and Spock sauntered in. Spock turned to Joanie and asked,

“Babe, you talking to me yet? Cause we’ve finished unloading the RV and I’m ready to get high.”

Joanie gave a little Cheshire-cat smile and nodded. She handed him the joint. Slowly, he inhaled, then passed it on to G.  I watched G take a hit, hold it for a few moments, then gradually, he blew it in my face. I didn’t say a word. G then bent over and gently kissed my forehead.  And when he did, I’m pretty sure he didn’t notice, that inside, I was swimming like a salmon. Upstream, and against a rush of cold water.

Missed a chapter? You can read past installments, by visiting the page, titled, The Road Taken.