Send A Smile

I find it just amazing the little surprises that can await you when you’ve been away from your pc for a while. Oh, you have to scoop through the poo some and get rid of all the unwanted emails, but then there’s that one that just jumps out at you and makes you smile. I found that one yesterday when I was deleting several weeks worth of crap. I think the story behind the email is quite interesting and thought I would share it with all of you.

     I took a vacation to Key West the first week of March in 2004, seven years ago. I remember the date because my ex-fiancé had drove down to attend Daytona Bike Week, I couldn’t get the time off from work until the day after it ended, and flew down to join him just as Spring Break was getting under way. Upon my arrival in Orlando we promptly headed down to the Keys for a few days, planning on rubbing shoulders with some of the colorful locals, before returning to Daytona for the remainder of the week to bike the coast. I guess this is where the story begins.

     Well, he and I didn’t get along from the get-go on that trip. We’d been having plenty of problems up to that point, and certainly shouldn’t have been loosed together on an unsuspecting island full of people. Nevertheless, we were. Our drive from Orlando began early in the morning with an argument instead of coffee to start my day, and by the time we got to the Last Chance Saloon (which to those of you who are unfamiliar is a biker bar located at the bottom of Florida right before you enter the Keys) I was already ripe as a plum tomato from drinking in the van all day. I didn’t need a drop more, but my then-old man was smart enough not to tell me that, as I can be quite the pain in the ass when I’m already on a roll. As I recall, we slid into the bar so I could get myself a shirt, and I proceeded to accompany him—who by the way was as sober as a judge—in a couple more drinks. The rest of the drive down to Key West was made in silence.

     We managed to get through checking into our room and freshening up, and also grabbing a cab and making it to Old Town before the fireworks began again. By that time I had foreseen a week of that shit ahead of me, and had decided the only way I would make it through was to just stay nice and toasty for the remainder of the week we were to spend together. I might mention when I’m nice and toasty I tend to be a bit testier than normal and such was that evening. It was just a matter of a few hours of constant disagreements before I just absently wandered off on my own. Yes, I did…just walked away, drunk as a skunk to do my own thing that night. He claimed later that he hadn’t seen me do it, but I recall plain as day looking back and seeing him glance my way. My guess is that he realized later how much of an ass it would make him look if he were to admit he let me do something so irrational while intoxicated, and how dangerous the end result could’ve been for me in an unfamiliar place full of tourists. Personally, I didn’t care much then, and upon reflection don’t care much now. For a few hours in Key West without him I had a ball.

     I pretty much stopped back into most of the places that we’d already been through in Old Town, and chatted randomly with the young, Spring-Breaker’s who I found incredibly interesting. Hell, as far as I was concerned age was just a number and we were all there for the same reasons…to paaaaarty! ((Yeeeaahh!!)) Party I did. I partied my way through the rest of the bars, and then got the genius idea that I would venture from the norm and find myself a little bar tucked away somewhere that I hadn’t already been to. I started wandering down the street, turning corners, seemed to find myself in more of a residential area, heard music, and started following the sound. “Hey Ya” by Outkast was coming from somewhere. That song drew me in that night, and is the one I associate most closely with Key West today.

     Spring Break draws in more than just college kids. It brings out the perv’s. Did you know that? Sadly, I found there are middle-aged men out there who purposely choose to vacation in these places at this time just so they can oogle bare, young bodies, and try to lure them in. Yuck! Nonetheless true! I found this out as I was teetering down the street in the darkness following the music and happened upon such a group of these men. Several of them must’ve rented out one of the more pricey accommodations that you can find there, and as I approached were hanging out on the balcony. It was as I came up the sidewalk in front of the house that I heard them ask if I wanted to join them. It was in a sleazy, I’m-way-too-old-to-be-acting-this-way, but-I-have-to-save-face-in-front-of-my-paunchy-middled-aged-friends-so-I-will, kind of way, and frankly…I was offended. The first thing out of my mouth was, “As soon as one of you gets a set of balls as big as mine I might think about it.” That shut them up, but as quickly as I said it I heard a voice somewhere behind me in the darkness say, “I wanna party with her.” I turned to see a couple not far in the distance, and as I crossed the street and entered the bar where the music had been coming from they joined me.

     God, I wish I had more memory of the time I spent with them that night, but I don’t. By the time I hit that bar, had another gin and 7-up, the rest seems a blur. I just vaguely remember connecting with this woman and her giving me information how I could contact her. I wouldn’t use it for years.

     I dumped the fiancé after that trip, met my current husband, and in a whirlwind romance bought a house in the country with him in a matter of months; eventually marrying after. This number with her information just disappeared. I swear. It was there one day and I intended to get a hold of her, and gone the next. Time goes on, you get busy, and don’t think about it much anymore. Then, as was in my case, you stumble upon this information quite by accident while going through a box with random papers, and the memory makes you smile. You wonder whether she’s still at the same address, has the same number, and if she would even still remember you. You wonder, then decide you’re going to take a leap of faith. I did just that. My curiousity was peaked and I had to know. I sat down and wrote her a letter. I admit now, I did so with much trepidation, hoping she wouldn’t think I was a total nut. To my surprise she didn’t and remembered me.

     I didn’t get much of a chance to correspond and get to know her as I hoped. At the time I was going through a transition in my life, preoccupied with my own shit, and my computer was completely down. It was really nothing more than an email or so, and then it seemed what could’ve been a friendship was lost again forever and you move on.

     Hers was the email I found yesterday. Nothing more than letting me know how much she misses Key West, wants to go back, and has started corresponding with someone that lives there now. She didn’t say so, but I assume that the reason she thought of me was because of this correspondence. Much the same way I think of her and that night everytime I hear that damn song “Hey Ya” played on the radio now. Nothing personal or really more than “How are you doing?” but meant the world to me because it made me smile. I replied, probably rattling on more than I should’ve—The writer in me I guess—hoping maybe this time we can get it right and make a friend in each other the way we should’ve years ago. Life is funny that way. If you bother to look for the magic in little things you’ll find there’s more of it out there than you first anticipated, and the good stuff will come back around if you miss it the first time.

So anyway, here’s to Debbie, my Key West, drinking buddy who’s shivering her ass off at home in Massachusetts right now. I hope this story warms you. Thanks for putting a smile on my face.

To everyone else…if there’s someone you haven’t spoken to that would love to hear from you there’s no better time than the present. An unexpected smile is a wonderful present for Valentine’s Day.

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4 Comments on “Send A Smile”

  1. Linda says:

    I know Debbie!! She told me the story (and doesn’t remember much either!) only this could happen to her!!

  2. Debbie Breen says:

    Just want to say WOW and I’m still freezing in MA!!! My Key West drinking buddy!!!