Thanks to all of you who are reading each chapter, or part thereof, and taking the time to leave me some comments below. I so appreciate your support. I’ve titled this chapter which is still focussed on our honeymoon, “Hollywood Head” for a good reason. Enjoy this longer excerpt and feel free to share your thoughts below and encourage your friends to subscribe.
CHAPTER 3: HOLLYWOOD HEAD
I heard something crunch under my bottom as I slid back into the car.
“Where the heck are my sunglasses!” John asked.
Oh no! Don’t tell me. I re-opened my door and got back out of the car. John’s sunglasses lay broken on my seat. One of the hinges was broken and the frame was totally bent. He spotted them the same time I did.
“Oh shit! You sat on my sunglasses? They’re the only pair I have with me! How am I supposed to drive with that sun setting in front of us? Didn’t you see them?” I jumped as the flat of his palm came down hard on the steering wheel.
Tears sprung to my eyes. Why was this my fault?
Earlier, he’d nearly lost control of the car when he’d heard a plane overhead and was desperately trying to pull over to get yet another damn photo, one of the hundreds already taken on this trip. He’d pulled up in a rush. I’d hopped out quickly, happy to stretch my legs, and he’d hurriedly thrown his precious sunglasses onto my seat as he’d reached over the back for his camera. Was I supposed to see everything?
“How is this my fault?” I replied hotly. “I didn’t put the sunglasses there!” As brave as I sounded, inwardly I was cringing. I’d never spoken in my defence when my father was angry at me, yet somehow I’d found the courage to defend myself now. Doing this was so out of character for me it scared me.
John wouldn’t be pacified. “How couldn’t you see them when you were getting back in the car!”
“Oh for Pete’s sake!” I yelled in frustration. “They’re just a pair of bloody sunglasses! You can pick up another pair in the next town we come to!”
“And how am I supposed to see against that sun? Not to mention these were my expensive Polaroids!”
Here I was struggling to rid myself of thirteen years of blame and shame for what my father had done and that deep down I knew wasn’t my fault, and now I was being blamed for something so minor. I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t take being blamed again by a man for something that wasn’t my fault.
Anger flared inside me. I slammed the car door and started walking along the highway blindly. I just wanted to get away…away from John, away from all men, away from life. It was a familiar feeling. I’d felt it so often in the past, but I’d never quite had the courage to end it all. Some glimmer of hope that sooner or later my life would change for the better had kept me going. And it had changed. I had fallen in love with a beautiful human being but he was still a stranger, and getting to know him was proving harder than I needed right now.
We’d been on the road for weeks, honeymooning in a pup tent, sleeping on lumpy ground with stones digging into our sides, little room to roll over, impossible to get comfortable and fatigue was making us both irritable. We were becoming more like two snapping turtles than loving newlyweds.
And John and his darn camera! His incessant need to take photos of me and every little thing that caught his photographer’s eye was wearing thin. That is until he’d say something like:
“I want to record our entire life in pictures. What a legacy for our children one day. Don’t you think it would be marvellous for them to be able to see where we went, what we saw, what we did?”
Things like visiting Parliament Hill in Ottawa where we’d watched a guard slowly slide to the ground as he fainted in the heat; or in old Quebec City, when we’d wandered narrow artist alleys and cooled off inside magnificent old churches. In New Brunswick, we’d marvelled at the changing tides reversing the waters’ direction in the Bay of Fundy, and we were nearly eaten alive by sandflies as John took photo after photo of me in my bikini at East Point on Prince Edward Island. Covered in calamine, we’d grumbled, scratched and giggled as we kept daily score of who had more bites: John 50, Viga 70! Him and his darn camera. But when I complained, he looked at me lovingly, drew me close beneath a setting sun, kissed me gently and said: “Forgive me for wanting our children to see how beautiful their mother was when I married her.”
How could I argue with that? Here I was, someone who for years had been told by one man that she was ugly and no man would want her, and now, my beloved new husband was telling me otherwise. Slowly but surely, he was re-building my battered ego and self-esteem. It was therapy, a therapy neither of us knew he was delivering.
On and on we drove, mile after mile, town after town, photo after photo. Early one morning we were jarred out of a restless sleep by the loud blaring of bagpipes. Where the heck were we? The night before, we’d gotten lost on lightless roads after crossing into Nova Scotia too late to find a campground. Now, aching and sore from sleeping upright in the car at the side of a road, we startled at the sight of lines of uniformed girls, not 100 feet away from us marching in the morning mists across the sumptuous green lawns of some Scottish College for Girls. It was a beautiful and unusual sight and I laughed as John frantically searched for his camera and I reached for the map wondering how far we were from the nearest toilet!
Somewhere along the way, we splurged on a deliciously unforgettable meal of buttered sole at a tiny Cheticamp diner. And later, we almost ignored a couple of boys who were gesticulating frantically at us as we slowly pulled away from a beach where John had been taking another ton of photos. What on earth was their problem?
“Where’d I put my camera and lenses?” John asked as the car bumped over the rocky sand and the two boys gesticulated even more wildly. The puzzlement on John’s face turned to annoyance as he desperately tried to remember where he’d put that expensive camera. Pulling up very carefully, he got out of the car. A minute later, I heard him groan, then laugh with relief.
“Oh my God!” He said as he put the camera and lenses onto the back seat. “I left them on top of the car while I was getting out my keys! That’s what those kids were trying to tell me!”
I nearly burst out laughing. This was hilarious but I stifled the urge. I wasn’t sure how he’d take it and I wasn’t prepared to take the risk and find out. I just didn’t know him well enough. Thirteen years of training myself to hide my true feelings, kicked in. My man was beautiful, but, as I was learning, he was as sensitive to criticism as I was. But boy, was he was ever absent-minded sometimes!
Days after we’d picked up a bottle of Newfie “Screech” to “open on our 25th anniversary” (which we forgot about and found 45 years later) we’d crossed back onto the mainland, and were enjoying ourselves driving south toward the U.S. when that darn plane had screamed overhead! Things like that, be it a plane or a sudden argument, were always going to come screeching out of the blue. That was life and there was no way of avoiding them.
But if only I hadn’t sat on his darn Polaroids, I wouldn’t now be sitting here alone on a dock, watching the sun slowly sink into the water in time with the tears sliding down my face.
After I’d slammed the car door and stomped off down the highway, I’d meandered down a little side road. It had brought me to this dock overlooking a peaceful lake. But I was far from peaceful. I was sorry for myself and angry at John for blaming me for the broken sunglasses, but at the same time, I was scared.
“So what do I do now?” I asked myself. Here I was somewhere in Maine, with no money and only the shorts and skimpy top I was wearing. My husband was somewhere back there on that highway. Or was he? Maybe he’d gotten so mad at me for getting out of the car and slamming the door he’d just driven off and left me. Maybe, like me, he was thinking getting married to someone you hardly knew was a stupid idea, a big mistake. Being naive, without any real life experience, I had some romanticized Hollywood notion gained from watching too many late night movies with my parents that suddenly he’d appear, distraught and worried about me, sweep me into his big arms, smother me with kisses and tell me how sorry he was. But he hadn’t. As mosquitos dined on me, I sat there full of the drama of it all, and terrified of what would become of me if I walked back and found he’d driven off.
For a second I contemplated diving into the lake, dark and rather threatening now in the lowering light of the day. Why not just let myself drown? How would he feel then, I wondered. “Ah, quit with the Hollywood,” I told myself. “Stop seeing yourself as the forlorn leading lady in your own movie!” And what would that achieve anyway? Years of hoping my father would suddenly change after seeing how unhappy I was hadn’t worked. Why should it work with John? Maybe all men were just selfish and liked blaming women for their own mistakes. Suicide was dramatic but no solution.
No, just as I had for thirteen years with my father, I’d have to trust myself and use the strength that dealing with hardship had given me to face my current reality. No-one was going to rescue me. I didn’t believe in God either so I couldn’t count on divine intervention. No, as it had always been for me, the solution was in my hands: I had to be my own best friend, trust myself, accept whatever I’d find and decide what to do next. I waved away the bugs and began walking back to where I’d left John.
As I emerged from the side street, I sighed in relief. Our little yellow Barracuda was still standing at the side of the road and he was still sitting just as I’d left him. He was holding a magazine which by now he must have read cover to cover, but he continued to stare at it as I got into the car. I knew he was avoiding eye contact. That was his way when he was upset. I’d see it many more times over the next 45 years. But he hadn’t abandoned me.
“He must love me after all,” I told myself, filled with relief as he pulled back onto the highway without a word other than “Have you buckled your seat belt?”
He cared about such things. He cared about me, but why was it so hard for me to believe that this beautiful stranger I’d married actually loved me? Simple. Because deep down, where it mattered, I hated myself.
So much yet to learn, and most especially about love and trust.
Well, what did you think of ‘Hollywood Head”? Leave me some comments below. Reading this for the first time? Wondering what happened before all this happened and why I was so naive and had a “hollywood head mentality? Purchase your signed, printed copy of “NO TEARS FOR MY FATHER” from my website and find out!