The 20 year old woman and the 26 year old man stood on the car deck level of the ferry as it chugged across the Puget Sound. It was a cool overcast spring day in Seattle. Not unusual.
“I’m leaving soon to go to art school in Italy” he said, pitching his voice to be heard over the ship's engines. He could do that really well. As a part time actor pitching his voice to be heard in the balcony was second nature to him.
“That’s very exciting and a great idea. You’ll be terrific” she said, standing a little in front of him, trying to get out of the wind a bit. “I’ll miss you”.
And, she would miss him. He had been a ray of sunshine in what had become the sea of grey in her life. They were friends not lovers. She was still married, not happily, but still married all the same. That distinction was important to her.
He was an artist; interesting and exciting. From the moment she meet him the year before she was instantly smitten but that wasn’t unexpected. She tended to fall for the artist types. She always said that she may not be artistic but she could spot someone who was a mile away. If an artist was in the room she would be drawn to him or her.
“I want you to come with me. No, let me finish. Your marriage is not going well, we both know it, come on, he has pretty much abandoned you, and you don’t like your work. Come with me”.
“I can’t afford a trip like that”. Secretly thrilled that he would even ask but shaking inside at the prospect of going.
“It won’t cost you a thing. I’ll pay for everything”. He could afford it. As the trust fund baby of one of the founding families of the city of Seattle he had spent all of his life knowing that money was really never an issue. She was the product of a middle class family from the burbs. Though he was never arrogant about it, she just really couldn’t understand his lack of concern for money.
“What will I do?”
“You can do whatever you want, wander through the streets taking pictures or taking care of the house, cooking, learning Italian, you name it. You’d be my mistress”. He said, gently pushing her windblown hair off her cheek.
“Mistress? What exactly would that include?” Mistress, it was such an old fashion word. This was the early 80s no one used that word anymore. She was a little confused about what a mistress actually did, with the exception of one thing. She knew what that was. That was the easy part.
“Pretty much keeping my house running smoothly and me content”.
“Uh” She was speechless. This was coming out of the blue. How does one respond to a proposition like this? “Can I sleep on it and get back to you?”
They finished their ferry ride, walked along the beach on the island, picnicked with a bottle of wine and made their way home. In perfect companionship. They were like that. Never having uncomfortable silences because they were friends.
All the while her mind was racing. Should I go? How will I deal with my husband? What if a year or two from now he gets tired of me too, how will I get home? Envisions of being abandoned in Italy sounded so much worse than being abandoned in my own hometown. However will I get the nerve to call my mom from Italy to ask for money to get back home? Can I deal with the yearlong icy silent treatment that my mom will treat me to if I have to I have to call her for money? How can I pass up the opportunity to spend what could be possibly be a couple of years of a paid vacation? Funny, how the idea of actually being kept by a man never really was a problem for her. I could do this? No, I can’t.
She didn’t go. They kept in touch for a while. He stayed in Europe for 10 or 15 years, built a terrific career as a sculptor, married, had a couple of kids and moved to Charlottesville, VA. She divorced, remarried, had a couple of kids, built a terrific career and moved to Houston, TX.
Did she make the right decision?
P.S. Later, when she told her mother about this proposal her mother had the nerve to say: “You passed that up? What did I raise an idiot?”