We met at an Advanced Cardiac Life Support class, back in February of 1993. She about scared me off, she was so friendly. All she did was introduce herself and I nearly jumped out of my skin. She was so scarey: eighty-five pounds, five-foot-two, blonde hair, tiny voice and mother of three little girls. A widower on top of everything else I seemed to be, I was pretty shy when it came to talking to most women, fearing any form of intimacy and maybe even a replay of what I'd already been through. I excused myself and quickly left the table she had planted herself at (a table where I had been the sole occupant). I retreated to my truck to collect myself, wondering what was keeping my study-buddy Jamali, especially now that a woman had come within a ten-foot radius of my sacred personal space. Not only a woman, but a beautiful woman with a cute little figure!
I was hotboxing a Marlboro as Jamali parked his car next to mine, greeting me in his welcome, familiar St. Thomas accent, "Yo, Cuz..."
"Jamali! This girl sat down at my table while I was waiting for you. She knew my name, man. She knows my name!" I sputtered.
"Is she a looker, Cuz?"
"Jeez, she's gorgeous. Where the hell were you!? She scared the crap out of me."
"Relax, Cuz, relax. Let me handle this..."
As soon as we entered the classroom, Jamali called out to her in salutation:
"Alissa! Yo, sis!"
He whispered in my ear, "That's Alissa, Cuz." Jamali, like me, was working in the ICU, but unlike me, a new grad, he was a well-rounded float-pool nurse, and he knew everybody in the hospital. And everybody knew him, the only island boy in all of Cheyenne at the time. Jamali had a gift for his job, and a gift for being Jamali, and everybody loved him. He was a master of social protocol, respected by men and exalted by women (as far as I could tell). As true blue as the Wyoming sky.
We were seated at the table all together now, the two of them chatting away, and I, thankfully relieved of any uncomfortable interaction, sat poring over my study materials, determined to pass the course this time around.
That was the beginning.
Later, in the summer, she showed me her 'Man Hater' badge, as she was then in the throes of a nasty divorce, five years in the making. It read: "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." She was so cute about it, and unlike so many other subsequently-man-hating, soon-to-be-divorced women. She really only hated one man as near as I could tell, and I only thought of how crazy and absolutely stupid he must be to put himself in such a situation with someone so delightful as Alissa.
I saw her at work once in a while, because, even though we both worked nights at the time, our schedules didn't cross paths very much. I often thought about the hallmarks of life that I was cheated out of with the loss of my first wife, those of having a family, of sharing hopes, dreams, and big things like a household, even simple things like hearing the sound of my own name. And I really, really began to look forward to hearing Alissa's voice, however infrequently I actually did. She didn't even have to be talking to me necessarily, I would just hover to one side and eavesdrop on her chitchat, absorbing her gentle consonants and timbre. Hearing her voice had the same effect on me as letting a cake-icing rose melt in my mouth, (a little thing which has always been one of the most seductive pleasures in my life).
In August of '93, I was going to Devil's Tower to climb for a week, and I needed a dog-sitter. My previous climbing trip with my Casper friends had been fraught with dog-dissidence: my American Eskimo, named Mischa by a niece, had been quite moody on that trip, sulking in my truck, wanting to go home, and had even bitten one of my friends whom he'd known for years in a fit of nasty canine dystemper. I couldn't have that happen again, and Alissa agreed to look after the little biter while I was away. I gave her the key to my rental house, and she bravely took on L'infant terrible Mischa. She came to the house daily to feed and water the little cuss, and, daily, he greeted her like a spoiled prince, growlingly and utterly nasty, jealously guarding his domain. Yet she looked after him, on, as she later confessed, her own terms.
I telephoned her occasionally, maybe even daily. I must confess, however, it wasn't to check on the mutt. I was revelling in the sound of her voice, that quiet, soft sound that put my soul at a completely serene place which I could not, even to this day, describe. [Long sigh.] I desired her. If only I could touch that soul, if only I could entertain the idea of her being even the least bit interested in me...
As it turned out (much later!), she was atleast a little bit interested. Enough to peruse the house. In retrospect, does it make me feel the least bit... I dunno... intruded upon that she had a look around? No, not at all. It still flatters me that she wanted to look. She saw a clean house, she saw a place with clutter which memorialized a deceased wife, she saw climbing gear, music gear, expensive bric-a-brac... and she put up with that dog.
When I returned, I bought the house next door to the rental, and with Jamali's help, moved into it.
About a month later, on October 9th to be exact, she showed up at my door unannounced. I had been playing my guitar and drinking beer, dressed in my usual bunting sweat pants, held up around my waist with some old corduroy shorts, and a t'shirt. It must have been a quarter to twelve. Who on Earth, I thought as I rose to allay the intrusion. I opened the front door... and there she was. She has told me since that moment that I smiled an unadulterated smile when I saw her face. For me, it was a moment of sheer joy. I could not believe my eyes. Of all the people I knew at the time who might have been ringing my doorbell, I never would have expected Alissa to be the one, and this was a godsend. God sent her that night. I had been working on a song, which would later be complete, a love song, for her.
And she said, "I'm kind of lonely. Do you want to go out for a hamburger?"
We went to Shari's, a local all-night establishment, and I watched this tiny eighty-odd-pound woman eat a hamburger and french fries with a vigilance reserved for Friends of Anorexics Anonymous, certain that she was a bulemic on a binge. The funny thing is, she was aware of my scrutiny. It was not much later I learned that she had simply lost her appetite whilst in the end times of a torturous, failing marriage. It was all she could do to assure the well-being of her children as Holy Matrimony crumbled all around her. Now, after Midnight, with the dawning of a new day, this little woman was becoming voracious.
I guess I should call that our first date, but we were really just out for a snack! We both had households to attend to, so it took an extremely long time for us to get around to actually going on a date. Those were the longest eleven days of my entire bachelor life! There was no time to waste, so we just decided to get engaged right then and there. I knew she was the one for me. We'd have to wait a bit however, because I had scheduled a climbing trip to South America. In fact, I left the U.S. just a few days later! My poor climbing partner had to put up with me for three long weeks, whining about how much I missed Alissa, counting the days until I could be with her again.
Luckily I came back pretty much unscathed, and very much ready to be Alissa's husband, and to be her young daughters' dad. We combined households immediately, and started looking for a bonafide man of the cloth to formally unite us. In our hearts and minds, we were already married. Here's a short page & pictures of our new beginning.
Alissa & I celebrate three special days in our lives. Number One is "Hamburger Night," October 9th. Number Two is October 20th 1993, the day we were engaged. Number Three is our wedding day, December 18th, 1993.