I worked at the lodge in the gift shop with a bunch of sweet little old ladies. One of them, a free spirit named Vivian, thought I had terrible taste in men, and decided to set me up on a blind date with guy she'd just met. Paul wasn't really my type, but at that point in my life I was inclined to agree with Vivian that my type was stupid, so I allowed myself to be set up.
He took me out of the park, which was an unexpected treat. We drove for an hour and a half until we found a small slice of real civilization. We shopped and went to dinner and wandered around. On the way home he tried to talk me into buying a car, which seemed a little fatherly, actually, and I realized I wasn't very interested in him. Still it was a nice time.
The next day, I had a date with the other guy--the one that gave Vivian such a low opinion of my taste in men. That date is one of the stories you wouldn't believe, so I won't tell you about it, except to say that somehow I ended up on a date with two men at the same time. It was a lot less fun than it sounds, and I wish I could say that it wasn't my fault, but it was.
As we looked at our menus, one of the men said to the other, "Speaking of Melanie, I have a funny story to tell you." Apparently Paul had bought some semi-precious rocks, and was attempting to make me some jewelry. This surprised me, because he really hadn't seemed that interested. But he was not my typical guy, so I thought maybe this was how regular men acted. How could I know? It's not like I'd ever dated any.
To make my jewelry, Paul needed super glue (funny how little details get etched in our minds at moments like these, right?) and had gone to this guy's apartment to borrow some right as he was getting ready to go out with me. My two dates (who were very good friends--did I mention that? Oh I was an idiot, even if it was a mistake) spent the rest of the evening asking the waiter, and the bus boy, and the wine steward, and anyone else who came within speaking distance if they'd had the pleasure of meeting me before, and if perhaps they had a date scheduled with me for later that night. Paul had inadvertently made a bad situation even worse.
But I digress...back to Paul. For a day or two we only spoke when he gave me the jewelry, or when he came into the gift shop to say hi. Although he was flirtatious in public, he never asked me out again, and I was secretly relieved. Then one day, I showed up to the employee dining room and found him on the front steps surrounded by a small circle of people. apparently he'd opened a bleach bottle and realized too late that someone had mixed other chemicals into it. He'd inhaled the fumes and burned his lungs. He spent the day at the hospital.
A day or two after that, he vanished. Reports started trickling in, about how he'd promised to fix one man's transmission and had been given money for parts, and how he'd borrowed money from this woman to pay his hospital bills, and how another man had given him some money so Paul could pick something up for him the next time he was in town...I don't remember how much money he'd managed to bilk from people by simply acting nice, but it was a sizable amount. It turns out his wife had been waiting for him in the next town over, and he was a con man wanted in at least eight states.
I get cold chills when I think about how cheerfully I agreed to drive through the middle of nowhere with this man. Even though it could have been so much worse, this experience left me scarred. The night before I married my wonderful husband, I had myself pretty well convinced that it was all a big joke, that I'd wake up in the morning and he would be gone. It was several years before I stopped thinking of our marriage as a long con--though I was never quite sure what Roger thought I had that would be worth that kind of effort. As near as my imagination could spin it out, he'd made a mistake, and I wasn't the heiress he'd thought he was marrying, and when a better opportunity presented itself, he'd be gone. Nearly twenty years later, I know that LOVE is the only thing that could make being married to me worth the effort. It's all I've got to give to him.
Falling in love is a dangerous business. Love involves sharing and trust and other things that don't come easily for most of us. Anything this important is worth a little risk. (On the other hand, a little caution in the beginning is SO important. My story could have turned out so badly. Be careful!)