I suppose we are lucky when we are young that we understand so little about what can go wrong in life, and in relationships. Some months after Don’s visit to Denver it became clear to me that I needed to leave the job I had moved to Denver to take. (It was nothing to do with him, just the coincidental timing of an epiphany about the job) After a year as the Creative Services Manager, I resigned, but this time without another job on the horizon. It wasn’t long before the synchronicity of Life stepped in again and within a month I was relocated in Florida, working for my old boss and living in West Palm Beach. He called me to come and work for him! Meanwhile I had agreed to meet Don in Hong Kong for Christmas. What is the John Lennon saying… life is what happens while we are busy making plans?
I needed to fly from the east coast of the USA to meet Don in Hong Kong and I was in no way prepared for the long flight or the crowds when I came out of immigration at the airport. Somehow he found me, or we found each other, in the sea of humanity. (rather prophetic in the grand scheme when I think back on it!) In those days we travelled on a shoe string and we were booked to stay that night, and subsequent two weeks, at the YMCA. In those days it was a prime location in the city, now replaced by an expensive high-rise. The airplane had landed on a runway that stretched into the water, but looks are deceiving. There were water shortages in Hong Kong that resulted in no water in the ‘Y’ after 9pm… and it was 10 when I arrived. Just what you want is to arrive to meet your ‘love’ after 24 hours of not being able to have a shower or brush your teeth and be able to do neither! We made the best of it!!
Hong Kong was the most exotic place I had ever visited, having only traveled in Europe, and North America previously. The smells, sounds and sights were all so amazing to me. These were still the days when England held Hong Kong, before it was turned over to China. It was a very exciting experience, if somewhat confronting at times. A side trip to Macau further excited and confused me. It was originally a Portuguese settled area which had remnants of European architecture, and a huge gambling casino, the first I had ever visited. On the street I saw a man with two dead puppies in his hand, most likely on his way to cook them for lunch, or sell them to a restaurant! Back in Honk Kong There were dried ducks and fish hanging in their desiccated entirety in front of shops… birds and reptiles, both alive and powdered, in Chinese medicinal emporiums. It was an assault on the senses, I suppose.
And then I got the flu. And things deteriorated from there. I was pretty much unable to get out of bed for a couple of days, and even after that I could hardly taste food, such a waste in a place with good food on every corner! Traipsing around the busy city was of little interest to me either. Don went out on his own a couple of times retrieving a piece of fruit for me, or to let me rest. Finally after a few miserable days I was determined to get myself up and around again, since our time was coming to an end. We decided on our final day to take a ferry ride to a small fishing island, Cheung Chau. But there were clouds on the horizon, and I don’t mean where the sky meets the sea…
The pressure and enormity of trying figure out a way to combine our two diverse lives was taking its toll. Our conversation on the ferry ride back to Hong Kong was useless. He could not see how we could do it, and was also full of trepidation for all the people he had seen come to Darwin to ‘save their relationships’ only to have them fall in a heap, regardless. I was smart enough to know that I didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t want to be in the relationship. On the plane home to the USA I was a puddle of tears.
I was determined to move on with my life. Six months came and went. After a few months I was ready to face the world of dating again, though not with much enthusiasm. I had one date…a ‘fix-up’ with a divorced man looking for a mother to his children. Aaarrgghhh. The entire date was like an interview for a job that I didn’t want! I decided I was happy with my own company, thank you very much, and the dating scene was put on the back burner again.
In late July of 1982, there came a knock at the door. My landlord, who lived in the other half of the duplex I was renting, held out a letter to me. It was blue. Aerogramme-from-Australia-blue. I knew it well. He explained he’d found the letter underneath some leaves as he was raking near the place where we parked our cars. He thought it must have blown out of the letterbox at some point, and into the leaves. The postmark on it was from two months previous! I wasn’t even sure I wanted to know what was inside the letter, but eventually my curiosity got the better of me.
Don was coming to the US on his long service leave and wanted to see me. By then, due to the delay in the letter, he would arrive in three days’ time!! Not much time for me to think. When he rang me the next week I told him I couldn’t see that anything had changed and that our situation was the same as before. He was very insistent and eventually wore me down. He was staying with his Dad on the West coast of Florida but they had a second car that he could borrow and so he drove the 3.5 or so hours to the East coast to see me. When he arrived at my front door he had brought me a gift of a potted plant with such large foliage I couldn’t see his face. We both laughed and it broke the ice.
Eventually, we had the conversations we needed to have and he went off to tour South America for two months before returning to Florida. When he returned his Dad invited us to go with he and his wife on a cruise to the Bahamas. On that cruise we decided to marry, and that whatever our different jobs and places of residence, we were not marrying them, we were marrying each other and we would adjust the rest of it to suit us.
Six months later we married. Myself and a few goods and chattels came for the first time to the shores of Australia… Darwin was the beginning of my new life.