Somebody Else's Valentine

(My condo --->)

My neighbor Wendy is the reason we moved into our condo. She and her husband Chris were in the sales office one time and we had an amazing conversation about trains and eventually travel. They were so interesting I asked the realtor if she planted Wendy and Chris. Talking to them about their adverturous life made everything seem possible.

They told us about living on a boat that they'd built themselves. They'd sailed for twenty years and not places like Newport Beach or even Mexico. They'd come from Turkey and were heading to Singapore when Chris fell ill. His headache turned out to be a brain tumor. This is her first Valentine's Day alone.

She asked me if I'd help her deliver Valentine-O-Grams for Meals-On-Wheels. All I had to do was ride shotgun and put a cinnabon box in eight lucky peoples' hands. I'd get free coffee, scones and doughnuts.

Last year I arranged for my real estate office to volunteer for deliveries. Everyone told me how much they liked doing it. I didn't actually do it myself. It takes the reward of gelato and a long visit to the bookstore to get me in the car.

I thought about saying no. I could have come up with an excuse easily. But I thought of how cute she and her husband were the few times we saw them before he died. She's been around the world in a boat and who knows what else she's done. Maybe an hour in her car and some of her amazingness will rub off on me, I thought.

I'm still unamazing and more so now. Wendy and I had some interesting conversations while getting lost in Bethany. She deduces things and thinks like a scientist. She doesn't skip over facts like, well, me. She told me she was the first female biologist to work at fisheries in Alaska, collecting data on juvenile fish so species weren't overfished. She told me about her travels, her life growing up in an historic home where highway 217 is right now. She spoke in a matter-of-fact interested-in-everything voice, as if she was relaying something anyone did.

She told me of other jobs she held when she and Chris docked in places I will never go. She talked to the doughnut shopowner about Korea, his original home, while made small talk about doughnuts. Why have I never been to Seoul?

I barged right in her condo, ignoring her warning of messes from unpacking things in twenty years of storage. It's nothing like mine. Hers is filled with art, sculptures and chests from all over the world. My crap's from Ikea.

She had beautiful things, just wonderful encaustic pictures and even an original carved carousel horse. I kept asking her where she acquired this, the history of that, and who made some other thing. "I have an Art History degree," I told her. "I'm excited I get to use it."

I should get out more.