As a writer, one never knows where inspiration can come. My memoir, Cycling, Wine, and Men: A Midlife Tour de France, began with my journals about failed relationships. I first wrote stories from the journal entries. These were funny vignettes that painted my former boyfriends in unflattering terms.
I compiled all of my vignettes together and combined these with my blog posts from my trip to France, and viola—a book was conceived.
But writing a book is more than pulling together interesting, disjointed stories. One must weave a theme throughout. I remember early readers of my manuscript would complain that I spent too much time on the old boyfriends. They just wanted me to get to France.
Most of the boyfriend stories have been cut from the manuscript. Yet, they did serve their purpose. First, they helped me get started on a book and identify a theme. Second, they helped me heal from some painful experiences from the past.
Below is a story that didn’t make the final manuscript. I hope you enjoy reading “The Great Elevator Escape.”
The Great Elevator Escape
“A broken heart is what makes life so wonderful five years later, when you see that special guy in an elevator and he is fat and smoking and saying ‘Long time no see.’” ~ Phyllis Batelle
Todd had an ocean to cross to make his relationship work. My long-distance relationship with Jim had a much more insurmountable barrier: his infidelity. I knew he had cheated once, because he told me. But were there others? The not knowing gnawed on me.
Jim called several months after we broke up. He wanted me back. Would I have a drink with him the next time I was in town?
I said, yes. I didn’t want him back, but I did want the truth. Was there really only the one other woman? Or were there more as I had assumed?
We made plans to meet at seven for a drink at the hotel bar. He showed up at seven-twenty—drunk. His eyes were bloodshot and his speech slurred when he ordered a glass of wine. I didn’t mind his inebriation—alcohol can be a remarkable truth serum. I was sober, sipping on my first glass of wine while I waited for him to show up.
He wasted no time on pleasantries, getting right into his effort to win me back.
“I really miss you. You are the love of my life,” he said, as he had many time before.
I wanted to tell him to shove it. I was amazed that I had fallen for this crap before. Yes, I had taken him back after the first time he cheated. But I didn’t tell him off. Instead, I used my charm to lull him into believing that I might take him back—if he would only tell me the truth. I smiled and nodded as he talked.
“I was confused. With everything that was going on in my business, I just didn’t know how to handle us. I’m so sorry I pushed you away.”
“Come on, Tim. Tell me the truth. You cheated on me more than once, didn’t you?” My voice was very calm, and I continued to smile.
“Well, yes, there were a few other times.”
He ordered another glass of wine. I remained calm, charming.
I asked him for details. He told me all. The anger welled within me as I heard about five other women. It was all I could do to stop myself from reaching across the table and punching his big, fat head. But I maintained control and a calm exterior until he finished his rant.
When he stopped talking, I pushed myself out of my chair and said, “I’m leaving.” I planned a grand exit, like a star in one of those 1940s movies. Instead, I banged my leg against a table as I scurried away. As I left the bar I frantically looked left and right. Where was that damn elevator?
Jim followed me out. Maybe I’d have to punch him after all.
“Where’s the elevator?”
He didn’t answer my question. Instead he asked, “What’s the matter?”
“I need to go—just tell me where the elevator is.”
I was starting to panic. How would I get out of the basement and back to my room? To the right I saw the stairs. Maybe I could bolt up the stairs to the lobby and find the elevator from there. He likely wouldn’t catch me. He was drunk and not so athletic in general.
As I assessed my stair escape route, I saw a sign with an arrow pointing out the elevators. I quickly walked in that direction. Jim followed.
“Nancy, I love you. Let me come with you.”
“You pay the bill. I’m going up to my room,” I said as I stepped into the hotel elevator.
Jim wasn’t so easily swayed. He stepped in the elevator with me.
“I want to come with you.”
“No. You have to pay the bill.”
This time I didn’t wait for his response. I pushed him out the door. Not an easy task. Jim was six foot two and weighed over 220 pounds. I pushed the button to my floor, and as the door closed, he pounded his fists on the outside of the elevator.
“Fuck!” I heard him shout behind thick metal doors.
I danced a little jig as my elevator ascended, reveling in my escape. My celebration was premature. Jim was still in pursuit.
The hotel phone rang as I arrived in my room.
“Can I come up?”
“No.” I hung up. He called my cell phone one minute later. I didn’t answer.
In the morning I saw a note under my windshield wiper. The words were written in a drunken scrawl and said, “I love you.” I ripped it up, and threw the scraps in the parking lot. I knew the truth and the truth had set me free.