Destiny

He stood patiently at baggage claim as an endless stream of bags that weren’t his slowly passed by. He wasn’t in a hurry, he had waited so long already.

This is crazy, he muttered to himself. Maybe so, he thought, yet here I am.

It started as a harmless online dalliance. Over a surprisingly short period of time, it evolved into a drug he was dangerously addicted. Deep conversations by phone, erotic exchanges by text, it was a different relationship each and every day. He had tried to back it down, to rein it in but he couldn’t. They were into each other. She claimed an empathic connection, the pragmatist in him couldn’t deny it. He felt it also.

As of today, they had never actually met.

She was profane and classy, beautiful but didn’t know it, vulnerable and strong all at the same time. She had been hurt all of her life by the ones who should have loved her. He complimented her and she rejected it, she didn’t feel worthy. Then she realized that he wasn’t trying to build her up for a fall, he just wanted her to feel good enough. He saw beauty in every one of her quirks. For the first time in years, he was excited about someone.

She believed in destiny. He politely dismissed it, he didn’t believe like she.
She had repeatedly told him that she was crazy, but didn’t explicitly tell him to stay away. She would be delighted to learn that he loved crazy.
She told him she was all over the map, that she is an emotional roller coaster. He should have been cautious or hesitant to engage. But he wasn’t.
She told him that they would get together one day, despite the thousands of miles between them. He repeatedly told himself that this began as a dalliance to have fun with, but it wouldn’t end well.

There were too many obstacles.

Yet, here he was now, just hours away from meeting her face to face.

He took a ride sharing service to the hotel. As the car got closer he could hear and feel the thunderous roar of the great waterfall. He remembered going to Niagara Falls with his parents, he remembered it as a cheesy tourist spot with cheap souvenirs and too many people. When she told him that part of her post-divorce plans was to travel, she mentioned Niagara Falls. His heart skipped a beat, that was a manageable trip for him. Niagara Falls would take on a whole new form in his memory if this weekend turned out as it did in his head.

As he stepped out of the car he grabbed his phone and quickly texted where are you?
He collected his bags and paid the driver. As he put his wallet away his phone chirped.
At the rail, come find me
She was being playful, as expected. He dashed into the hotel, checked in as quickly as the Desk Clerk could move and paid a bellboy to put his bags in his room, the second key in his breast pocket.

It was a short walk to the main viewing area. He scanned the crowd, the mist stung his face as he tried to find her. He had seen hundreds of pictures of her but she rarely looked the same. To mix it up she had refused to tell him what color her hair was or what she would be wearing.
Then he saw her.
He didn’t know how he knew, he just did. He worked his way through the bustling crowd, gently squeezed in next to her at the rail and politely apologized to the person whose space he had just invaded. Looking straight ahead, he said her name aloud.
“You found me! Very impressive”, she said. Her Southern accent was a hundred times sexier than the phone ever allowed it to be.
“I knew it was you.” he said. “I could sense your aura.”
“You don’t believe in Auras and such bullshit”, she scoffed.
“I didn’t believe in a lot of things until I met you…” He turned to look her in the face. No amount of selfies he had viewed could do her justice, she was beautiful. He didn’t tell her, she didn’t like compliments and he didn’t want to cheapen the moment.
“So how do you want to begin?”, he asked playfully.
“How do you want to finish?”, she teased.
“Simultaneous I hope”, he looked deep into her eyes with a huge grin.
“Oh my”, she said. “I guess the question is whose room is closer.”
He held out his hand and began to lead her away from the rail. She joined her hand in his. They took a few steps and he turned and embraced her. It was at that moment, as he savored the smell of her hair that he realized that the moment had finally come. They were really together.
“It’s really you”, he said.
“It’s really me”, she said. “We’re wasting time, let’s go.”

They entered the hotel lobby and compared room keys. Hers was closer. The anticipation was getting the best of the both of them. Waiting for the elevator, riding the elevator, walking to the room they tried to keep a casual demeanor but their hands kept dancing around each other as they walked the seemingly endless hallway. At last they reached the room. She pushed the card into the slot.

As the door closed behind them, she slammed into him, pinning him against the door. Her hungry mouth consumed his. He feverishly ran his hands over her body, the curves that she was self conscious about were now his obsession. He grabbed her firmly and picked her up, hungrily kissing her as he made the way to the bed. He laid her down, began to take his shirt off when she rose up from the bed, grabbed him by the neck and pulled him on top of her.

He tore her blouse open and began to kiss her from her neck all the way down. He wanted the moment to last, he patiently and playfully worked his way to her panties. Pulling them aside, he began to pleasure her. At first he teased, then he settled into giving her the most intense pleasure she had ever experienced. The woman who had told him that no man had ever pleasured her in this way was clutching the sheets, crushing his ears with her strong legs and breathlessly panting his name. He persisted until she cried out in pleasure. After, her legs slowly relaxed their grip, she let go of the handful of crumpled bedding and wagged her index finger at him and provocatively motioned for him to come to her.

He stood, his pants falling to the floor and went to her.
“Are you pleased?” he asked.
“Oh my god, I’ve been missing out on THAT for my entire life? Can you do that again?”
“I can, but first I want to do this…” With that he rolled on top of her and entered her. It had been ten years since he had even kissed a woman, it had been forever since a man had made her the center of his affections and they made love for hours. She, after each round, said she wanted to pleasure him. He insisted that it be about her for once. He was savoring the moment, for him her pleasure gave him his. He reveled in giving this beautiful woman the loving that he knew she had been lacking from the moment they first talked.

They woke the next morning in a heap of wrinkled bedding and discarded clothing. They ordered room service, they were ravenous and dehydrated. When the food arrived, they weren’t able to answer the door. She was going down on him and he wasn’t about to let anything interrupt her. They made love again and after, he limped to the door and opened it to find a tray of cold breakfast and stale coffee. They devoured it as if it didn’t matter.

Niagara Falls is a beautiful place, especially if you actually leave the room and enjoy it. They wanted to leave the room, they tried but their passion was insatiable. When they weren’t exploring each other’s bodies, they were talking. Elbows on pillows, staring into each other’s eyes they reminisced on the events that led them here. They laughed, they teased, they talked about things that used to be. They marveled at the fact that they had finally come together. She had once told him that it was a WHEN, not an IF. He hadn’t believed her. He hated false hope. They pinched each other to see if the past two days had actually happened.

He was happy for the first time in as long as he could remember

What they didn’t talk about was what would come next. The 2400 miles that would once again separate them was a sinister figure lurking on their horizon. He knew that he would take it easier than she would, he was accustomed to not being happy. This was just a reprieve from the dull and predictable life that has been void of happiness for so long. But her, he felt bad for her. She deserved to smile, laugh and experience pleasure like she had this weekend every day. And he knew that he could be the one to make her happy. But for those miles and the buoys of life that tied them to where they were.

As they checked out the next morning, they took one last look at the mighty falls, soaking in the cold mist as it splashed their faces. They stared speechlessly, not wanting to ruin the moment by speaking.

Finally, he turned to her.
“What’s next?”, he asked her.
“For now, I have to go back to my life.”
“So then that’s it?”
“We’ll figure it out. Destiny, remember?”
“I can’t go back to my boring life. My routine of dialysis, sleepless nights, being so far from everyone.” He stared deeply at her and grabbed her by her arms. “And I don’t believe in destiny.”
“What do you believe in, then?” she asked.
“Tragic endings.” He leaned in and kissed her deep and hard. He then straddled the railing and came to a sitting position.
“What are you doing?” she cried out and grabbed for him.
“Ending this the only way it can, on a high for a change.”

He pulled his hand from hers and fell backwards, disappearing into the roar of the falls.

where were you on that fateful day?

17 years ago to the day
I can’t see the world
quite the same way
disgusted by how far
some will go
to destroy those
they don’t even know
it escapes me
it really does
the hatred and venom
their twisted cause
For some the anger has faded
not me
I’m eternally jaded
where were you?
on that fateful morn
when buildings fell
and hearts were torn
I still look to the sky
I stop and ask myself why
airplanes staying in the air
are no longer a given
our only crime?
our way of living
lives changed forever
innocence was lost
the widows and orphans
such a tremendous cost
if broken spirits were the goal
the bastards failed
Old Glory’s still on her pole
It brought out the best in us
the tables were turned
we rose to the occasion
as the buildings burned
First Responder’s responded
with soldiers and regular Joe
reacted with a fierce resolve
that we had yet to show
for a short, glorious time
we were all brothers
put aside our differences
respected each other
came together as one
hatred can only conquer
if you choose to let it
hang your head today
and always remember
The weight of your heart
on this day in September
mourn for the lost
the brave and the strong
celebrate those that fight for us
all the year long
on this anniversary
of an event so heinous
may faith, hope and charity
always sustain us

The day the walls came crashing down

Back in the good old days, when I was a working and contributing member of society, I was an auction guy. I didn’t start in that industry. I worked at a restaurant for a very long time, until I was 31 to be exact. When I was diagnosed with Cancer I made a change. A haircut, a closet full of new suits and a pay cut of $20,000 later I entered the “real world” in the exciting world of car rental.

As the unofficial world’s oldest trainee, I ran circles around the recent college graduates and moved up the ranks fast. I was a blur known as “who the fuck is that guy?” After 18 educational months, I was forced to take a stand (a story for another blog) and I quite ceremoniously (also a story for another blog) left the company. No skin off of my nose, I had secured a position with a concrete company. I would become a dispatcher of concrete trucks servicing the USA’s second biggest, only second to the Hoover Dam, civil project, the Central Artery Tunnel AKA the “Boston Big Dig”.

It was a bloated, bureaucratic, enormously expensive and corrupt project but it was great for my resume. I acquired fleet, management, union negotiation and project supervision credentials in a short time. The job was killer, 6-6 daily nailed to a desk answering phones, monitoring job sites, and listening to drivers whine like bitches (some, not all) but it was worth it. Seeing the project coming to an end 2 years later and fearing downsizing, I went on the internet and found an opening at a National Salvage Auction. An industry I knew nothing about. Using the internet, not a real familiar medium in 1999 for me, I was interviewed within a week and off to CA within 2 to learn how to be an Assistant General Manager of a Salvage Auction that I had never been to and had not met one employee. 8 weeks later I would return from job training, walk into an unfamiliar building and ask for a Manager that I would grow to hate. I lasted 2 years, despite the fact that she never wanted me there. Gordon Gecko was less of a control freak than this woman. At the end of my 2nd year, an old friend from my Enterprise days reached out to me. He was the new GM of a wholesale auction and he needed me. Wrecked cars to whole cars? I thought to myself, why not? I joined him.

I was immediately hooked. Being on the road, talking to dealers, being around cars new and old (I love cars, have since I was a kid) and then there was auction day. Auction day was about deadlines, a week worth of preparation going off at 10 whether you were ready or not, regardless of weather or any other excuse you could come up with. It was “Go Time”. Hundreds of dealers, lane after lane of bidders frantically waving as auctioneers spoke lightning fast selling cars at the rate of 1 every 30 seconds per lane. There I would be, maintaining my dealers, meeting new customers, shaking hands and making money. I would turn out to be very, very good at the auction business. For the first time in my life, I had found my special purpose. Apologies to Steve Martin.
steve martin

I had never done sales in my life. As it turns out, being knowledgeable of your product, attentive to your customers, and passionate about what you do is enough. I worked hard for my customers, I earned their loyalty and I never had to be “Slick Willy” once.  I simply did what I said I would for my people and I became a well-known guy in the business. With success comes some obstacles and the owner eventually decided that I was making too much money, despite the 38% increase in overall volume during my tenure. I warned him that I wasn’t taking a pay cut and should I leave my customers were coming with me. He called my bluff and he lost…bigly.

For several years after I left this company I expanded my experience in the car business. I dabbled in retail sales for a bit and one day in 2008 I had a serendipitous moment. My mother-in-law worked with a woman in Real Estate whose husband was GM of a sub-prime Automotive Loan company. He was looking for a guy with car biz experience. Once relayed, my mother-in-law, over a glass of Chablis immediately took down the husband’s phone number and called me. I went to meet him the next day. He was looking for someone with experience working with car dealers, sales management, remarketing and strong negotiations skills. In particular, knowledge of auto auctions. It was a perfect match. At first, he didn’t believe that I knew the people that I said I did, but as good fortune would have it several dealers would traipse through the office that day, poke their head in to say hi to the gentleman I was interviewing with, and subsequently say “Bill, what are you doing here?” As the saying goes, SOLD!

I was hired on the spot, given a department to set up, funding to staff it and leeway to run it my way. It would take time, but I became an integral part of the operation. Part of my responsibilities were to attend the auction every week with my GM. For 9 years we went to the same auction, a huge operation in MA where we sold our repos, mingled with our dealers and met as many new dealers as we could. Because most of our dealers were there, it was the ultimate way to conduct business. We would get there early, I would evaluate our vehicles and set prices and hunt down any poor sap that owed us money. When 10 AM rolled around, I was “on the block” selling cars. Wheeling and dealing, as they say, working with the auctioneer as he captured bids as fast as lightning. Once I was done, my GM and I would evaluate how we did, process our titles and then relax. On nice days, we would lean against the outside wall of our lane and enjoy the weather.

Last year to the day, a driver lost control of a vehicle, sped into a crowd of dealers and crashed through the very wall that I would always lean against. 3 innocent people died and 24 were injured. It was a senseless tragedy.
LWAA
Fortunately, I wasn’t there that day. My career was over by then.

Being in the industry as long as I had been, I had seen accidents before. People are careless and walk in front of cars as they roll up to the line to be sold. People run across entire lanes in order to bid on a vehicle at the end of the building. They forget that these are used cars and the brakes may be old and worn out. In this particular case, old and worn out described the driver. He maintains that the accelerator stuck. Something was clearly defective because the first victim he killed was hit at approximately 35 miles per hour.

I was reminded of this incident by Facebook Memories today. I had posted a tribute to the victims last year and briefly touched on my history at that auction. I re-read my post, had a quick moment of silence for the victims and then I read the comments. I had completely forgotten the response my post generated. The most significant aspect was how many people immediately thought of me when it happened.

It was a pretty well-known fact among my friends that I was in the industry. I would often post pictures of nice cars that I saw at the sale. All of my dealers knew where I was every Wednesday. But the number of people who I thought had no idea what I did for a living was checking in with me on Messenger, calls, and texts to make sure I was unharmed. It really affected me today. Well, that and the actual tragedy itself…you know what I mean.

I didn’t have the heart to tell most of those that checked in that I was out of work for health reasons. I thanked them for their concern and assured them that I was fine. But it is nice, at the end of the day to know that people are there for you when you really, really need them.