Meet: The Innkeeper

Most Mondays on my blog, True STORIES., I introduce readers to everyday people and everyday occurrences. Following is one true story I wrote for you today:

A young woman–she considers herself young but really, she’s in her mid-thirties, not young, not old–leaves her family and heads to an island to be alone for several days. Not a tropical island, a northern island in autumn. She leaves because she cannot think clearly with little ones about her feet, with the man who has hurt her living beside her, pouring cereal, clicking the remote, changing diapers.

She gets on a plane, then into a rental car, and drives three hours through farm fields and balsam fir forests, crossing the Atlantic on a miles-long bridge. She arrives, tires on land, but there are no reservations. No itinerary. Only a childhood novel beside her in the passenger seat.

It is not a large island and so she simply keeps driving, thinking at some point she will see something she read about in the book and want to get out to take a look. But she reaches the sea again on the other side and stops the car, pausing for an hour to watch the expanse outside her windshield.

lobster shacksOn her way again, she passes a seaside inn. It is almost five o’clock so she stops and reserves a room for the night. The innkeeper is quiet, a man a decade or so older than herself. When he stops by her room later, she is uncomfortable. But she scolds herself for he has the best of intentions: to make sure she can operate the cable, which she cannot, a shifty thing in the middle of the sea. He calls her room later that night to say he is stepping out for a bit but will be back later should she need anything.

He shows the same concern over the next several days, for she is so at home she has decided to stay and make the inn her starting point for her daily island exploration. There is nothing underhanded in his voice or behind his eyes when he talks to her as she leaves and comes back, asking what she’s seen today; as he cooks her meals in the inn kitchen while she sits in the empty dining room and looks on the water, cold in the off-season; or when he brings her the bread pudding he has learned she loves. And so when he asks her, finally, on the last night, Why are you here? Are you okay? she cries to him. She is not. And he listens.

When she leaves, for good, she says, “I feel I should hug you,” and he says, in an accent slightly Scottish, “I’ll take it.” There is no desire in his hug, no pressure too long. He wants nothing. And in this way, has everything.

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