A little background for those of you who haven't been with me the whole three months I've been blogging. My husband works as a jackup boat captain on a boat in Nigeria. The captain who runs the boat when he comes home for his off time lives in Guadalajara, Mexico, and both of them have to obtain Nigerian work visas each time they go home before they can return to work. This means they have no regular "hitch". They are supposed to work five weeks on and five weeks off, but so far, the Innocent Bystander has worked: 100 days on, 28 days off, 55 days on, 30 days off, and now he's been gone 35 days and has no real idea of when he'll be home. Technically, he is supposed to come home on Dec. 12, but we know already that that will not be happening. His relief captain does have his work visa, but due to the pay issues going on, does not want to return until he sees some cash in his bank account. The IB and I understand this, and we knew going in that there would be such issues (there always seems to be in this line of work, both inside and outside of the US, so there is no finger pointing here), so for us it is no big deal. The other captain is not so understanding, so like I said, we have no idea when my own personal stimulator will be home.
He has been saying he was shooting for Dec. 28th as a new potential date to return, but I did not really realize why he was so determined to come home before the end of the year until this morning. Keep in mind that we talk, one way or another, every day and he does occasionally read this blog, so he knows how much I rat the roads and don't just play the shrinking violet while he's gone.
Every year since we bought the houseboat he has managed to be home for New Years, and we have kind of 'hosted' a party at the Shingle Mill. We cook a big ham every year, I make finger sandwiches (heh-I said finger) and we buy hats and noisemakers and decorate and generally THROW DOWN. He asked me this morning what I would do if he did not make it home in time for New Years this year. I had been thinking of trying to keep up the tradition while he was gone, but when he asked me this morning, I realized it just wouldn't be the same without him, so I said I would probably just stay here at the houseboat and be in bed by nine like I usually am. He sounded relieved and said "That's a relief. I won't be so frantic to get home then. Remember last year? You almost got picked up by an old black man and I was sitting right there at the same table. Imagine what might happen if I wasn't there?"
HA! That threw me back! I had forgotten all about last New Years. It was actually very scary-we thought this poor guy was going to be lynched or something before the night was over.
The Shingle Mill is, and there is no way to cushion this or pretty it up, a redneck bar. Now, you can make all the redneck jokes you want, but some things to true rednecks are no laughing matter, and most folks around here do not take kindly to strangers, particularly dark complected ones, invading their bar. However, they are willing to put blinders on for a little while as long as said strangers are buying rounds for the whole bar. ON NEW YEARS.
So this gentleman opens the door. The bar is packed because it is a holiday, and there is free food, but the place falls silent because he does not. fit. in. He stands at the door and makes some kind of announcement about finally getting his FEMA check and that he had been out here in the summer when a family member had drowned and we all seemed like such NICE PEOPLE so he wanted to buy everyone a round with his windfall. Everyone quietly murmered their thanks, took their free beers, and went back to their conversations, and this guy just kind of stood there at the bar by himself. He looked around from group to group, but no one would meet his eye, so he loudly announced that he was buying another round for the bar. Things picked up a little as everyone took their wooden nickles, but everyone at the bar continued to ignore him, so he started making the rounds of all the tables. Again, everyone thanked him but no one would include him in their conversations, so he moved on. Until he got to our table.
We were having a little birthday celebration for my neighbor (she's a New Years baby), so we were all spread out at a very large table. The IB and I were sitting across from each other because although we ARE touchy feely boys and girls, we don't have to be glued to each other every time we walk out the door. The guy introduced himself as Ike, and we invited him to sit down and join us. We introduced ourselves and we all started talking. I know the IB and I talked about a trip to NYC we'd made recently, and we all talked about places we'd traveled to. He was a wee bit in his cups and started telling us he was crazy and had the papers to prove it, and pulled out this letter and handed it to me, urging me to read it. It was from the health department and was something about his family not being allowed to handle his SSI benefit checks. I felt bad for him because obviously he couldn't read, and had to be desperate for someone to talk to to be where he was. We all continued to talk for awhile, and then he aked me "May I touch your hair?" Honestly, I did not really think it through, because this is something I've been asked all my life, so I said "Sure." He reached over and grabbed a few strands and rubbed them through his fingers, which I had no problem with, but then he leaned over and started rubbing them-nay-caressing them against his cheek. I drew back and said "What are you doing?" and he said something to the effect of "Maybe you and I can get together later." I gave him the stinkeye and said "Are you out of your mind?" (shhh. I know-he had PAPERS) "I can't believe you would ask me that with my husband sitting right here!" He jumped up like he had been electrocuted and said "WHAT? YOUR HUSBAND?" We all laughed because we knew it had been a misunderstanding but he was really freaked out and kept backing away from the table apologizing, saying he had no idea that we were even together and that he thought that the only reason we would have invited a black man to sit at our table was because I (the only girl at the table not next to her 'date') wanted to 'be' with him. He said he thought it might be time to move on down the road. At this point, one of the locals got up and said "Where's that other beer?" Ike looked around and said "What other beer?" The guy started to bow up and said "You said you was buying us another beer, WHERE IS THAT BEER?" At this point, Ike's eyes are rolling around desperately looking for a way out past this guy who was belligerently demanding a beer, and the IB and my neighbor's boyfriend realized what true and present danger this guy was in, so they got up and escorted the guy out and safely to his car apologizing that it wasn't safe for him there, then came back in and bought another round to diffuse the situation. It kind of put a damper on the evening until the bully left, then we were able to laugh about the fact that I was not even aware that the guy had been coming on to me.
In any case, now that I've assured him that I will be staying home if he's not home for New Years, he doesn't have as big a sense of urgency to get back. And frankly, if he's not home, I'm looking forward to a nice quiet New Years with a cup of cocoa (okay, so it's with a shot of Bailey's-it's a holiday) and my Kindle with New Years Rockin' Eve on in the background. I'll be wishing for my New Years kiss from the IB, but there will also be a little piece of me (heh. I said a little piece) channeling Bernice from the Golden Girls.