Friday, July 22, 2011

A Coastal Drive (3/8)

A week later Maryanne met Mark, her rescuer, for the first time at a Perkins Restaurant.  The aforementioned meeting at the hospital that was supposed to occur the next day fell through the cracks for various reasons.  Gavin had taken a flight back to San Jose without following up with Mark.  Jenny, who works as a bank teller supervisor, managed to get time off for another week in order to help her sister get back on her own two feet.

Finally, Jenny arranged for a time her sister and Mark could talk.  She herself was a bit curious about this strange, lone man who saved her sister from plunging to her death and yet had “been through worse.”  At the same time she thought it a bit odd that he would wait around at the hospital throughout the day to check up on his sister.  For all these reasons, Jenny accompanied Maryanne to Perkins.  It was a sunny Wednesday morning.

“There he is, Annie.” Jenny motioned toward Mark as he was pulling into the parking lot in a company van, J&D Heating and Cooling written in blue on the side.  They waited for him at the entrance of the restaurant.  Maryanne spotted the vehicle before Jenny said anything.  She couldn't mistake the van she  rammed into it on that vista point.

Maryanne was slightly nervous.  What do you say to someone who saved your life, especially a complete stranger?  But her instinct as a warm-hearted person took over as Mark approached.  She hugged him.  “Thank you so much for saving my life.”  Mark visibly looked uneasy with the physical contact.

Maryanne noticed his discomfort.  "Oh, I'm sorry, I just...”

“No, I’m fine,” he smiled.  “I’m just glad I can meet you…you know, under better circumstances.”

“This meeting is long overdue,” said Maryanne.  “Thank you.”

“Truth is, Miss...”

“Call me Maryanne, please!”

“The truth is, Maryanne, that your car airbag had more to saving your life than I did.”  While the airbags did save Maryanne from receiving great injury upon impact, Mark took a risk to his own life in pulling her out of the SUV as it, and his van, teetered on the edge of the vista.  Maryanne knew he was being modest about his role, so did Jenny.

“That may be, Mr. Denison,” came Jenny quick with a response.  “But the Lord works in mysterious ways, as they say, and you were the one who delivered my sister from that wreck.  God was watching over my sister and you were a heaven-sent angel...”

“I...”  Mark searched for a proper response.

“My sister can get religious and preachy sometimes.”

“I'm not preaching, Annie!  I'm just...

“I know, I know, Jenny.”

“No offense taken,” interrupted Mark.  “I might not be a religious person, but I do believe in God, a God that looks after us from time to time.”

“You always wear that thing?” Jenny asked playfully, changing the subject, as she wont to do.  She was referring to the Seatle Seahawk visor cap on his head.

Mark seemed to shrug off the comment.  “I’m a big fan.”

“Well, let’s get some food.  I’m starved!” said Jenny.

“Don’t mind my sister,” quipped Maryanne.  "She can get quite bossy at times.  She was born about 10 minutes before mewe're fraternal twins.  And so she tries to act like a big sister.”

Jenny rolled her eyes.  “What?  Me?  Well I never!”

Mark politely laughed at this playful sibling rivalry.

They found a table, checked the menu, and ordered their food.  Mark didn't speak much, though Maryanne somehow sensed he was a man of few words, unlike John or her ex-husband, as opposed to being shy or socially inept.  The sisters also had an inkling that he had something he wanted to say.

Maryanne broke the awkward silence.  “So tell me something about yourself, Mr. Denison.”

“You can call me Mark.”

“Okay, Mark.”  Maryanne smiled.

“I guarantee you I’ll bore you to death.  I’m not an interesting person, trust me!”

“Somehow I don’t think so, Mr. Denison…I mean Mark.”  Jenny kept an eye on her sister’s demeanor after this exuberant response.  Is she flirting?

“Well, let’s see. I install and repair air conditioning units.  I’ve been doing this for…uh…a while now.  It’s my brother’s business, J&D.”

“Do you live here in Flaherty?” asked Jenny.

“Actually I'm up in Eugene.  We go all over the place.”

“You say for a while.  What did you do before this job?” asked Maryanne.

“You have a good ear.  I retired from the military about five years ago.”

“I knew it!  I knew you were in the military.”

“What gave it away?” he asked Maryanne.

“I dunno.  You just have a bearing about you.”

“A bearing?”

“A military bearing.”

“Hmm. Well, I’ll have to work on that.”

“No, it’s fine.  Our uncle Dennis and Gavin’s brother Tom were Marinesor should I say are Marines, Once a Marine always a Marineso we know something about military types.”

“So I’m a type, am I?”  Mark chuckled.

“Oh, I didn’t mean…”

“I know, I know.  I’m just kidding.”

“So were you in the Marines?” asked Jenny.

“Actually, I started out as a Marine when I was a stupid, snot-nosed eighteen-year-old looking for adventure and an opportunity to prove my mettle, I guess, but I ended up in the Army.  I retired as a major.  I was stationed at Fort Lewis with an armored battalion.”

“Did you go to Iraq or Afghanistan?” asked Jenny.

“Both.  Fun times.  Just sittin' in a tent in the desert.”  He paused, sat back, and rubbed the back of his neck.  “These days I’m just a heating and cooling guy.  Not the sexist job in the world, I suppose, but it pays the bills and gives me an opportunity to get out on the road.”

Mark took a swig of his black coffee.  “So how’s the healing process going?” He gestured toward Maryanne’s bandage on her arm.  “I saw you were limping a bit.”

Maryanne and Jenny noted Mark’s changing of the topic.  Once the meeting was over and they were in the car, they would talk about it.  He seemed to change the topic when we asked about his army career.  What's up with that?

“I’m doing okay.  I’ve been able to rest this past week…”

“Yes, well, we had to make you rest,” Jenny clarified, wielding a cup of coffee as she spoke.


“Listen to this, Mark.  Annie wanted to fix the house, fly to Florida, visit our mom in Ohio—you name it.”

“Hey now, it’s not often that I get an entire week off work.  I was going stir crazy at home, though, let me tell ya.”

And so the conversation continued in this vein until they finished eating.  Maryanne saw a bemused look on Mark’s face from time to time that both embarrassed her and made her smile inside.  What does he think of these crazy sisters?  What does he think of this woman who crashed into his van?  She couldn't help but detect darkness in Mark, not evil or malice, but a sad darkness.  Somehow this darkness was comforting and involved her own fate.

After the meal, the three of them went to the cashier.  Mark finally relented and let Maryanne pay for his breakfast.  What?  Are you saying saving my life isn’t worth at least a breakfast?

When Jenny excused herself to go to the restroom, leaving Maryanne and Mark in the foyer, Mark knew it was an opportunity to ask Maryanne something that had been on his mind since the “accident” at the vista point.



“Do you remember what you said when I reached for you?”


“You said something as I tried to pull you out of your car.  You remember?”

Maryanne’s mind was racing.  “No, I….”

Mark didn’t waste time in informing her, as Jenny would be back soon.  “I won’t forget it.  You said, Leave me alone and let me die!  Mark read Maryanne’s face.  “Do you remember saying that?  I wasn’t sure then, and I’m not sure now, whether you were conscious of what you were saying.”

Maryanne was searching for an answer.  “No, I wasn’t.  I said that?”

Mark nodded, just as Jenny was coming out of the restroom.  Though Maryanne always saw her sister as nosy and suspicious about everything, especially when it came to Maryanne's life, Jenny rightfully sense that Mark and her sister just had a serious discussion of some kind.

“Did I miss something?” she said.

“No, I was just…thanking Mark again for everything he did.”

“Oh, okay.”  Jenny didn’t believe it.

“Well, perhaps we’ll see each other again some time,” said Maryanne.  Even as she spoke these words, she had a feeling that she would see Mark again.  His disclosure of what she said at the vista point needed clarification or resolution.  She felt uneasy and vulnerable, yet she felt the comfort of not being alone.

“Take care,” said Mark.

On the drive home, Jenny pressed her sister.  “So what were you guys talking about when I was in the restroom, huh?”

“It’s nothing, Jenny.  Nothing.  Really!”  Maryanne knew this answer would not satisfy Jenny, especially when the latter glared at her with a look of incredulity.  “He was just saying how he was supposed to take off work on the day of the accident...By chance his brother asked him to deliver an air-conditioning unit...and...”  Maryanne hated lying to her sister.

“Yeah, I think God was protecting you that day, Annie.”