April 4th was our first date to, my choice, a popular Mexican restaurant. I'd only been at the company a week, so in the lobby we were learning some basic details about one another. I've never been coy about my age and said I was 41; but when I learned Cap was 39 for some reason I felt I was robbing the cradle. "Only two years" he repeated.
"Wait, wait!" Cap pleaded.
"I can't, I'm so sorry," over my shoulder. I apologized when I returned, and again after he explained his trouble arranging a private performance; glumly adding the musician's rendition of El Condor Pasa was very good. I tried not to laugh at the mental image.
"Why didn't you ask them to come back in 5 minutes?" He didn't answer.
After dinner we headed for Cap's favorite hangout: a tavern with a pool table, and when he impulsively grabbed and kissed me I was a goner. What a pushover, I know; but Cap was the kind of guy everyone liked, with his easy manner, polite disposition and wry sense of humor. Quite honestly, I felt flattered.
Pool was his passion and he usually won. Cap could be cocky, making trick shots while looking elsewhere and good-naturedly goading his opponents. I tried my best to play the game for his sake, but as explained I rarely hit what I aim for, frustrating us both to no end. "Let's go to the tavern," announced another tortuous night, but I dutifully tagged along like a puppy.
Straight out of high school Cap joined the Army and learned to fly helicopters, participating in Desert Shield. After a few years in the service he flew for oil companies, riding out more than one hurricane on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. From there he took a job flying scientists around the furthermost reaches of Alaska, and to back up his fascinating stories produced some interesting souvenirs: ivory carved by Eskimos; a bearskin from a hunting expedition. To be closer to increasingly frail Betty in central Oregon, Cap became a Life Flight pilot based in southern Washington.
That's where he'd met his ex-wife, playing pool; but unlike me she handled a cue stick well. Cap was devastated by their abrupt breakup and loss of two step-daughters to whom he'd been a devoted Dad for years. Following his acrimonious divorce Cap lived for a time with his brother in Eugene, but after 2 years of bouncing between unfulfilling jobs he was ready for a real change, and that's when we met.
But once he discovered how wonderful this city-girl could be away from billiard parlors, I knew he'd change his tune. I like being married.
Cap loved dogs, collies in particular, and Czar was the latest in a succession. Recollections of Cap's life were invariably triggered by first identifying which dog he owned at the time; so much so that I grew to know them myself.
Whenever we went out, Cap was on the lookout for someone wanting to punch out his lights. He claimed to have a bulls-eye on his forehead, because he'd been attacked without provocation a number of times. Cap was cautious yet unafraid and I had no doubt he could handle himself. I hoped I wouldn't have to see for myself, but for some reason that just made him more appealing.
As I said, I knew almost immediately that I'd made a mistake in accepting my new position. I'd been a successful buyer and project manager in the stress-filled advertising world of Manhattan; but as a department manager, tackling operating budgets and financial reports? It was a perfect example of the Peter Principle: People are promoted to their level of incompetence. It was only a matter of time before they discovered I was a fraud.