“Notes on Alan & Sara” by Joanie Whitebird (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

When we last heard from Joanie about that wonderful weekend 31 years ago when Sara & I first met, she and the new happy couple were on their way back to Houston after an initial romantic rendezvous in Austin.

We have to get back to Houston so Sara can catch her plane to Silicon Valley. I figure my responsibility in all this has about come to an end. Once I get Sara to the airport she’s on her own. What she does once she gets there is her problem. Come to think of it, as I crawl into the back seat of the car, she or they, as the case may be, are on their own right now.

Cars are not my favorite place to sleep, but right now I’m not picky. We head out on the highway, Alan and Sara both sitting in the drivers seat in the front. Meanwhile, I crumple myself into the back, and drift off, thinking about Camus’ French “little ease” torture cell where you neither stand up or stretch out all the way.

And I wake up wondering what the hell is wrong with the highway, I don’t remember it ever having this many bumps. But I don’t recognize the scenery and I want to ask Alan did we get side tracked? I have the funny feeling maybe we’re actually on our to Silicon Valley by way of Topeka. But the two love birds are cooing away in the front seat and I am loathe to disturb them. So I do my best to just lay there. However, my gastrointestinal system has decided to make known its displeasure with the activities of the past twenty four hours.

“Yo, guys, don’t mean to interrupt, but can someone tell me where we are?”

Alan responds with the name of a highway I don’t recognize. The fact that he seems perfectly content with our unknown locale is not reassuring to me. Still wishing I were a mouse, or more appropriately in the swamps of lower east Texas, a cockroach, I say

“Uh, right…where’s that? Oh, nevermind, how long before we get home?”

“A couple of hours or so. This is the long way to Houston, but its more scenic.” Alan says over his shoulder through Sara’s hair.

I look out the window at the coal black landscape. It is pleasantly devoid of billboards or highway lights, but it also seems totally devoid of any other signs of civilization or life. I can barely make out the line between the sky and the pancake flat horizon. And typical of Texas, there is no flora or fauna that can be distinguished either. Right…long way home I understand, but scenic?

Meanwhile, Alan has lit a joint, which, as far as I can see, the most reasonable response to the whole situation. Sara pipes up to say.

“Joanie’s taking video tapes from the back seat.”

Right. (what for, posterity? This is definatly one of those times I think I’d rather have forgotten by then, not to mention now.) Gimme the fucking joint.” I say and take a pain killer for my stomach. I am planning on paying absolutely as little attention as possible to whatever soap opera is going on in the front seat.

“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?“ Sara is apparently feeling her oats (among other things) and is getting pretty testy.

“I think,” Alan steps in fortuitously “Joanie means she’d rather not be watching this. It is kind of awkward to be the third person here.”

“Thank you, Alan.” I say, relieved, and I retreat back into my smoke. All those years working in the psych ward definitely has its dividends. I’m not totally sure why Sara is so defensive, but I figure it probably has to do with the fact that she is not looking forward to explaining things any more than I am.

Fuck it. Finish the joint, roll over, my back to the front seat, put my ear plugs in and day dream about Washington Square in San Francisco’s North Beach, remembering I was a lot more comfortable with those soap operas. But the, we always are when they’re not related to us, like Sara and Alan and everybody else here is to me one way or another. I contemplate this bumping down the old pot-holed Texas highway, finally deciding that, regardless, I am out of this mess the minute we hit the outskirts of Houston.

We finally make it to a coffee shop a few blocks from the old homestead and I make a frantic call to Scott.

“Come get me.”

“What’s happening?” He understandably asks.

“My stomach hurts, my head hurts and I want to get some real sleep.” I respond. “Other than that, I haven’t the foggiest notion and don’t want one.”

Scott comes to get me and I wave a hurried good-by to two people I’ve known for years and have only this past day realize I’ve had no concept of whatsoever. Alan promises to deliver Sara to the airport on time tomorrow. Alan and Sara, it seems, will be spending the night together in a hotel. Sara, who came for the extended holiday, will not be returning to the house for so much as a good-bye to the in-laws. Another thing I don’t want to explain.

Scott is very frustrated when he learns al I want to do is climb into bed and sleep for two days. He has, he says, all sorts of questions.

“No shit, Sherlock. You’re not the only one, but you’ll have to ask the perpetrators. I don’t know diddly and wouldn’t tell if I did.” No one can get another word out of me for the rest of the night and much of the next morning.

By that time, I am assured, Alan has taken Sara to the airport and I am thereby dissolved of all further aiding and abetting. However, mother-in-law Dell, in her usual subtle manner has fixed lunch for ‘everyone’ (knowing of course, that at this point, that term applies only to me and Scott, the only remaining casualties, sort of like the horse Tonka Joaquin at Custers last stand). We are about two bites into ti when she just can’t stand it and blurts out

“So, how was Austin?”

I Do not, after all, blame her for her rampant curiosity. I would, undoubtedly, be far less subtle in her position. This does not, however, make my situation any more bearable. I look around quickly, how far is that door and could I pawn it off as a sudden recurrence of swamp fever?

Not a chance. I sigh, take a deep breath and say


I think to myself, oh, real good, J., I can see you have the situation well in hand. Leonard has not taken his eyes off his plate, the man has always known when to stay out of things.

“Well, it was…interesting.” Another choice answer.

“Yes?” Dell says, as in “tell me more.” I look to Scott for help, I am obviously floundering. Fortunately, he seems to have somewhat more of a handle on things than I do.

“It appears that Alan and Sara have more than a passing interest in each other.” He says evenly.

“Oh, I see.” Says Dell. I know full well she doesn’t even, but I give her credit for trying. After a little while Dell says slowly

“I thought Sara was married to John?” I knew she was gonna ask something reasonable like that. I take another deep breath, start to go into the whole story and then decide all I really need to do is answer the question.


All in all, I think, they are taking this pretty well. They have had experience in this kind of thing, anyway. Scott and I got married very quickly ourselves, so quickly it was called a “war wedding” by our friends. At the time there was a betting pool on just how many weeks it would last. The fact that it was 12 years ago now has tampered everyones view somewhat and given Dell and Leonard a more receptive philosophy about such things. Still…

We finish lunch in relative silence and I slink back to my bed, still not having fully recovered my sleep from the past two days.

I am hoping things have returned to normal only to be called to the phone at nine the next morning. A somewhere between elated and hysterical Sara tells me Alan finally did propose to her at the airport.

Finally? Your idea of finally is 72 hours?”

“Well, when you’ve been waiting 37 years like I have, yes.” The fact that I see her point does not help one bit.

Meantime, John has gone through the roof (expected, after all) and she has a plane ticket back to Texas (also expected). I had given her a week to put it together, but this turn around was 48 hours. The kids are moving fast.

Dell is grateful that I gave them what warning I could at lunch the day before, even though I had been sworn to secrecy. There are some secrets you just know are not going to stay secret very long.

Her response is to get on the phone and call all her friends to tell them about the wonderful romantic engagement that has just happened to Alan, and by the way, would they pray for us all?

This seems comical at the time, but I did have to admit to a certain sympathy with the feeling.

In the end, of course, (That is, the end being a whole of six weeks later) we all flew up to Connecticut (in January, no less) to watch them get married. I assure Sara that nothing could be more indicative of my feelings for them both since sleet, snow, and four degree weather is hardly my idea of what to do on a weekend jaunt to the East Coast.

Sometime later now, having some small distance on the whole affair, I find I am no less astounded than I was the first day. As many of the reasons as I now have for everything, I still can’t make it make more sense. Alan is Scott’s little brother, Sara is my little sister. Both are in their mid-thirties and neither had ever married, still waiting, obviously, for each other.

I’m grateful that destiny has never bothered to ask me for my opinion on such things.

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in anecdotes, Buller, Family, love and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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