Around ten or twelve years ago one of my sisters was going through a bunch of my mother's paperwork and found a letter addressed to me. The letter was postmarked in '88 and was unopened.
My mother was pretty good about forwarding my mail to me and it was very much out of character that this letter had been missed. It was from a woman named Helen.
We had met in '86 and the letter said that she thought of me every so often when she saw a sailboat ghost out of port. I admit I misted up a bit.
The circumstances of our meeting were freakish. I was doing what was sometimes referred to as the Dogshit Dance.
I was going up the plank from the docks to the shore having tied up at the city dock. At the top I wasn't paying attention and stepped in a fresh pile of doggie poo. I was standing in a nearby patch of grass shuffling my right shoe scraping off as much of it as I could. I was clearly annoyed.
When I looked up I saw her looking amused. She'd seen the whole thing. She was a several years older than I was but quite an eyeful and dressed very professionally which is damned rare in a southeast Alaska town.
I didn't know what to say so I let my wry sense of humor take control.
"Buy you a drink?" I asked.
She laughed, a deep laugh from down within and said she would buy me one because I obviously could use it.
I took her up on her offer.
Over the drink I said, "Look, I know I'm obviously out of your league but I'll take you for an evening sail after you get off of work."
She replied with some indignation in her voice, "I'll decide who is 'in my league' or not. I'll be by at six and I'm bringing dinner."
I went back to the boat and turned it stern facing the dock and took a greased pencil and drew an X through the name, Karen Lee. Beneath it I wrote 'Helen' and left the boat that way. A dab of kerosene on a rag and I could change it back in an instant. I wanted to see if she had a sense of humor.
When she arrived she saw it, laughed and called me a scoundrel.
For the next three or four days we hung out together and did things.
We went to a hot spring and soaked one afternoon she wasn't busy.
We both knew I was leaving and one night when we parted company I told her I was leaving at first light.
The following morning Karen Lee ghosted from her slip. The sails filled with the light morning breeze and my eye caught motion ashore. It was Helen waving.
She had gotten up in the darkness to see me off. I waved back and then the sails filed and I had to pay attention to my sailing.
After meeting Helen I never felt that anyone was 'out of my league' again. Her comment in the bar over the drink when we met stayed with me and left me with a lot more self confidence.
Without it I very well may have lacked the confidence to ask the woman later married out on a date.