"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, December 7, 2019

When Is It Time To Cut Bait? The Sorry Story Of Sexual Trolling

Billy Baxter was hardly an old man when he decided to dry-dock his boat, sell his gear, and retire inland.  He had spent his whole life on the water, a commercial fisherman, an early waterman on the Chesapeake dredging for oysters and pulling in crabs; but the life was becoming too hard.  The winters were too demanding, the storms seemingly more frequent, and the catch far less than it used to be.

However, after five years in Southern Maryland with a faithful wife, a son in the Baltimore police department and a daughter in Social Services, he knew it was time to get back on the water, tonging for oysters in the shallows of the York River, harvesting from the farms on the Rappahannock and Chincoteague and crabbing as far north as Baltimore Harbor. He had enough of barbecues, football, and church dinners.

Image result for images chesakpeake baky watermane

‘Getting back on the water’ was not only a practical decision but a personal one.  He, not yet sixty, was ready to throw his sexual lines over the side and troll for whatever young, tasty, available delicacies that would take his bait.

Billy had never been a womanizer  per se, a Lothario or Casanova, men in search of sexual conquest, but a man who desired women; and surprisingly there had been many -  Jessica who worked at Merroir, an upscale restaurant on the Rappahannock catering to the Richmond and Alexandria crowd down for long weekends; Rosa, the waitress at Lee’s in Kilmarnock who worked for minimum wage and tips but who had grander notions; and Lucy, receptionist at the Tides Inn who had to work on her charm appeal, but whose black sensuality was unmistakable.

Before his return to the water and increasingly used to life in his White Stone duplex, he began to forget his adventures.  He had begun retirement with grace and equanimity.  His wife wasn’t that bad, after all, a good mother, good in bed before she had her children, irritable and difficult after, but a good bookkeeper and surprisingly astute investor.

Yet, had he had his druthers, he would have untethered the cow, wandered off into the pasture, and led the life he – a stud – was destined for; but his druthers were not to be, so entangled in paperwork and legal codicils was he.

“How did I get here?”, he often asked himself on his way to the post office, to Target, and the library?
Of course he was free to roam.  No marriage contract is airtight, and his wife had not been suspiciously exacting in the language of the trust; but it set certain limits.  Nothing was free anymore – his infidelities and assignations while not restricted exactly, had been given conditions; so when he came off the water to what he thought would be an easy elision to old age was nothing of the sort.

His wife, after years of child-rearing, homemaking, and domesticity had also had enough.  She, old, sagging, stooped, and past her pull-date, had something to say about her dotage, and a ferocious life of reconstruction was it.

There was not a bathtub that didn’t want grouting, a section of roof that didn’t need re-tiling, a garden overgrown and wild that didn’t need taming.  Hers was a whirlwind of unnecessary, time-consuming, and expensive refurbishing, remodeling, and re-doing of everything within her ken.  As much as Billy sought refuge in his new world of thought and reflection he had no traction.  “You’re a waterman, Billy.", he said to himself. "Stop the bullshit”.

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And so he returned to the Bay, casting his nets for blues and rockfish, dredging for oysters, and pulling up crabs; and trolling for women in the shops, crab houses, and tea houses of the Northern Neck.  How had he gotten himself so entangled in the lines, painters, and halyards of marriage in the first place?

It was far easier to begin trolling again than selling the slip and moving inland.  Life other than on, nearby, or close to the Bay would be the same, stationary, and boring affair.  Serious ‘renewal’ re-discovery, or new awareness would never happen.

So Billy decided to stretch not cut the tethers that bind.  He would still be dutifully bound to his wife – consultations on grouting, Christmas trees, and holiday menus – but would never capitulate to her hegemony over family affairs.  He would fish and fuck whomever he pleased wherever and whenever.

This accommodation went on for a number of years.  As long as neither stepped into the other’s territory, no harm, no foul.  Both knew what was going on – he, according to his wife, was spending the last of his ‘essence’; she was wasting her later years in continuing to build, renovate, and refurbish a nest which would soon be empty – but as long as neither overstepped their bounds, no problem.

His sixties were happy years – plenty of fishing, but no nasty winter hauling on the Bay, no windburn, no cold-chapped hands, and as many afternoon liaisons as could be fit into the family schedule.  There was always room between ‘a few things to pick up in Richmond’ and coming home for dinner – the time-honored Chesapeake waterman cinq-a-sept for sex, love, and a removal from boredom.

Yet time, despite all seawalls, bulwarks, and sandbags, takes its toll; and after years of dalliances, valences, renovations, and short-term pleasures, what was left?  It was one thing to give a deflecting glance to death when one is in one’s prime; another thing altogether when when one is past the age of no-return reflection and must man up to the Grim Reaper.  Wasn’t it time to shore up, make up, and set the sails for one last run?

Image result for images sailing on the chesapeake bay

Ah, yes, idealism –the assumption that all will work  out before the final accounting, ‘too soon old, too late schmart’ was not operable.  Billy knew that not only was there no such thing to be smart about, figuring out what’s what had no meaning whatsoever.  His traps were set, his catch predetermined, and his livelihood precarious.  What else was new?

To his credit Billy kept trolling, setting his crab traps, and dredging for oysters long after most men would have returned to port for good.  He was no less assiduous in his lures for waitresses, shuckers, and hotel staff.  The Northern Neck was a fertile, prosperous place for oysters, rockfish, and women since he had first come.

Yet the time was coming for existential decisions.  Was he to remain a waterman and sexual troll, independent, free until his body and soul wore out; or a landlubber, settled and secure until the end?
Few people after a certain age cut the tethers, and give marriage, longevity, children, and grandchildren the heave-ho.  A hard thing to do when one is more rickety and wobbly by the hour; but since death must be faced alone, what is a few years of solitude before the final moment? On the other hand,  if the truth be known, there are not a few forty-somethings desperate for attention, respect, love and the patient sex that only an older lover can offer.  Why dally?

Billy Baxter cashed in his chips at seventy.  “What the fuck”, he reasoned, thinking of his later years free from grandchildren, grouting, remodeled kitchens; and sailed off into the sunset.
Little is known of where he ended up or in which port he harbored.  For those of us tethered, remembering a sexual past, and assuming that life must end with a whimper and not a bang, bravo!

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