The Comfort Zone—Elaine Bonow
The Comfort Zone
“Girl, have you looked at Huffpress this morning? Oh my oh my what a mess.”
What’s up? What are you talking about?”
Caroline, now listen carefully. You’ve got to tell Charles before he gets up and turns on the news.”
“Is it something I can’t tell him? What is it?”
“Remember 1967 and the trouble we got into. Well, it’s back. They started dredging up a bunch of our old friends who evidently wanted to talk. I can’t believe it after all these years.”
Caroline shook her head in disbelief, slid the phone off and stared into space. Thank god Shirl called me first thing. This is something I would never tell a man, especially a man like Charles. It’s a good thing Charles is a late sleeper. He won’t be up this morning till after eleven.
She always got up early around six-fifteen to have time to devote to writing her memoires. She had spent at least half the book skirting the big issue and now, well now it going to be too late. Writing had put her in touch with herself. She knew more about her childhood than any normal person should.
She had analyzed her relationship with her father and his domineering personality and how the nuances of his authoritarian personality had colored her relationships with all of her boyfriends, lovers and husbands over the past forty-five years. This had been a formidable task, this self-examination and personal psychoanalysis, not to mention the countless hours on the analysts couch or rather overstuffed chair with the matching footstool guaranteed to make you relax and spill the beans of your mind to a perfect stranger. This journey, which transcended shrink after shrink, city after city, had been a cascade of self-analysis, which she had needed consistently after that incident she and Shirl were involved in such a long time ago.
She sat looking at the view from her window. It was the same window she had looked out of for the past thirty years when she wasn’t travelling. It was a slowly changing landscape where the neighbors changed every ten years or so but still managed to look the same. Trees grew, flowered and then were cut down or fell down due to disease or sudden storms. This house had sheltered her through the many changes in her life, from wild drug fueled parties to sober reckonings. At least she had the sense to buy this house after the incident investing her share of the proceeds in a wise manner.
She reminisced about all of the men who had also taken shelter at her invitation. She collected them like rare butterflies-poets, musicians, artists, and dancers. Some were good to her, helping around the house, painting, gardening buying her new furniture and exotic nick-knacks. She now possessed a very nice art collection thanks to bartering studio space to up and coming unknowns whose works were now all the rage in New York and Paris. She hadn’t sold anything yet, although everything was categorized, appraised and insured and safely stored in her basement.
All of this existential existence, the Avant-Guard riff raff disappeared from her life when she met and married Charles. She remembered when they first met He had just retired from the Navy where he had spent his entire life. She liked him because he was different, well a different type of person from what she was used to. In spite of the differences they hit it off from the start. At first it was just an arrangement between the two of them, a pact of sorts to have some companionship in the in-between years. He wasn’t looking for love or marriage and neither was she.
He was just a bit older that she was. He had a great pension and they traveled the country in his tricked out RV. Caroline never thought she would love travelling in such a middle-class, middle of the road lifestyle. He was so solid and took care of every detail of their adult gypsy lives. They would stay on the road for months at a time in the large comfortable RV they had nicknamed “The Comfort Zone,” or the Zone for short. He would say, “Hey CK lets go into the Twilight Zone tonight, “ that show being his absolute favorite old TV show. Or he would tell her, “The Zone is gassed up and ready to hit the road.” Or “what about going to the Montana Zone” or “I wonder what Zone Kelowna BC is in. Lets check out the BC Zone,” and they would head north or south or just day trip to Leavenworth in the Zone.
Charles was methodical and careful. He never took a chance that he hadn’t researched before hand except when it came to Caroline. When they met he took her at face value. She looked honest and direct and he let it go at that. Both of them had no children and no immediate family to speak of, and odd aunt there or a second cousin of a third cousin. Both of their parents had passed away early. They were both self sufficient and singular in their outlooks.
Charles and never even been married being a career navy officer. He was straight as an arrow. He would only drink two Budweiser Lite’s on Saturday nights. He had never tried pot or coke or had smoked a cigarette. That had never crossed his mind. Any drug was an anathema to him even aspirin. He liked normal sex. Playboy was too risqué for his tastes. He was a bear of a man and still very virile for his age and proud of it. He didn’t pry into her business but appreciated her flamboyant style. Plus he loved her body. It suited his.
She got up and turned on the teakettle. Charles always had a cup of herbal tea, no caffeine, first thing each morning when he got up. He turned on CNN and waited a good half hour watching the news before making some oatmeal. The routine never varied. He liked making his own breakfast. He was a very self-sufficient man.
Caroline would usually go back to bed when he was up and about, take a short nap and afterwards go to yoga or maybe catch a movie with Shirl. She had gotten accustom to this gentile life, this solid easy life. Charles had plenty of money so she didn’t have to work. All of the art she gathered made a great nest egg in case of catastrophe plus since she and Charles were married she would have his pension in case something happened to him.
She heard the toilet flush. He was up and would be coming downstairs in a few minutes. How was she going to explain to him her notorious deeds? She looked outside her slowly changing window and decided that she’d better tell him before some ditzy newscaster broke the news to him along with the rest of the world. She would survive no matter what Charles thought of her. She got up and climbed the stairs to his bedroom opened the door quietly. “Charles, Charles baby. I have something to tell you. You’d better sit down.”