[Last of a three-part post.]
And up we went: leaving Whistlefield Lodge #10 on Loch Eck, Thursday, Aug. 19, 1982, in Abi’s 1980 Austin Allegro, en route to Glencoe, then driving as far north as Fort William, in the Scottish Highlands.
We didn’t stay overnight, but continued on—southbound again to Pitlochry, in the Perthshire hills, on the River Tummel. There we booked another B&B and tickets for the play The Treasure Ship at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre. That night I wrote in the journal, “beautiful evening.”
We were back in Glasgow and “home” on Mains Avenue by Saturday. We dressed up that evening (photo of Abi putting on jewelry, below left) for a dinner party at a friends’ home, the Plotnikoffs. Andrea and Jackie (who brought poetry) were also there.
When I tried to get people dancing by putting on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life—off came “I Wish”—aaaaaaand … the needle dropped again on the plodding Zep anthem. I probably found a corner, sulked, and kept nursing my McEwan’s Scotch Ale.
The Sunday, Aug. 22, journal entry said it all: “Hungover—walked to Rukenglen [sic] Park—waterfalls and forest paths—supper at Shirley’s—after dinner conversation.” No idea what we talked about over dinner, or whether I’d become more talkative after 23 days in Britain. But Shirley was a friend of Mrs. B’s, and it’s likely Abi and I were on our best behavior.
Just before visiting the Highlands, on Aug. 15, we’d made a day trip to Edinburgh, catching some jazz at the Tron, then a midnight comedy act by John Dowie, as part of the 1982 Edinburgh Arts Festival. On Monday the 23rd we returned to the festival for a performance of Wildcat Theatre’s “Female Parts.” I loved Edinburgh and enjoyed walking its rustic streets with Abi.
I had no idea.
So that evening we took the Allegro out to Eaglesham where, the journal states, we “parked [the] car at Waterfoot Rd.” and “enjoyed moonlight.” The surprise? Abi wore a short skirt and fishnet tights. She made it clear she’d “left the knickers back at home.”
Ever have sex in the backseat of an early ’80s British-built automobile? I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re extremely flexible. Or very horny.
The end was near. Five more days and I’d have to board a plane back to the States.
I knew it, and Abi knew it. We just refused to talk about it.
Moreover, Glasgow tedium seeped in again.
What with fried fish dinners at home with Mrs. B, taking the car in for repairs (again), and hanging with Abi’s friend Andrea over drinks in Glasgow, we decided to take one last road trip, this time to the west coast of Scotland, down to Ayr, Culzean Castle and Gardens (where Abi snapped a photo of me, right), Alloway (home of Robert Burns) and the seaside at Troon.
We left on Saturday, Aug. 28. Outside Troon we stopped at a pub so I could take a piss. Abi stayed in the car while I ran inside and ferreted around looking for the loo.
When I’d finished and went to open the door, it was locked. I rattled the handle—only to hear hushed snickering.
When I pounded on the door, it finally opened: All the men in the pub had been leaning against it.
I said, blushing, “Yeah, sorry about just using the men’s room, but I really had to go. I know it’s customary to at least buy a drink first—”
“—You heard wrong, lad,” one of them interrupted. “You’re supposed to buy everyone a drink!”
Gales of laughter around the pub as I went to the bar and dejectedly started to buy drinks. Hearing my American accent, they waved me on my way and I was back out on the street, none the poorer.
“For God’s sake what took you so long?” Abi said when I got in the car.
In Troon we booked a B&B for the night—one of the last we’d spend together. It was a somber road trip, if I remember correctly, and the final entries in the journal—the longest since the journey began—reflect that, too.
Sunday morning we awoke and traded trips down the hallway to the bathroom. While making up the bed, I pulled a lower back muscle. The pain lingered into the next day. Still, the journal reports, we drove up to Largs for lunch at a café called Nardini’s, me clutching my back and wincing the entire time.
Back in Glasgow Sunday night, Abi took me to the Victoria Infirmary. I recall feeling testy and anxious—my flight out was Tuesday morning, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about Abi. We argued in the car. Then I got out and started walking—to where, I didn’t know.
Still in pain, I stopped at the MacDonald Hotel for a pint, and then found my way back to Mrs. B’s flat. They’d gathered in the living room, worried. Abi and I fought again, and then took a walk together.
That night I slept on the living room floor, Abi alongside me while I writhed and flinched.
Monday, Aug. 30. Abi’s brother Colin was in Glasgow for a visit, so he took the train with me southbound to London at 9:45 p.m. Mrs. B, her friend Shirley and husband Arthur, along with me and Abi, drove us to Queen Street Station, where I reported feeling “nervous tension.”
“Abi & I quickly say farewell,” the journal says. I also remember a quick hug, and then Abi turning away in tears. I spent the train ride down to London in a daze “through nondescript English countryside.”
Tuesday, at 6:20 a.m. GMT, Colin and I said farewell at the Kings Cross-St. Pancras tube station. An 8 a.m. train zipped me to Gatwick and my departure on Northwest Orient flight #459 at 1:40 p.m. GMT, arriving in Minneapolis (accounting for time zones) at 4:05 p.m. CST.
Mom and Grandpa Adams (snapping photos, of course) met me at the airport.
If the ending to the story seems a tad sour and incomplete, it squares with many of the things I’d later learn about relationships (or fail to) in life. For example, the glow of a new relationship will always wane over time, and only by looking in the same direction together can a couple survive that tainted shine. And, as every idiot should know, relationships take work.
I keep thinking about that one moment of doubt—“Could I run away? Just not answer her back? Cancel my flight?”
“…I will be a lucky man if I make it to London this summer.” Well, I was that lucky young man. The one who got to live as he hadn’t lived before, see what he hadn’t seen, and do what he’d never done.
Yeah, I’m glad I got on that plane.
In 1989 Abi and I met up again in London while I was researching a screenplay. I was turning 30 and she was with a new guy. We Skyped a couple years ago, just after Mom and Dad died. She’s happily in a long-term relationship.
Along with the letters, the cassettes, the photos, all that’s left is the story of us.
It’s a damn good story.
Here’s hoping Abi would agree.