“So what sort of accent is that?”
For the record, I don’t have an accent, you have an accent. But people have asked about my accent all my life.
When I was little I explained it saying, “My Italian Grandfather lives with us,” or “My Nana is Scottish.” Maybe it’s that I’ve taken a lot of voice classes and lessons or I just like to enunciate. And weirdly, if I am speaking with a French speaker, I suddenly get a French accent. When speaking to a religious fundamentalist, I start thanking God more than usual. It’s not an accent, it’s verbal nervousness. And this lady has been calling us “dahling,” and hugging us a little too enthusiastically for two days.
“Well dahling, I thought maybe it sounded maybe a teeny bit Scottish, or maybe voice lessons. Maybe that’s it. It’s just a curious little lilt. I couldn’t place it.”
“Oh well, you are the one who has a beautiful accent.”
“Oh yes I know dahling, my mother said I would have a true Londoner’s accent and I truly do. This is proper
English. I can’t help it!”
She is a beautiful skinny Pilates instructor, a few years younger than me, batting her eyes at my husband and inviting us to join her for a Pilates session the next morning. I agree, but privately express a few reservations to Albert.
“She’s awfully touchy feely. I can’t relax in a Pilates session if this woman starts touching your body all over the place. We don’t know her.”
“She won’t be touching my body at all,”he scoffs, but a little glow shines cheerfully, like a halo hovering just over his bald spot. And I don’t want to be a party pooper. Many men have flirted with me over the years, I tell myself. This is his turn.
So I soldier on bravely that night, as one of several enlistees playing music around the campfire. The fire was bright, the starlit sky magic. The ocean swirled at our feet. At some point I set down my guitar and hunted the shadows for my husband. I found him seated beside the vixen and her maybe irritated husband.
“What are you doing? Come sit beside me.” I had an Aussie sitting beside me, adoringly pouring me shots. It seemed like a good idea to provide our new crowd of friends with visual evidence that Albert and I are a couple.
“Oh, you need me?” The Vixen flashed me a slightly guilty smirk. I grabbed Albert by the ass and led him back to the campfire.
“I wasn’t talking to her,” he said. “She came over and whispered something in my ear. That was a little weird. I don’t even know what she said! But I wasn’t hanging out with her.”
The next morning in our Pilates session I am doing a child’s pose, and look left under my armpit to see my husband on the mat beside me. He is being straddled by the Vixen, who has both her hands on his stomach. I focus on my breathing, but there is a little twist in my stomach.
Later, Albert and I have this conversation.
“She touched me?” He claimed he hardly noticed it. “Didn’t she touch everyone? She was STRADDLING me?! I had my eyes closed!”
And I’m honestly not worried, and not jealous,but I get the impression that she might be. I can understand being smitten by Albert. And her smile when it illuminates her face is beautiful in spite of the way it is aimed at Albert. It feels petty of me to be bothered by it.
That afternoon, the women at the anchorage get together over tea. In our chat, the Vixen helpfully singles me out as the type of woman who needs to lose belly weight, and who might unfortunately hate my own body in spite of the way my body is not my fault.
“But I don’t hate my body,” I stammer in somehow broken English. “My husband, he loves my belly.” I turn toward the Quebecois, surprised to hear my voice now has a French accent, “And I like to eat. He likes to eat too.”
They all nod their heads doubtfully. and somehow I promise to bring my handsome husband, myself and a belly fattening bottle of wine to yet another awkward social gathering. We end up sharing a sunset with just the Vixen.
“Oh hello dahling!” As we arrive, she’s showered and wearing a translucent white linen blouse that floats over her dancer’s body. Her long rosy hair is freshly washed, draped over one shoulder. She looks like I imagine our own redheaded daughter might look in 25 more years.
But almost the only other thing I can remember from this evening was the way she didn’t sit still. She’d curl one leg, flex up her foot, reach her toned leg and toes up over her head, all while flooding my husband with this radiant smile. Albert and I giggled.
Her partner arrived as the sun disappeared, scatching no-see-um bites he’d gotten while being helpful around the farm. Quiet, his mood seemed the normal consequence of being itchy, but I wondered if he was noticing her misdirected radiance too. He kindly grabbed a flashlight and walked us down the dock to our dinghy. The Vixen was giving Albert a good bye hug. I could hear Albert making the enthusiastic noshing noises we sometimes make when hugging beloved family members.
I imagine the boats in the anchorage could hear our loud conversation as we motored out to our boat. “That noise! ugh! I didn’t come here to listen to you groaning while hugging some strange woman!”
“What do you mean? She hugged everyone. It was just a hug. I was just being polite.”
“She didn’t hug me!”
“She didn’t hug you?”
“How would you like it if I hugged her partner that way?” I cried. “I don’t want to do this,” My voice quavered. This was not my best self. “I want to go home!” I felt embarassed and humiliated and achingly inadequate. I laid down in the salon berth and rested my arms across my face.
After a few minutes of Albert apologizing and explaining and reassuring and asking for forgiveness and not getting it, Albert said, “Oh and now I’m feeling kinda sick.”
“Sick?”That changed everything. Oh no! He never gets sick. “How sick?”
“Yeah, to my stomach, maybe, maybe kind of dizzy. Maybe it was something I ate. Maybe I’m just upset.”
“Oh no, I’m so sorry! Did I make you sick! Come get under the sheet.”
We snuggled. We talked. We were both somewhat drunk. He confirmed how he loves my belly. After 31 years, he said, he is in love with me.
The next night, Albert was swimming on the back shore and I was playing with the dogs. The Vixen walked by, headed to her cottage. Albert and I had a plan now for our interactions and so I was friendly, not worried. Albert at 62 is lithe, agile, tanned, so handsome and strong and brilliant. I love him so much. Who wouldn’t? He finished his swim, salt water cascading off his body.
“Your turn to go swimming!” He said. Smiling,he took the dog leash from my hand. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Vixen slowing her departure.
“It’s fate,” Albert laughed. “Don’t worry. Go swimming.”
The Vixen wasnt heading back to her cabin after all, but on this empty three mile stretch of pristine beach, stripping off her cover up, and charging back to visit with Albert.
But the water was perfect. I surrendered into it. I trust him. After a few minutes, I noticed the woman standing awkwardly up to her knees in the water, looking around for someone to talk to. She doesn’t know how to swim?!
Albert was beaming his smile at me, wading deeper into the water, closer to me. We laughed together a little bit. Tigerlily glided across the water like a swan on a leash.
Tiger’s paws floated above me, Albert’s toes wiggled below me in the sand, as I dove and mermaid kicked, propelling my body through the water. No, I’m not jealous. But maybe the vixen is.