A Brief Time In Paradise.
|It was 1972 and day one in Sydney, Australia, having just arrived to begin five days of R & R after serving six months in a combat zone in South Vietnam. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, having spent the previous 180 days in hostile fire areas deep in the jungles surrounding the Mekong Delta, keenly aware I would immediately return to Vietnam in five days to finish my one year tour of duty. My mind was a tangle of ambivalent thoughts and feelings as I disembarked the aircraft upon arrival in Sydney. It was during the flight I had made up my mind to, "lay low" during my stay, and for the next five days simply enjoy a comfortable bed, hot baths, the pool and beach, and savor "regular" food rather than the horrendous C-Rations issued for consumption in the hot and miserable jungle.
I took a cab to the Hotel, checked in and was taken to my room by the bellboy; after showering and changing into civilian clothes I proceeded to the Hotel's restaurant, was seated at a small, square shaped table for two, and placed my order. It was then that I noticed her, a strikingly beautiful woman staring at me, siting solo at a separate table for two, as I was. We exchanged smiles; afterwards she stood, reached for her handbag, and walked toward my table. "May I join you?" I returned an awkward glance as she politely added, "if you don't mind?" I was astonished, not anticipating for a moment she would walk over to my table and ask such a question as I sat there like some speechless dope returning her stare for what seemed like an eternity, finally regaining my composure and standing. "No, uh, no, not at all," I replied clumsily as I pulled the chair out opposite me so she could sit.
She introduced herself, as I did likewise, and we began to talk endlessly, exchanged life stories, laughed, joked, playfully teased one another, etc... She was a native Australian, educated, single, the daughter of a wealthy Sydney businessman who worked for her father and had been at the Hotel to attend a Seminar on behalf of her father's business. We continued past the restaurant's closing time, eventually moving into the Hotel's Pub. We ended the evening by agreeing to meet in the lobby the next morning. She called my room promptly at 8 am the following day, and I rode the elevator to the Lobby where we met and walked outside, her 1972 Lotus Espirit glistening in the morning sunlight.
Eventually I got around to asking her, "Why did you walk over to my table last night and ask if you could sit with me?" She paused momentarily, smiled and said, "I don't know exactly. I've never done that before. I just had a feeling about it, a good feeling - and now that I know you're here on holiday from Vietnam, I believe I was right." I couldn't argue with that, and proceeded to experience three and a half of the most heavenly days of my life. I let go of the war and all its gruesome past as I surrendered myself to the moment and the fabulous time we spent together, enjoying Sydney and as much of Australia as my limited time would allow. For three and a half days we were as madly in love as any two people could possibly be, before reality and the Vietnam War once again reared its ugly head. To this day I am convinced our time together changed my mindset and helped keep me alive after my return to Vietnam. Sadly, we never met or communicated again, but the memory of her and our time together will always occupy a permanent home in my heart.