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Why I Moved to Santa Fe, or The Relationship that Wasn’t

by Katie Mehrer

I moved to Santa Fe because my van broke down here. That always brings a laugh from people, but it happens to be true. Sort of. It didn’t actually break down, rather a certain gentleman assured me that he could fix the wobbly steering and ended up destroying the vehicle completely. Welcome to the world of Santa Fe dating.

His name was Bill, and he was a scraggly down-and-outer whom I met having coffee at the one café in the ramshackle mining town of Madrid, 30-minutes south of Santa Fe proper. I was visiting my sister, who lived down there in the sticks. I was living in my van at the time, which was tricked out like a deluxe camper and had been my primary address for seven months. I was just wandering, unsure where my life was taking me.

I met scraggly Bill, as I mentioned, at a café where I went, mornings, to contemplate what the hell I was doing with my life. He knew all the sketchy Madrid characters. He knew Barefoot Bob, who had set up a homestead 25 years ago on a mountain of mine tailings, which was probably slowly giving him cancer. He knew Woofy Bubbles, whose eclectic art gallery featured human figures made from rusted metal machinery parts, and he knew a lady named Flo who ran a retreat for New Agey Santa Feans to get away from it all. Bill lived off the money she paid him to maintain her above-ground pool and the patch of grass it sat upon, which wasn’t much. Bill was scruffy, but also cute. Whenever he saw a rabbit hop across the road, he’d squeal, “look at the bun-bun!” Stuff like that gets to girls like me.

Bill lived in an abandoned mining shack with no facilities to speak of, as, apparently, did a lot of these other down-and-outers. Even though tourists were infiltrating the place to photograph its quaintness and buy the art produced by its inhabitants, the days of Madrid being a squatters haven were not exactly over. I wasn’t dating him, nor would I have, because he was missing teeth. But he worked on cars, bragged to me about how he liked to fix up cars and sell them. Bragged about how good he was at it. I told him, in passing, about my van’s loose steering, and he insisted that it was the easiest thing in the world to change out a steering box in a Dodge such as mine. He was trying to seduce me with his mechanical skills, but I just wanted the work done. A more ethical person would have refused on the grounds that I was leading him on by letting him work on my car. But I was not that person.

I’m going to cut out the painful part of the story where he removes the steering box, then tries to replace it with several others that don’t fit. Also, I’m cutting the part where he blames it on the gas line, the transmission placement, a lost bolt, and, finally, me. Also, the part where he can’t get the old steering box back in because he changed so many lines and hoses and whatnots trying to fit those other, wrongly shaped steering boxes in there. Also, the part where he looses his temper completely and starts throwing things around and cursing me to hell, and I realize why he needs to live away from society. That’s the part where I realized he was dangerous. I’ll just cut right to the part where my van is busted, my sketchy relationship with scraggly Bill is very much over, and my sister’s boyfriend decides he doesn’t want company any more. My van is parked, apparently permanently, in front of Bill’s house, and I just can’t go back there and deal with him. I’d rather let him keep the piece of junk, since having it towed fifty miles into a repair shop in Santa Fe would cost a fortune. I have no place to live, no vehicle, and am almost dead broke. Basically, I’m surrounded by sketchy Madrid down-and-outers, and I’m becoming one of them.

Did I say I wasn’t dating Bill? See, the thing is, the fact that I saw him every day, and we discussed things, and he attempted to do a favor for me, and we got mad at each other on a regular basis, made it kind of like dating in Bill’s eyes. After all, this was the most interaction he had had with a woman with all her teeth in years. I knew he saw it as dating, but continued to live in denial of that fact, since I was well aware that even sleeping with him would not get my van fixed. Well, long story short, I hitchhiked into Santa Fe, spent my last money on renting a room in a shared house, and got a job with a temp agency. I never saw Bill again, but I’m still here, eight years later.

That’s how I moved to Santa Fe, and that’s my first story about “dating” men in New Mexico. It is the least weird of them all.


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