Al couldn’t stop thinking about Liberty. From the moment they said goodbye in the rainforest, he was filled with regret. She had been the best thing that had ever happened to him. Why had he pushed her away? Why hadn’t he begged her to stay?
As time passed, he figured out the answer. If she had stayed with him, she would have eventually come to see the truth — that he was a big flop. Become a rock star? Ha! The band he’d formed with friends, The Fire Brigade, had fizzled before they even made it to their first gig, thanks to a huge blowup between the drummer and the bass guitarist. So Al took to the road as a solo artist, which he quickly learned was harder than he’d anticipated.
He earned a few clients while singing or laying his guitar at local amateur nights, but the only gigs he managed to snag were small parties and musician hour at coffee shops.
He was also not doing so well on the social scene. He went out with friends, but his mind was often thousands of miles away. He bored his friends to death by talking nonstop about Liberty and Selvadorada.
Other times, he would zone out while friends were talking, laughing to himself about some private joke he and Liberty had once shared, or checking his phone for a miracle text from her.
“Look face it, you’re not going to hear from her,” said his friend, Dirk, while they were working out together. “You never gave her a phone number, remember? What are you expecting her to do — hire a private detective to track you down?”
Not a bad idea, Al thought. He wished he could hire a private detective to track her down.
But he couldn’t even remember her last name. They’d never had to use them during the mission. To him, she was always Liberty. His Liberty.
He was a flop on the dating scene, too. “No one will ever be able to measure up to your ex-girlfriend!!” Charlotte, one of the women he’d been dating, said in frustration. “Nobody could possibly be that perfect.” She left the date in a huff, leaving Al to pay a huge tab.
After several years of failures, Al finally had to face the truth. His career was getting him nowhere, he was burning too many bridges to count, and thanks to a lack of music gigs and a lifestyle he couldn’t keep up with, he was running out of money.
“Why don’t you come and live with us for awhile, until you get back on your feet?” His sister, Polly, suggested. So Al packed up his life and moved across the country to the Oregon coast, where his sister and her son shared a small house with about a hundred cats. Okay, maybe it was more like three or four cats, but to Al, it felt like one hundred.
“Just until I get back on my feet,” he said, as he brushed cat fur off his clothes.