There have been many requests for the rest of the story about my life with Ginger, the stunning redhead from, "I Will Love You For A Thousand Years".
We had less than two years together. 723 days, 5 hours and 27 minutes to be exact.
We spent about a week at the lake house after that first night. Naturally, Ginger played the piano for me and we made love at every opportunity.
I had never actually been in love with anyone but Ginger Madsen, so all the sex I'd enjoyed up to that first time with her was simply fucking, and paled in comparison. In fact, the women failed in comparison, too. I tended to go for cheap, trashy women with a moral compass as fucked up as mine was, so I never noticed until Ginger there were real women out there that knew the difference.
Ginger was bright, some say too bright, and I have come to realize they weren't just talking about her IQ. She simply lit up the world around her with some kind of power that was foreign to me then, but I understand it better now.
She never considered herself handicapped, although she was stone deaf by her early teens. I never knew her when she could hear and it saddened me that she never heard a word I said.
But, I honestly never noticed her struggling with beats, tempos, or words to songs as she sang along with the stereo. She was in tune, in sync, and as good or better than the original artist.
When she sang, "I Will Always Love you" made famous by Whitney Houston at my parents Christmas party at their penthouse in Manhattan, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Yes, her aura had that effect on people, but none more than me.
Ginger had a years worth of bookings that were important to her and if they were important to her, they were important to me. I was the son of Gus and Delilah Carkos, and worked in the family business, so while my time was certainly more profitable, hers was definitely more meaningful. My parents at least taught me the value of love, even though theirs had been dead for years.
Frankly, had I known then what I know now, I would never had let Ginger out of my sight for a second. But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20 and we often don't know how unpredictable the future really is.
So, after we left the lake, Ginger returned to her American tour, and I went back to Carkos Global and my job as Director of Acquisitions. We agreed to meet every few weeks unless our schedules conflicted or one or the other of us got so horny, we just couldn't wait until the next scheduled rendezvous. Believe me, there were plenty of un-scheduled rendezvous.
The following year, Ginger decided to not tour so much, which was cool with me, but wondered if touring wasn't her plan, what was?
She beamed and signed with her arms spread wide, 'to see the world' then giggled as she opened her handbag and dumped dozens of maps on the bed. I knew she didn't come from serious money and didn't have the resources to romp around planet Earth the way I did. If she wanted to see the world, I was going to show it to her.
The first stop on our world tour? Well, it was springtime, so where else? Paris, of course. We danced under the Eiffel Tower, made crazy love on a river barge, and she lived out her fantasy by playing the piano at the Moulin Rouge. From there, it was on to Venice where she took the helm of the gondola and sang to me in Italian while the gondolier looked on. She never ceased to amaze me. God only knows how a deaf girl learns to speak a language that she'd never heard, but as I said, Ginger was very bright.
Heads turned in Monte Carlo as we walked through the casino, her arm tucked in mine. I grinned at knowing I was with the most beautiful woman in the casino that night. Hell, she was the most beautiful woman in all of Monte Carlo, and that's saying something.
She looked a bit disheveled as we stumbled around Cairo. It was hotter than Hell, and very crowded. We rented a Land Rover and took off for the Valley of the Kings, the home of the great pyramids just to get away from the sweaty crowds.
There, we worked up our own sweat, making love the entire afternoon right under what was once the nose of the Sphinx. I'll never forget her matted red hair stuck to the sides of her temples, or the way she held her breath, stared in my eyes and grinned when she climaxed.
And what climaxes she had! I suppose it's some sort of physiological thing, but the more fluids she drank, the harder and more she climaxed. Needless to say, I kept my red haired maiden hydrated at all times.
From Cairo, we flew to Morocco. We danced in Anna's saloon in Casablanca. We sat on the seawall at midnight and felt the spray from the Mediterranean pepper our faces. And we made love on those rocks.
From Morocco, we flew to South Africa to visit friends. Then it was on to the foothills of Cape Town where we walked hand in hand through the little villages. We even bought a few souvenirs from the local kids that ran barefoot by our sides. Junk mostly, but that wasn't the point. Ginger just wanted to help them.
Next, she wanted to see the UK, so we flew to Glasgow and spent a few days drinking cider in the local pubs and making love in the highlands. Ginger was never tired , and always up for the next thing.
The next thing was to hop over to Ireland, the home of her ancestors and walk around the grassy fields picking daisies. I sat in the tall grass and just watched. It was just after a spring rain and there was a magnificent rainbow in the background. She took a few steps to the right and found herself directly under the center of the multi colored arch. She beamed as she held a handful of daisies and laughed when I pointed at the rainbow behind her.
It was the closest thing to Heaven I'd ever seen.
From Ireland, we flew to London and did the whole tourist thing. Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guards, the big red busses and tiny cabs. We stayed at the Dorchester and made love every night on crisp sheets covered with rose petals. Ginger was a tireless lover and always made me feel special.
I felt even more special when she told me I was her first lover. I was surprised. I had been with my share of virgins, but they usually grimaced and gasped. There was none of that with Ginger that first night at the lake house. She simply smiled.
I was bewildered and signed to her, 'you smiled...you didn't cry...how come?'
She signed back that she'd de-flowered herself with a 'toy', a few years ago, and said she named the toy 'Garrett'. Then giggled and pointed at me with her girlish grin.
I smiled and signed, ' You're so beautiful and sexy. Didn't you ever want a real man?'
She shook her head and signed, 'I was tempted...but I already had a real man and I knew he would come for me someday,' then touched her fingertip to my nose and smiled.
I have to admit, the girl had a way of making my eyes water.
Our love making that night was incredible. I never felt more loved.
In July, Ginger informed me that she wanted us to run with the bulls in Pamplona.
I looked down at her and signed, ' Us? Are you nuts?' Ginger just nodded and grinned.
I thought there were better ways to celebrate San Fermin, the patron saint of Pamplona than running for our lives being chased through the wet streets by thousand pound bulls, but Ginger was determined to soak up life as fast and hard as she could.
The festival was nine days. The bulls were released each morning at 8 a.m. So we ran. Hand in hand. Every day.
Ginger and I really enjoyed Spain. We even talked about living there someday.
It was there we first heard of the Camino de Santiago and the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galacia in the northwest. It's commonly called, 'the way'.
Tradition has it that the remains of the apostle St. James were buried there and naturally, Ginger wouldn't be happy unless we took the little 450 meter (700 miles) walk together, just to kiss the feet of the bronze statue of St. James.
We did just that. Imagine walking dawn to dusk everyday for three months and you get an idea of Ginger's unbelievable zest for life.
We left for Germany on the 26th of October. Octoberfest was a big deal and something I wanted her to witness. Imagine a tented beer hall the size of a football field nestled in the foothills of Darmstadt. Now imagine short, big busted German girls, wearing low cut peasant blouses carrying 4 full beer steins in each hand bustling up and down row after row of picnic tables, and you get a picture of Octoberfest in Germany.
Naturally, there was plenty of spillage, and not just from the beer steins.
During the day, we made love under those picnic tables, but at night we made love everywhere. The tent was dimly lit and the combination of the beer and atmosphere just made it perfect, so we made love on top of the tables. And we weren't the only ones.
We left Germany and flew to Indonesia. Jakarta to be exact. Besides being the capitol, Jakarta was the most developed and tended to feel more westernized than most of our other choices. I liked Jakarta except for the transportation. We had a choice of bicycles, scooters, tiny three wheel cabs all hand painted in greens and yellows. The train? Forget about it.
We picked out a pair of red scooters and took off for The Siladen Resort and Spa in Bunaken Marine Park. That became our home for the next ten days. It's a luxury beachfront hotel, but the best rooms are actually thatch roofed cottages nestled under the swaying palm trees right on the beach. The cottage was small, but did have a small cook-top and under counter fridge. The four poster bed draped with mosquito netting was soft and smelled like the Java sea. We had some great sex in that old bed, but Ginger enjoyed the hammock outside under the palms at night. We made love in that hammock most nights and listened to the small waves roll on shore depositing its foam just under our love nest.
From Indonesia, we made our way to Japan. Tokyo was brilliant and preparing for the holiday season. We stayed at the Hyatt downtown and had the best suite with expansive views of the city and the bay. The landscape at night was breathtaking.
It was the holiday season and she wanted to return to the United States. There's simply no better place on earth during Christmas then Manhattan. The lights, the snow; hell, the window displays alone stop people in their tracks. It sounded great to me and Ginger grinned and signed, ' Thank you, Garrett for all this. I love you so much.'
I kissed her plum lips softly, "You're welcome. It's going to be a great Christmas."
We had practically gone around the world, but honestly, I felt she was getting tired.
We made the 14 hour flight from Tokyo to New York on the 23rd of December. My sweet Ginger spent a lot of that time sleeping. The rest she spent throwing up. She must have gone through a half dozen of those bags stuck in the flap on the backs of the seats. Our neighbors chipped in cheerfully.
I called my father from the plane and told him when we would be arriving. I also told him Ginger wasn't feeling well. I knew my father would send a car to fetch us.
Our flight landed at JFK at 3:05 a.m. I carried my sleeping beauty through the airport in my arms and was relieved when I saw Carkos Global in gold letters on the door of a black stretch limo sitting curbside. I sorta expected that. What I hadn't expected was to see my glamorous mother step out in the early morning frost.
Why was she there?
"Give her to me, son."
Delilah made a cradle with her arms and I laid Ginger in them softly. She turned and slipped in the car with Ginger in her lap. I got in and we were underway.
I looked over at my mother who was stroking Ginger's mane of red hair, "She was very sick on the plane. I suppose she's just tired."
"Yes. Who could blame her? That was some trip. Running with the bulls? Then a 700 mile stroll through the Pyrenees carrying a full backpack? Yes, I imagine she's very tired. But, let's get her to the hospital just as a precaution."
I know my mother. I saw it in her face. She was worried, and that worried me.
We pulled up at Mt. Sinai at 3:55 a.m. There was a nurse at the curb with a wheelchair and that was when I really got worried. Why would a nurse be there in the still of the morning in a light snowfall? Someone must have called ahead. But, who and more importantly, why?
Delilah turned to me, "Hmm?"
"What's going on? Did you call ahead? Don't tell me nurses are assigned curb duty...especially in the snow."
"Let's get her inside, then we'll talk."
That's when it hit me that my mother knew much more than I did about the love of my life. I shook my head in disbelief. How could I have been so stupid?
The whirlwind trip around the world had almost gotten the better of me and I was a big guy and a trained athlete. Poor Ginger barely made the five foot mark and weighed less than a hundred pounds, and was certainly no athlete.
The nurse opened the rear door and I slid out, then reached in for Ginger. As I took her from my mother's arms, Ginger's eyes opened and she grinned and mouthed, 'Hi handsome,' then wrapped her arms around my neck and buried her head under my chin. I shoved the wheelchair out of the way with my foot and told the nurse to lead the way.
Once inside, we were met by a team of doctors with a gurney. I laid her down softly and kissed her forehead. She reached for my face and mouthed, ' go get some rest, honey...I'll be fine,' then kissed the palm of my hand and winked.
There was no way I was going to leave her.
The doctors rushed my sweetheart into a stall on the right, transferred her onto a bed and the team began plugging her into machines. She hardly flinched when the IV was inserted.
I flinched for her. She looked so frail.
I glanced at the heart monitor and saw the green bar skipping along with an annoying beep.
The nurse turned and saw me standing at the foot of the bed.
"You can't be here."
"Oh, yes I can." I replied. "That's my girl. I'm not leaving her."
I pushed my way to her and leaned over her face, "I'll be here. I'll always be here."
Ginger smiled and mouthed, 'I know that my darling. Now, go.' then kissed me softly.
Delilah spoke up, "Come with me sweetie. She's in good hands."
I stepped back and the nurse pulled the curtain completely closed as we stepped back.
Mom grabbed my hand, "Let's go."
I was reluctant, but she practically dragged me outside.
We stood by the door and I looked in as Delilah lit a cigarette then looked at me. I knew she had something to say and just didn't know how to say it. She always smoked when she was nervous or stalling.
"Yes, baby. Just give me a second."
I lit my own cigarette and answered, "Is it that bad?"
She blew a plume of smoke over her shoulder, "It's not good, honey."
I sat on the concrete bench and peered inside.
"And you know this...how?"
Delilah dragged heavily on her cigarette with smoke pouring from her nostrils, "Ginger's parents and I became pretty close while you kids were gone."
That surprised me. My parents weren't snobs exactly, but they never were close to the Madsen's when we were all at the lake together. I couldn't even recall them speaking.
I felt my hands begin to tremble, but I needed to stay calm.
"Oh, well...that's nice. I just don't remember you guys being friendly before. Why now?" I fumbled with my cigarette while trying to put it between my lips.
Delilah answered, "Garrett. Honey."
"Yes?" Mrs. Madsen called after you kids took off and well...little Ginger..." her voice trailed off as she sighed heavily.
"What? Little Ginger what mom?"
Delilah looked me in the eyes, "Ginger..." Mom struggled. "Ginger has cancer, baby."
Cancer? The big C? Ginger was 28 years old. Impossible.
"Cancer. Damn. What...what kind of cancer?"
I knew very little about cancer, but I knew enough to know some forms were treatable and some were not.
I silently prayed hers was treatable.
Tears trickled from my beautiful mother's eyes, "Pancreatic." Then she looked away.
My mind was a blur. I couldn't focus. I gulped hard when I remembered pancreatic cancer patients rarely survive and if they do, their bodies take one hell of a beating. Words like radiation and chemotherapy buzzed around in my mind. Most patients lose their immune system and their bodies quit producing red and white blood cells, the very essence of life.
I stood and turned my mother by her shoulders.
"Does Ginger know?"
Delilah nodded, "Yes, honey. That's why she insisted on the trip. She wanted to do everything on her bucket list with you."
I rarely cry, but with news like this and the sight of Delilah sobbing hit me full force. We held each other and wept for the longest time.
I'm not sure just how long we stood locked in that sobbing embrace, but we were still like that when the automatic doors opened.
A silver haired doctor leaned out, "You folks can come in now," then stepped back.
I stepped in holding Delilah's hand and asked, "How's my girl?"
"She's stable," he replied but looked uncertain.
"Can we see her?" I asked presumptuously as I stepped towards the pulled curtain that shielded Ginger.
A million thoughts raced through my head. Stable? Did that mean she was unstable when we got there? If the news was bad, how long would she live? Do I call her parents? What do I tell them? I'm sorry I dragged your terminally ill daughter around the world, costing them precious time with her? And lastly, how was I going to survive without her?
The doctor pulled the curtain back a little and I stepped in followed by Delilah. She bent over and kissed Ginger, "I love you, sweetie. Now, you visit with our boy then get some rest. I'll be back in the morning."
Ginger grinned and signed, "I love you, too mom. So much. Did you call my parents?"
Delilah nodded, "Yes, darling. They are on their way," then kissed her again. But, this kiss was different. It felt like a goodbye kiss and when mom stood and turned towards me, the tears were already ruining her mascara. She glanced at me and touched my elbow and went outside the curtain.
I stepped to her bedside and looked at the tubes and hoses.
"I guess a blowjob is out of the question?"
One might think I was being insensitive, but the reality was I knew Ginger wouldn't want me to be serious. If I were serious, then she would have felt that I knew something she didn't and I couldn't have that.
She grinned and signed, 'you are such a rascal,' then reached behind my neck and pulled my face down to hers then mouthed, 'but you're my rascal and no one could love you more,' then we kissed.
The kiss was soft and warm but ended much too soon. She whispered to my lips, 'Garrett'.
I held her hand in mine and felt her squeeze.
"Yes, I'm here, baby. I'm here."
She grimaced, "Garrett!" and squeezed my hand as tight as she could.
"Ginger. Don't. Don't leave me. I love you, Ginger...so much. Always have. Always will."
Our lips were barely touching when she whispered, 'Yes, darling. A thousand years...remember? I'll see you on the other side handsome.'
Then she sighed her last breath on my lips.
My first love was also my last love. I knew then I could never love like that again.
Ginger Anne Madsen, lover of life and all things beautiful, died in the early morning hours on December 24th, 2000.
The world lost a beautiful young woman and gifted artist. I lost so much more.
But, don't feel bad for me. I had her for a few moments and I wouldn't trade one second.
Ginger Madsen brought me unparalleled joy, unconditional love, respect for the planet, and great humility.
It was a privilege to know her.
And tonight, as I lay in the grass by the lake and look at the stars creeping over the night sky, I hear the sounds of a piano bouncing across the lake, a screen door clapping against its frame, and the faint voice of a freckled face teen girl calling my name.
And I weep.