Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Kristen smiles as I pivot around and behind, blindfolding her as I say, “Ok, now get in the trunk of the car.”


“Reeeelax,” I say, still circling around her and wrapping her torso in my arms. “Do you trust me or not? Now get in the trunk.” I gesture with my head to suggest a matter-of-factness about the request.

“Ohhhhkayeee.” She is understandably nervous. We met three weeks prior, and I recently explained to Kristen only that our Valentine’s Day would require a swim-suit. I could understand her trepidation, but this understanding was overruled by what I had recently downloaded from “how-to” manual for dating from the In this users manual I learned that women, in a primal sense, require a sense of adventure! So I tactfully prepped her for a beach-holiday so that the impact of our canoe trip would really gob-smack her.

So the trunk of my 1985 Honda Civic pops and the air-pump windscreen makes the steamy, Back-To-The-Future sound one instinctively associates with a Delorian.

“Aw, fuck-me!” I often swear when I neglect the obvious in life.

“What is it?” She reaches toward her blindfold as if to remove it.

“No, don’t look. You’re just going to have to trust me.”

What happened is that yours truly forgot to unpack the trunk. A set of wrenches and a tire iron and some genuinely clanky, metallic junk is now making an awful racket as it piles up in the blacktop of the parking lot. She was straight lipped and tense in the shoulders, but like the good Christian trooper that she is, she doesn’t budge the blindfold. I don’t know how romantic it seems. It’s starting to cross over to the realm of creepy. But I continue lest time get the better of my plans garnered from the internet.

You must believe me that there are no ill feelings here. I am not trying to injure, neglect, or harm Kristen. I just want to surprise her on our white water canoe trip. It’s not far from home, and I’d like her to giggle as she recounts the story to her friends later that week. And it would force her to say, “So he blindfolds me and says, “Now get in the trunk of the car.””

And I think that is a genuinely, funny sentence.

Besides, I figure, I am just driving around the corner to the Fairfield Boathouse. Five minutes…tops… and we’re laughing about it! But the motorcycle cop sees me make an illegal right-hand turn prior to the train tracks and I am forced to pull over.

I’m not nearly about to spill the beans to the motor-cop. “Guess what I got in the trunk, officer? Nope. Not even close, sir! Guess again…it’s a BODY!” Hardly an option.

We make it out of the cop situation ok. Nervous, but ok. Poncho hops back on to his motorcycle and drives away.

Kristen is noticeably disturbed by the time we get to the Boathouse. The summer sun compounded by extra-time in the trunk allow the heat to build up something suffocating and awful. That steamy sound of the Delorian is now punctuated by Kristen’s creative swearing. She erupts from the trunk and is kicking my tibias and swinging her right fist into my left humorous.

“Do you think this is funny, Matt? It was like a sauna in there!”

I try to smile and make a joke of the situation, “Where’s your sense of adventure? And who told you that you could remove your bandana? It’s going to ruin the surprise.”

Kristen starts to walk away and I chase after her.

“Look, it was a joke that went wrong Chiquita. I’m sorry. You can put me in the trunk of the car for 20 minutes to get even.”

She starts to come around, and her stern face cracks with a smile and the tension is released with laughter. “You’re fucking loco, you know?” Kristen is not Puerto Rican, nor am I. But with the bandana around her forehead and her swim-suit on…her wild, flailing punches as I try to calm her down…my low-rider, second-hand, sparkly-polished 1985 Honda Civic…all followed by a kiss in the sun…we could have been Puerto Rican together and it would have somehow made sense.

After a brief embrace I say, “Are you ready for your Valentine’s Day adventure? Trust me, you’ll like it!”

We walk down to the boathouse and rent a red paddleboat canoe. I don’t listen to the instructions the man gives to me. He is saying, “Paddle up-stream, if you go down stream you will quickly hit rapids that are not suitable for beginners.”

I nod confidently, affirming instructions that I have not digested. We set the two-person canoe into the water and kneel down in the more easily than I anticipated. We paddle down stream. “This is going quite well,” I think to myself.

“NOT THAT WAY, MATE.” The boathouse man is waving his arms.

Assuming that I initially grasped the paddle incorrectly backwards, I say, “Thanks, Mate!” I then flip the paddle around and tell Kristen to do the same. “We must have put the paddles in backwards…doesn’t seem to do too much differently, though!”

The roar of water is barely audible, heard like a trickle in a different room, and I say to Kristen, “Are you excited?”

“Are we going the right way, Matt?”

“Yeah, it’s just ahead…you know Kristen…I brought you here because you’re special- “

“-Matt,” she interrupts, “I think we were supposed to paddle up-stream.”

“No, we’ll go with the current to warm up the muscles…” I rotate my traps and delts backward, shaking my neck like a pro-boxer. “If we paddle up stream right away we might strain a muscle since our upper-bodies aren’t used to paddling.”


“Kristen, trust me…” we round a bend in the river and the canoe gains velocity. I speak more loudly, “Kristen, as I was saying, I brought you out here to tell you that you’re special. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you.” I’m looking over my left shoulder as I speak, neglecting the sight ahead.

I have to speak much more loudly now to compete with the small waterfall ahead. I am shouting, “GETTING TO KNOW YOU HAS BEEN SUCH A SWEET PLEASURE.” A warm and genuine smile peaks through my lips, and, still swiveling back to glance at her, as if to kiss her gently with my lips, I yell over the roar of the rushing water, “I LOVE YOU KRISTEN! I’M FULLY IN LOVE WITH YOU AND-“ I glimpse the small waterfall ahead of us and panic.

Ten meters in front of the small waterfall, I’m forced to scream, “I LOVE YOU, BUT WHEN I SAY PADDLE, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO PADDLE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT! GO FOR THE HOLE.”

According to the local papers and the police report, we did everything wrong. Kristen attempted appropriate navigation toward the hole. I seemed to counter-paddle, forcing us sideways toward the small, highly-unmanageable waterfall. Boy, we must have looked rather silly as we toppled sideways over those rocks!

There are moments I remember…certain boulders against my head, others in a specific area of my spine, which I later learned is called the, “Lumbar Region,” made known to me from the helpful doctors at the local Emergency Room. And Kristen, who threw her arms around me to end that Valentine’s Day in a warm, loving embrace as she swam us to the riverbank’s edge.

There is nothing sweeter than awakening to your lover’s puckered lips on Valentine’s Day…then vomiting water as you gasp for the first fresh taste of oxygen...According to the very same helpful Doctors at the local emergency room, what I now refer to my second-birthing experience occurred only, “Seconds prior to permanent brain-damage.”

I’m told by the authorities that Kristen is doing quite well these days, and I am, “Not to contact her, or come within 50 meters of her known whereabouts.” The Judge has made it very clear that one more infringement would carry serious consequences.

To this I replied, “Relax, your honor, do you trust me or not?”

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