Sunday, March 7, 2010

Road trippin' pt. 11

"Those were good pictures I took." You sound particularly pleased with yourself. And you should be, frankly: the timing of the sun retiring for the evening along with the general atmosphere that you captured with that little $200 digital camera was really impressive. But that's California for you, I guess. Everywhere's within spitting distance of a body of water, the sun is always on the verge of setting, and all the girls take beautiful pictures.

"That nap was a bad idea, though," you say, rubbing your eyes and taking my hand. "It just sort of reminded me of how tired I am."

"Do you want to go back to the hotel? Go to sleep?"

"Yeah. Is that okay?"

"Of course," I say. "Good thing we didn't walk that far after all."

"If it was any further," you chuckle, "I'd make you carry me."

So I do. I pick you up, you laugh as you wrap your arms around my neck, and we go back across Powell Street (legally, this time). You squeal as we reach the halfway point.

"If you're trying to implant subliminal wedding imagery into my brain, like this is a threshold or something, it's not gonna work." You eek out your words between spasms of giggles.

"Nah, I'm way too straightforward for that." I start to run us across the other side, and people in the cars we're dodging are looking at me like I'm Frankenstein kidnapping villagers, and their headlights are torches and their bumpers are pitchforks. We miss a close call or three and I decide that this wasn't the best idea. "If this was an engagement trip, you'd've known it by now. And I probably would've abandoned the plans and asked in Mystic, anyway. Would've made for a better story."

"We could've put that town on the map!"

"There's always the drive home."

We've made it to the other side. I'm out of breath--my upper body strength is equivalent to that of an asthmatic research librarian--and I set you down onto your cat's feet that always find their way to the ground. You spin in a ring-around-the-rosie before plopping down on the grass at the edge of the hotel's parking lot.

"Okay, now I'm energetic," you say.

"And now, I'm tired."

"You're no fun." You leap to your feet and take my hands, starting to spin me around in a playground circle. We do about nine 360s before I start seeing three of you twirling me around. I fall onto my back. The grass is damp with dew and soaks through my shirt, but the coolness of it surges against my shoulders and pushes me back up to my feet.

"Oh, I'm plenty of fun." The breeze from the bay chills my back on the water spots. "Let's not forget who packed you a back all those months ago and waited until the second you were restless."

"Good point," you say. "But I'm tired again. Can we go to bed?"

I look at my watch. It's only 9:30 PM California time, but we're an hour behind, so it's 10:30 PM for us.

Bed sounds good.

We walk across the lot, patting our car on its trunk as we pass, strolling our way over the blacktop into the lobby. Third floor, right out of the elevator, second left, fourth door on the right. There we are.

The lock clicks open at the keycard's behest and you turn on the shower. "This is a lot nicer than that Super 8 we stayed in."

"Yeah," I say, taking inventory of the bathroom, "and they've got a lot better toiletries." I turn on the shower. "I'm gonna take a quick one before we go to bed. Do you want one, too?"

"Maybe. I'll see if I'm still awake when you're done." You remove your shoes and throw them across the room, exaggeratedly grateful for the rediscovered freedom of wiggleable toes.

"Okay." I sit on the lowered toilet seat, waiting for the telltale steam to rise from the bathtub. One minute passes.

"You get in yet, babe?" you ask.

"Nah, still waiting for the water to heat up."

"Silence of the Lambs is on. Hurry and shower!"

Two minutes pass.

"You in now?"

"No," I say, "still waiting."

"Hurry! He's about to eat somebody!"

Five minutes pass. I paste up a toothbrush and step out of the bathroom.

"Still waiting," I say.

"Too bad. He just ate that guy's face in the museum or whatever."

"Man." I trudge back to the bathroom to check for rising phantom mist. It isn't.

Ten minutes pass. I don't think this is happening. I walk to the phone dial and dial the operator.

"Operator, how can I help you?"

"Hi, this is room 354, and we're not getting any hot water."

"Oh, yes," the polite voice on the other line says, "we had some water heaters shut down. We apologize for the inconvenience. To try and make up for it, we can either send up a bottle of champagne or any two meals from the room service menu. Will that be sufficient until we're able to fix the problem?"

"Hell yeah!" I exclaim. You turn your head at my outburst. "We'll take a look and decide."

"Great," she says, "just call room service and give them code 448 for the meals. Again, we're sorry for the trouble and we should have it resolved soon. A repairman is on his way as we speak. Have a great night."

"Thanks!" I hang up the phone. "Darlin', get that menu out. We got free dinner on account of broken water heaters." You beam and your hands snatch the menu from the nightstand. I return to the bathroom and turn off the water. "See anything good?"

"Prime rib, chicken cordon bleu--some fancy version of it, anyway--portabello mushroom, blech. Jeez, this stuff is expensive."

"Yeah, but we get it for free. So pick something pricey."

"Lasagna, rabbit--they have rabbit? that's sick--blah blah blah, nothing that good." You keep scanning the menu, your brow furrowing like pinball flippers. "Ooooh, kids menu!" Your eyes light back up.

"Find something?"

You pause. "Uh, baby? Do you mind if I just get chicken nuggets?"

"What?" I ask out of confusion.

"I just want to get the kids' chicken nuggets. Is that okay?"

I get nervous. "Why wouldn't that be okay?"

" were just so excited about getting expensive food. Fancy food's cool and all, but I kind of just want the nuggets."

"Sweetheart, get whatever you want! That's why this is so cool! You want chicken nuggets, you get chicken nuggets." I slip my socks off. "Hell, get two orders of chicken nuggets. I want what you're having."

You grin and pick up the phone. After you dial a few numbers, you tell them the situation. "Babe, what was the coupon code or whatever?"


"448," you communicate over the line. "Two orders of kids' chicken nuggets, please. Yeah. No, for adults. Yeah. Uh, I guess so...yeah, we won't turn it away. Thank you very much! Room 354. Thanks again!" You hang up the phone. "It'll be ready in twenty minutes. AND they're sending us a bottle of champagne, apparently, since we only ordered kids items."

"And because my girlfriend has such a sweet lilting voice."

"Yeah," you say, "that was probably part of it."

"You big flirt."

I doze off at the foot of the bed while you keep watching Hannibal Lecter eat the crap out of people. I jerk awake to a knocking at the door.

"Food!" you say. I get up and open it.

I've never gotten room service proper before, but it's just like I always saw in Garry Marshall movies: a tuxedo-class busboy wheels it in on a linen-draped cart, complete with those metal covers that turn our kids meals into a covered dome. There's indeed an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne chilling inside. My drinking days had never seen me as much of a champagne guy--the only bottle I ever bought was that one I gave your roommate for helping me get that Christmas present in under your radar--but I recognize a few key terms ("Methode Champenoise," "brut," and a handful of others) that indicate that this complimentary bottle is, for lack of a better term, The Good Shit.

The busboy leaves before I can slip him a $5 tip. It was free, after all, but it wasn't free to him. I'll leave it for him at the counter or something.

"Do we have to drink it?" you ask, pointing to the bottle.

"Whatever you want. Do you not want to try it?"

"I don't know," you say. "I've never had it before."

"Don't feel obligated. I'm still not drinking, anyway. We can take it home and use it as a gift or something. That's, like, a fifty dollar bottle, I think."

"Can we just open it and not drink it? I've always wanted to open a bottle of champagne." You tilt your head up in sincerity. "And I feel like this trip is something we should celebrate. With a cork."

I smile. "Whatever you want."

You open the bottle and the look on your face as the cork shoots across the room indicates that the experience was everything you thought it'd be. And more. The bottle's overflowing and you quickly put it back on the cart, allowing it to safely drip on the surely-washable linen tablecloth. You take a big whiff of it, though, and you're caught off-guard by its aroma. It's pretty dry, and your nose tells you all you need to know.

"Glad you didn't try it?" I ask.

"Very." You pull the cover off of our dinner and, sure enough, two plates of chicken nuggets, with what look like a few extras, probably on account of us not being ten years old. We put the food on the floor and, in a sickeningly sweet fashion that we'd probably be far too embarrassed to do in public, feed each other chicken nuggets from across a champagne-stained tablecloth.

"Do you think this is what a honeymoon would be like for us?" you ask.

"Maybe," I say. "But we'd probably eat on the way to the hotel, rather than first thing when we got to it."

"Oh, you think that, do you?" you ask, grinning from ear to ear--no, further than that. Hairline to hairline, maybe.

"Yeah, I do. I know how irresistible I am to you."

"Not with honey mustard in the corners of your mouth, you're not." You brandish a thumb and wipe a dabble from my lip. I kiss your finger with a loud smack.

"So now I'm irresistible."

"Closer to it, anyway." You smile and keep eating.

But your question was a good one: is this what a honeymoon would be like? Because it's probably how one should be like. This is too good of a trip to not be a one-time thing; would a honeymoon be a replay of this, a fresh start on an entirely different level for us? Or would it be the beginning of the end--or, rather, The Beginning of the End--the high point of a relationship that would go downhill with a piece of paper and government recognition? Would we fall into a routine? And would it be a good one?

Would a life together kill us?

"So do you want to get married?" I ask. You look a lot less surprised than I was worried you might be.

"Not right now." You finish your mouthful of chicken and swallow, lovingly washing it down with the apple juice that accompanied it. "I need to finish my nuggets first. Maybe after that." Your smile reveals teeth covered in barbecue sauce.

The TV shows Clarice stalking Buffalo Bill through his creepy basement and it's a really intense scene and all I can do is wonder what you'd look like in a wedding dress.

A conversation for another time. Right now? We've got chicken nuggets.

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