The three of us had managed to avoid toe-stepping in Phil and I’s old East Fourth Avenue pad, but I’d only wound up staying there by accident: car troubles, coupled with their wild generosity, had landed me back in my old college bedroom. The time had come, though, for the party to happen, for my exit to springboard them into their real life of marital bliss.
There was, of course, the matter of my ’88 LeMans, and whether or not the suffocated-by-faulty-exhaust engine would be able to get me from the San Juans back to the Front Range. The brakes still had enough life in them to get me down the mountain passes; summiting them, though, was a different story.
At least the heat and the stereo still worked.
Adding fuel to the anxious fire, though, was the imagined shock I had convinced myself of that would affect the vehicle’s total package. It hadn’t been made clear yet, but we -- as humans -- tend to keep going through the motions in times of crisis, and although the radio voices insisted that Durango’s mid-winter tropical state had nothing to do with polar-ice-cap erosion, it remained beyond peculiar that the only town in the state had maintained summer-like conditions while the rest of Colorado was buried in snowdrift.
We had a party to get to, though, and everyone knows that nothing says party like a party before the party.
By late afternoon the vibe around the marina had gotten pretty bonkers. All the dock surfaces were wet, crumpled cans strewn about, sundry cell phones and charging cords left unattended. Most folks were either out on jet skis or floating, and those of us that’d stayed behind decided to take the boat out. Moira, our self-appointed captain, struggled to keep the stern above water, though, and by the time we figured out that the problem had become serious, another motorboat -- one full of less-than-sober dudes -- had begun casually circling, like sharks do their prey in the movies. The best part was that they seemed convinced that fighting me earned them the right to hit on the girls. And by “hit on” I mean everything that would lend a rapey vibe to any scene.
Our journey back to the dock can’t really be called a chase because we couldn’t locomote fast enough to be deemed running from, but by the time we were near the property it was unclear which was going to happen first: the boat sinking or all of its passengers facing a different kind of danger. As though on cue (and also out of the movies), John the next-door neighbor startled both boatloads with a shotgun blast. He’d apparently seen the latter chase elements develop from his deck and wasted little time. Moira nudged the boat nose between the lift legs while the rest of us bailed water. A few choice verbal threats from the retreatants echoed across the water.
It didn’t take but a few miles’ distance outside of Durango to feel the temperature shift become drastic. It’d been unclear when caravan pieces had departed just as I didn’t know when those still asleep when I pulled the LeMans away from the lakehouse driveway would get on the road. I went it, nevertheless, alone, and was pleased to check in to the Aspen resort with the same feeling; the previous afternoon’s excitement had resulted in an early turn-in for me and now, having had no car issues on the drive, I had time to work out, eat some food, and catch a nap before the reception.
When I reported to the ballroom, I was feeling pretty good. Pretty alive, pretty well, pretty confident for the first time in a while. What I did not expect was to run in to Gina and to find myself face to face with her triggered a little bit of shock and a lot of adrenaline. When I learned that she was divorced again, the sea of my mind left me feeling like a translatorless traveler. And try as I might, I could not keep my eyes from beaming; the smile on my face uneraseable.
“I like your watch,” she said, giving the face of the instrument a light fingernail tap. The tip of her index finger slid with a grace so delicately intentional to my wrist, prompting our eyes to lock, and with a kitchen-light power-outage flicker, the music being pumped through the speakers faded to background. In its place was the sound of my heart, racing so loudly in my ears that I was certain all attendees could hear it. Everything suddenly felt alien. She did that movie-girl thing where her bottom lip found itself pinned by one of her front teeth. The mouth thing had been discreet, noticeable only by someone with my vantage. Much, much less discreet had been the tug she’d given me once that index finger had become a hook, pulling me by my two, clutching middle fingers. Even less discreet than the tug? Our ballroom-departing march into the hallway.
She paused for a half-second near the restroom door, but before I could object, she’d resumed her charge, a plodding so much more vigorous than yesterday’s boat ride. At the end of our march we found ourselves in some sort of caterer’s breakroom. It was flanked by food-preparation rooms. Behind the room was walk-in refrigeration; in front of it the kitchen’s line.
That lip-pinching tooth slightly scraped one of my own in our first kiss, her hands busy caressing the back of my head and fumbling with my waistline clothing articles at the same time. Though I had no means to monitor the time, one thing remained certain: I’d not given myself near enough credit for either durability or longevity for such an exchange. Unbeknownst to us both, though, the surface we’d chosen had housing for numerous electrical outlets mounted to its backside. The desk had been positioned so that said housing fit through an unfinished drywall cut. Somewhere, in the mix of the inner-wall’s guts, had been an in-tact plumbing line. Somehow, we’d pinched it.
Gina’s first shriek had made me jump. Well, sort of. When she did it a second, third, and fourth time right in a row, confusion flickered in my mind just as drops began to sprinkle the top of my head. When my non-verbal suggestion that we pause our mutual motion met resistance, my gaze in to her eyes seemed to prompt her to pull my head to hers again. The kiss that followed illuminated jagged word exclamations in my mind so vivid that producers of both the Batman comic book as well as the original television series would’ve surely been impressed.
When the water transitioned from sprinkling to minor-rain-cloud-in-the-room state, my anxiety wanted to spark. Somehow, she quelled it, only pausing from the lip lock to express commands, the occasional obscenity. I think my name (as well as the Lord’s) made it in to the mix as well, which was thoughtful, considering I deserved very little credit for whatever she was proclaiming. When the indoor rain cloud became something of a waterfall, it seemed appropriate that this would be the time to get this particular boat off of its lift and navigate to a different property. Instead, she clutched me, running the inside of her hand repeatedly down my cheek, and it was in that moment that I decided for certain: I’d eat the charges and throw this tux in the dumpster. No way I could return the thing now.