Cough, sputter, snort, “aughkoff, koff, blughhh, koff what the fuck?”
That’s how I woke up. I was flailing in the middle of a lake, dead of night, completely clothed, sans one shoe, sputtering, coughing. I was going to die, then I realized I was in four feet of water and stood up, my unshod right foot slipping off of a rock to enter the gooey floor of the lake only to be retracted in fear and disgust.
I looked around, arms extended into the dark as I turned. I could see lights and a few fires along the shores and thankfully, the looming dark shape of an island about twenty yards to my right. Carefully I walked toward it, mercifully not bumping into any denizens of the not-so deep because I would have screamed like a little girl, fallen down and probably actually drowned in the rocky shallows. I reached shore eventually and assessed my situation while trying to remember how the hell I ended up where I was, late at night, in the middle of a cold, wet, Ontario Lake. Looking down as I did, I saw something rolling in the light wave action a few feet away. My missing shoe. Things were looking up. I was about to yell for help when I heard a sound behind me. Thinking “motherfucking bear!” I dropped down to a squat, ready to fling myself back into the safety (?!) of the water when I heard the unseen visitor speak.
“eeeoowah trrilp. Trillp flahgd. *Tick*”.
I slammed myself against a nearby tree. “Motherfucking not-a-bear-something-else!” I thought and held my breath…
Okay. Let me rewind a bit to the week before, before all the fun takes place and I tell you the story as I remember it. Insert the wavy lines and the “eeeoooeeooowoooeee” sound effects. Okay last phonetic noise word, I promise.
ONE WEEK EARLIER
I met Jane at my friend Stan’s house. Stan is a bit of a freak, he being from Eastern Europe and I do mean east, like he hid behind the iron curtain with his family ignoring the falling of the wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union for ages. They ran a co-operative grocery and book store well past the date most everyone there had adopted the western ways. It was only after his parents died and he was offered a bazillion bucks by McDonalds to sell their property did he become the poster child for bad Euro stereotypes. He moved to Canada, hooked up with a fellow former die-hard socialist (who started shaving under her arms only last year) Helga (German, of course) and made a bunch more money buying and selling slums to new immigrants looking for real estate investments. He’s horrible but he adopted me as his Canadian pal a while back. Not being all that socially adept, I hang around. I’m honestly not all that into trying to find friends so when people gravitate to me (and they do for some reason) I entered their orbit.
Jane worked for one of Helga’s friends at the seniors’ home. Instantly she took a liking to me (seriously, I don’t know why) and after an evening of Cards Against Humanity, crappy Polish beer and bad Euro-pop music (including some drunk dancing I am embarrassed to say) we ended up in the spare room. When I woke, she was gone but my phone now had her number in it and a text message that read “great nite! Stan was right, we are ‘gud 2gether”! I’ll send deets on wedding by wed. xoxo (smiling lips emoticon)”
Stan was up, hungover and loud. I ate some cereal, helped him cleanup and Helga drove me home in silence till she pulled up to my place. “You be nice to her or I gut you like a fish. We’ll be at the wedding too so you better not bail on her”.
She didn’t even look at me as exited her Camero, sputtering an “of course, thanks, where is this wedding anyways”?
‘Canoe Lake. We will drive. Dress nice.”
And away she sped. Stan texted me later to explain that Helga did not in fact agree that Jane and I would be “gud 2gether” and that I was an ass to women. I disagreed and he did too, we both agreeing that I just have not found the right girl yet and that they are all crazy and that we should NEVER EVER say this to Helga or anyone else in fact because we would be spurned by all women in the future because they all talk and are in fact borderline psychopaths when it comes to men who are not all that “call you back” ish which I am not. (Sorry that should be three sentences at least. You get what I mean right?)
I spent the day recovering, went to the gym, received three clingy texts from Jane and came home to find her sitting on my front step in a pretty sundress, hair glistening in the sun, aviator sunglasses and running shoes. She said “Hi Sailor”, handed me a bouquet of flowers she had hidden in my mailbox, kissed me on the cheek and actually skipped away down the street, turning after a few houses to yell back “just passing by! See you soon handsome”!
I went inside, checked that all doors were locked, windows locked from inside and called Stan to ask him what he got me into. He wouldn’t answer and just texted back “just go with it stupid. H here. Talk later”.
Thankfully the rest of the day went by without incident, as did Monday and Tuesday. That night I decided to text her to be nice, even though she seemed whacked and because well, I am male and you know. Girls. She didn’t respond till seven asking “Hey whatcha up to”.
“Just some salad and popcorn”
“You need proper food. I’m bringing pizza.”
And within an hour she was with me, happily watching all my stupid shows, eating pizza (she badgered Stan till he told her what I liked on it) and sitting far too close for someone I only met a few days earlier. Okay, Granted we already slept together and she did type “xoxo” in a text so it shouldn’t be such a surprise but still, you know what I mean right? No? Girls.
Next morning we had breakfast and I dropped her off at her place on my way to work. She grabbed my hand and wrote the address on my palm and made me promise to meet up that night and bring wine. I drove off smiling. She was nice enough, a tad weird and clingy but what the hell. I spent the day slogging through my report reviews and ignoring my phone as it went BING then BUZZ (when I finally turned it to vibrate after my coworker Annie gave me the fourth dirty look over my cubicle wall). At four pm I looked at the array of messages from Jane (semi-creepy clingy but sexy nice girl things only), Stan (“she likes you. Helga is happy”) and Helga (“I am so happy YOU BE NICE TO HER OR I WILL SLIT YOUR THROAT (heart)”). I sped to the gym, then home, picked up Chinese food (smartly checked with Helga) and showed up at Jane’s.
When one hears “minimalist apartment” one might think “less than average furnishings”. One may also think “muted colours” or “line artwork”. One does not usually think “An apartment where every single stick of the furnishings, few that they are, are either white or black. The covers of books on the shelf are the only colours brightening up the place and would probably sport white or black covers if she could find them.” Or “An apartment where the occupant wears brilliant coloured clothing in sharp contrast to the rest of the place making her look like cartoon character superimposed into frames of a black and white movie. It was cool, very cool. Weird but not unexpected. She said “make yourself at home” which is kind of hard when I half expected an old school Mickey Mouse to show up being chased by Bluto on a train at some point. She came back, hair wet, showered, in a new dress (she liked her dresses) and we proceeded to eat and discuss the wedding.
It was “at a lake!”. It was “at a cottage!”. It was small(!). Helga would drive us there and back because Helga didn’t sleep in trailers or rental cottages and Stan would be drunk before he arrived most likely, being Stan. It would be “awesome” apparently and she couldn’t wait to show me off. Feeling tired from work and the gym and stupid all-you-can-eat-to-counteract-the-gym buffet Chinese food, I hung out for a while, tried to suggest I go home and let her do whatever and I just ended up in bed with her again. I’m not complaining. I had been single for almost a year and had just started Googling “health benefits of celibacy” the day before I met her. I was a happy camper and not about to do my usual micro-assessment of the relationship at this point. She was too hot, just the right height, she didn’t have monstrous hands of feet or a third nipple and I liked her little flirty texts and the general weird stuff. (I gave her three months tops).
Morning came (not just the morning mind you) and I skedaddled just in time to run in the house, shower, eat some granola and cold French fries, replenish my lunch foods, gym clothes, feed the cat and walk outside to be hit in the face with a wet newspaper. The little bastard that threw it actually said sorry but as I don’t read let alone subscribe to a newspaper I yelled “asshole” at him, laughed when he crashed his bike into a hedge trying to avoid a dog and began to wonder why the paper was wet on a sunny day like today.
Needless to say, against the will of the print mass media and my new girlfriend/cartoon character, I made it to work.
Friday came (no I won’t make the same joke again) and I did not. I did however go out and purchase a bit of clothing for the wedding and a flask. Yes, a flask. I also purchased some scotch. Yes, Scotch and a flask, like an old timely cowboy or Sherlock Holmsian character. Why? Well, because, as much as this may shock you, I don’t really do well in crowds or social events when I am not with people I know. It’s a kind of, well, a social anxiety thingy. However, much like an unnamed nerdy character on a popular TV show (popular generally among non-nerdy people) who needs booze to talk to women, I find it is easier to acclimatize to a social setting if there is alcohol involved. Not wanting my new girlfriend to think I am an alcoholic, it is easier to have a bit in my pocket I can slip into the occasional cup of “soda” than run to the bar over and over. Go forth young psychologists, analyze me. I dare you.
I avoided the pleas to hang out that night and spent it playing video games, trying clothes on and preparing for social conversations I would be, as a captive audience, forced to take part in. Where I worked (“Acme Corporation! We make Anvils!”), how I knew Jane (‘We met last weekend! We boink a lot!”), what my favorite video games, books and movies are (okay this where my conversational planning went sideways). The normal things. I then had a few beer and fell asleep on the couch only to wake up in a panic as the power was out. Scrambling around, I found my way to the bedroom and finished my fitful sleep, waking at eight in the morning, again, in a panic, because there was a warm body next to me.
When I finally explored the person’s exterior, jumping back when it snorted, a delicate girlish snort mind you, I realized it was Jane and not a dead hooker. I had of course forgotten to lock the door in my blackout panic and she had driven over and slipped in because she was scared. We woke, went back to sleep (no I won’t make the joke again) and we came to the conclusion that we needed to get ready. I grabbed all of my things, clothes, wallet, phone, charger, flask (filled with decent 90 proof single malt Social Lubrication) and shoes. Grabbing breakfast on the way, we ended up at Jane’s place. I showered, dressed and proceeded to fall asleep watching Netflix while she decided what to wear. Occasionally I was asked for my (useless) opinion. I liked everything she threw on, marveled at her ability to change her hairstyle for each outfit so quickly, and began to frantically look at my watch. Finally, she popped out in a very 1940’s looking floral dress and we headed out to Stan’s.
The drive was uneventful until we reached the point along the highway where Jane said “it’s a road up ahead that we will probably miss as it’s a dirt road with no sign.” I and Stan remained silent on this point wondering why she wasn’t using at least GPS on her phone, given that we were to be there ten minutes from then. “Oh there it is, turn”! Helga skidded, drifted like a pro, nearly killed a hippie walking his mangy Irish setter and raising a cloud of dust that landed as I watched upon yet another Birkenstock shod antiperspirant shunner and their twenty or so amateur hobbyist bee hives. Screaming erupted behind us as we closed the sunroof and windows and cranked the A/C. Note: Nobody should have an apiary twenty yards from a major highway. Secondary note: Nobody who does not own proper bee farmer gear should operate an apiary. We navigated the twisty, windy, dusty road until finally we reached the cottage.
I find it funny sometimes that people I know claim to be heading to “the” cottage when in fact it isn’t their cottage, but that of some extended family member. It’s just a pet peeve of mine. I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say “I left my wallet in my car” if it was a friend’s car I borrowed, I’d say “the” car. I wouldn’t say “I’m going to go grab my girlfriend’s bum” if it was my friend’s girlfriend. I also find it odd that people say they have a cottage to get away from things when in fact they are always working on something constructive every weekend they go to their cottage. There is always a long list of projects to be accomplished and they start talking about them in the winter. “Have to do the roof this year” yet they ignore the roof on their actual house. Also, have you ever been down one of these cottage roads? Houses in the city aren’t as close as these buildings are. I honestly think that cottage people aren’t people who want to get away from the city and people for peace and quiet, they are folks who want an entirely different life and social network to escape to. One where you wear shorts, rarely shower, drink all day and when the kids go to bed you can bang each other in a boat. Okay I think I just sold myself on buying a cottage. Nevermind, ignore the above paragraph.
We arrived and found we were in fact not late at all. Helga and Stand just told us two-thirty as they knew Jane would be late. Good planning. I will remember that for the next three months till I get a less tardy girlfriend.
We walked from the car to the cottage, she adjusted my clothes three times in fifty feet, I was introduced to the bride (Natalie) and the groom (Ted) and shown where to drop off the gift and where the bar was. Jane then proceeded to vanish with Helga, leaving me with drunk Stan who then headed to the bar and disappeared to chase a rental peacock along the shore of the lake. I didn’t know you could rent peacocks. I like to think there was no peacock as it suits my reality a bit better but since that day I have seen the ads. I was alone and stood looking around at about fifty strangers in suits and ties in the hot sun. I realized I didn’t bring anything cooler to slip into afterwards but decided it was okay, it would cool down. At this point I had no idea how wrong I was.
Just as I was on drink two, Jane appeared beside me, dragged me around to meet everyone else, decided we needed a drink (yay Jane!) and commandeered chairs where we could see people but not be central. I was happy(er) and content to continue my secret tippling.
The wedding began, vows exchanged, rings worn, kisses made, photos taken, snacks arrived, an announcement that the actual meal would be in two hours made. Sorry, I will not elaborate on that sentence because I am male and we don’t pay attention to such things. I will note that I met my future next girlfriend for two months and twenty nine days from now. Stripy dress, blond hair and brown eyes. I pointed her out to Jane who agreed she would be a good replacement should she be hit by a meteor or abducted by El Salvadorian rebels which was just a ridiculous idea since that war has been over for years but I didn’t point this out as it was getting dark and booze and fireworks and apparently we already ate and now I remember the meal and yeah my flask was empty.
Fireworks were lit, one guys who was also imbibing at my rate set fire to his pants apparently but they were at the side of a lake so all was well apparently. We moved to a nice romantic dark spot near the water’s edge to watch the show and Jane snuggled up to me. I was too far gone to be romantic so began to discuss the metals and chemicals used to create the different colours of the fireworks when the finale, five huge charges, were set off at once.
There was a huge flash! Five booms echoing across the lake! Yelling from other cottages! Laughing from the men of the wedding! A monstrous splash in the lake and running, lots of running, I lost a shoe in the panic, there was tripping, screaming, falling and something about me getting into a boat.
Cough, sputter, snort, “aughkoff, koff, blughhh, koff what the fuck?”
As mentioned before, I’m in the lake.
(To Be Continued)