We’ll All Float On Okay

I used to work nights and weekends at Eastern Mountain Sports. The additional job was mostly to save money so that I could pay my loans while I was in the Peace Corps, but it was also for the benefits. As an employee, I not only got discounts on sweet gear like ENO hammocks and solar panels, but I got free rentals of kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.

One Sunday I wasn’t scheduled to work so John and I strapped two SUP boards to the top of his Honda Accord. I asked a few of my co-workers where we should go. The Perkiomen Loop, a section of the Perkiomen River, was close by and not that long. It sounded easy enough.

The day was pretty hot, but since the route was only supposed to take an hour at max, we decided to leave our water in the car. We also left our phones since with my luck I would drop it in the river.

We began paddling, enjoying the time together and the quiet. But the paddling seemed to go on much longer than an hour. Then two hours. Something was not right

Should we pull over and hike back?!” I asked in a panic.

What I really wanted was some direction. I had a tendency to get myself (and others) in these situations, but never wanted to solve the problem. I wanted someone else to take control.

Off to the left there was a rustling in the bushes and then I saw something walking with that iconic Big Foot swagger. But it wasn’t a hairy mountain man, it was a woman chasing her young child. It was now or never.

“May we use your phone?” I yelled paddling over in her direction.

Perhaps my chapped lips or John’s already apparent sunburn gave it away that we were incompetent paddlers in need of help. She didn’t question us, but just handed over her iPhone.

I dialled the only number I had memorized, my sister’s. I could feel her smugly smirking as I quickly told her where we were and what happened. My family has come to learn this is just how I am.

“Okay. I’ll tell mom,” Jolene said.

I knew I could count on my mom. She always seemed to save me in these circumstances. Like the time I was in Amsterdam and my debit card got demagnetized. I had called asking for money to be wired, but it was a holiday she couldn’t do that. Instead I like to say I pulled a Ghandi and fasted, saving what little money I had for cultural experiences. My mom later wired money to London, where I was returning to do my summer internship. At least this time I was not that far away.

When my mom’s silver hundai pulled up, John had to carry the boards up the hill to the parking lot. Barefoot. He had left his flip flops back in the car too. Stepping on stones without complaint, he carried each heavy board up the embankment.

He drove off with my mom to fetch his car and then we silently loaded the boards to return them back to the store.

I like to say that in those moments John was getting a sample of what was to come, that he saw the sometimes half-thought-out adventure that was dating me and still went for it.

SUP

 

A Rough Start to ‘Ever After’

One common story all couples tell is how they first started dating. Much like Stephen Colbert’s tale of how he met his significant other, looking back at the beginning John and I can’t help but laugh at how clueless we really were.

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John and I went to the same high school, played varsity soccer, and even had many of the same friends. But for some reason, both of us never thought the other would be interested in dating.

High School Years

We seem to be saying, “THIS is bad hair”

Fast forward to my junior year in college when I returned home for Thanksgiving break. My friends asked if I wanted to go out to a dive bar for some drinks. I pounced on the chance. My boyfriend at the time had not only cheated on me, but also ended things. He couldn’t even allow me the satisfaction of leaving him. A beer and some distraction was exactly what I needed so I agreed despite hating the bar.

While the bar first started as “Moody Monkeys,” it went out of business quickly and a new owner named it “Ryan’s”. But a new name and a modernized décor (a welcomed change from the strange jungle-theme from before) couldn’t save it, and it would eventually also go out of business. At least when it was “Ryan’s” it didn’t feel like we were crashing a six year-old’s birthday party.

When we got there, I saw John already sitting at a high-top with his friends who graduated high school a year ahead of me. Although I wasn’t more than an acquaintance with John, I did know the other boys, so I walked over to say hello.

If you ask either of us today, we couldn’t tell you what we talked about, but I quickly forgot my ex. I remember thinking: Wow, I can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard.

So when they asked if I wanted to hang out after the bar closed, I excitedly said yes. I left with them to drink one more beer before John offered to drive me home. He had been designated driver and didn’t mind.

As I got out of his car, my phone fell out of my back pocket onto the passenger’s seat. Neither of us noticed in the pitch blackness of that late winter night. John would later learn that this is a reoccurring flaw of mine; that I leave and lose things pretty easily. Back then though, John thought it was my way of saying I wanted to see him again (which I did of course).

Through Facebook messenger we planned a day for John to drop my phone off at my house. When he did, he asked me out.

Before I went back to school for my last term, he picked me up wearing a nice polo and khaki pants– a very different look from the jeans and soccer tee I was so used to seeing him wear. I remember how cute it was he tried cleaning out his Oldsmobile. That car certainly earned the ‘old’ part of its name. The passenger’s window didn’t work and the brown dashboard was curled, and rigid like a banana that had been left in the sun for too long. But the state of this car seemed to reinforce what I already liked about John. He wasn’t like other guys who were flashy or tried to be something he wasn’t. What you see is what you get.

After I graduated, we continued to hang out, mostly on John’s parents’ patio. We would sing along to Jack Johnson’s “Banana Pancakes” or The Fugees’ “Ready or Not” and talk for hours. He made things come naturally, so naturally I didn’t even think twice about singing in front of him.

Close to six years later, I would give anything to go back and watch it all happen again.