We just got back from our honeymoon — 12 days in a secluded cabin in the Smoky Mountains. The view from our back deck was just as good as any lookout point I’ve ever seen. Better, since we could see it from our lofted bedroom.
Every day, we’d wake up and look out a spectacular wall of windows. It’s like summiting a mountain. And then sleeping on it, by a warm fire. Every night I’d read a book, Dan would play the guitar. We’d watch cable and drink Bailey’s Irish Cream by a simple set of flickering candles.
And, in the room’s glow, Dan would look lovingly into my eyes and fill me in on all the dead animals he suspected were rotting under the deck. Then I’d tell him that while I was “roughing it in the wilderness” if he didn’t” shut it, our next vacation would be at a girly spa in the Berkshires.”
It was fantastic.
About our third night in, I went to bed early because we had spent a grueling day on the mountain, hiking the kiddie trail, and then stuffing our aching bodies with a large pepperoni and sausage pizza. (I love camping.)
The subsequent indigestion had become so unbearable I took a hot bath and retired to the loft area just after Inside Edition. (That Mary Hart surely had a face lift.) My husband, however, decided to spend a little time on the back deck – 45 minutes, to be exact. And while we were, for that oh so precarious time, separated, I lay back on a bed of feathers thinking, “My husband is so deep. He’s probably out there gazing at the stars. Thinking about how much he loves me and how blessed he is to have found our life together. I’m so lucky.”
When I finally went downstairs to call him in, however, I grew fearful that one of those alleged dead animals wasn’t so dead after all. And, in fact, had eaten the husband it took me so long to find.
“Dan?” The deck was pitch black. No outdoor lights gleaming off the cheap white plastic chairs, no tall shadowy figures against a bright moon, no shooting stars lighting up the sky. “DAN?”
My mind started playing out the scenarios. What if he was lying under the deck, his heart lying next to a bear that was licking its fingers? Was if he was killed by a wolf or, worse yet, shot by a drunken neighbor? Even though we were secluded, I saw some house lights about a half mile up the dirt path. What if a crazed and boozed redneck came down to use my poor husband as part of some twisted hunting experiment?
How would I survive? I mean, sure, I have cable and some wine and salad, but how long could they possibly last? I’m much too afraid of heights to drive down the dangerous road that gets us up to this God-forsaken mountain paradise. What if my cell phone service, tenuous at best, goes completely cold? Thoughts of “The Shining”, “Poltergeist” and “Private Benjamin” come rushing into my brain like a cranial tsunami. I start to sweat.
“DAN! DAN!” I’m about to fly down the stairs and out the sliding glass door to call to him, like Barbara Streisand in “A Star is Born”, when I spot him. He peeks his head through a tiny opening in the glass and says, “Yeah, sshhh, yeah, what’s up?” He looks a bit maniacal.
“What are you doing?”
“In the dark?”
“Yeah, yeah, what’s up? I gotta go.” It’s like his car is double-parked in Times Square and an angry cop is making his way over on horseback. I look out at the blackness.
“You’ve been out there for almost an hour.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Are you smoking pot?
“What? No. Of course not. Do we have pot?”
“Babe, I’ve gotta go. Wassup?”
“Well, it’s just that you’ve been out there for a long time.”
“Yeah, okay, I’ll be up in a few. K? Everything’s fine. Go back to bed.”
I listen to Samantha Harris give Mario and Karina their scores on “Dancing with the Stars” from the television upstairs. A 9.8. Not bad.
“I’m not sleeping, Babe, I’m wondering where you are and why you’re standing out there in the dark.”
“I’m listening for bears. I think I hear something, although I can’t tell if it’s just a bunch of squirrels or possums or what. But I have to be in the dark and perfectly still to get any of these animals to come forward.”
“Are they on trial?”
My husband has been obsessed with seeing a bear since we arrived. Unfortunately, all we’ve seen is several stray dogs and one dead possum. Of course, he stopped for 12 minutes to examine it, while I remained in the car, dry hurling.
“What if you actually attract a bear? And he eats you. How will I pay for our new house by myself?”
“Hon, don’t be ridiculous. That’s not going to happen. I’m a black belt and a survivalist.”
It’s true, he has not stopped instructing me on what to do if a bear backs me into a corner. Course, I can’t remember. Besides, I keep telling him that there are no bears at the coffee shop, the sandwich shop, or on the Smoky Mountain train ride, but it hasn’t slowed him down any.
“Yeah, I guess you could always give the bear a good roundhouse kick and be done with it.”
We’re in trouble.
“Right, right. Is that it? I’ll be in soon.” And with that, he slides the glass door shut and I let him. After all, it’s his vacation too. And if he wants to spend some of it standing alone in the dark on a mountaintop for 45 minutes in the hopes that some critter will come and do a jig for him, well then, so be it. Letting the other person be who they are is what marriage is all about, right?
I, on the other hand, see that as redundant. After all, most days, I already feel like I’m out on a limb in the dark waiting for something extraordinary to happen (especially when it comes to writing). There are truly lessons in everything, aren’t there?