We’re looking out the window of our 20th floor room and the brightly colored umbrellas beneath us are miniatures and the Friday night rush hour traffic snaking across the bridge that spans the newly formed Ohio River look almost like a child’s toys and the mansions on the ridge across the river are disappearing into the mist that turns to rain and back again.
I brush my hair and realize I’ve lost weight since I bought that strapless dress and it doesn’t want to stay put and he’s watching the clock but I don’t know where we’re going because it’s a surprise; and I look through the open end of the stadium on the other side of the river and imagine being rich enough to sit in those seats when the lights are bright and the stands crowded and the roar of many voices rolls out across the three rivers.
He tosses his empty Dunkin’ Donuts paper cup and I smile one last time to my reflection (we have a hot and cold relationship, my reflection and I; tonight we are friends) and grab my camera because I’m always forgetting it but this time I will remember. And we walk out into the wet evening, our red-and-blue umbrella joining the other umbrellas we were watching all afternoon, and a puddle splashes over my open-toe sandals and we’re walking on the narrow sidewalk crossing the restless waters and I still don’t know where we are going.
On the other side the dirt and mud are working under my toes and the strap of the shoe is starting to rub and he says the place we’re looking for isn’t here and I’m anxious, because he planned a surprise and it isn’t working and I don’t want him to be disappointed when his surprise doesn’t work out. He says we’ll ask for directions here, walking down a ramp to boats with self-aggrandizing names like “Duchess” or “Princess” and bright red water wheels on the back for decoration.
And it isn’t until the gate agent says we’ll board at Gate 1 that I realize he’s been keeping me guessing all the way to the dock, that we’re not lost and his surprise is working exactly like he meant it to. “Didn’t you guess?” he asks me. “Not even when I agreed to ask at the ticket booth?”
And I didn’t. Because even though we’ve been married three years, I still am amazed when he gives me exactly what I wanted, but had never even thought to ask for.
Like that wine-red chenille throw that feels so soft on chilly evenings curled on the couch; or the wood jewelry box with etched glass doors to replace the cardboard box I’d had for years.
Or a sunset cruise on the three rivers of Pittsburgh, so we could see the city from the water and watch the sun break through the clouds before slipping under one of the old bridges and down to the other side of the world.
Our mini-vacation lasted all of 24 hours, but it felt so much longer – and in a good way. We reveled in the luxury of valet parking, fought Pittsburgh traffic to a late dinner at Red Lobster where we drank black coffee to compliment our peach barbecue scallops and shrimp and lobster tail platters and I think our waitress was laughing at us because really? Who drinks coffee with scallops? And we followed my failed sense of direction and got lost, then found our way again. And we fell asleep to cable TV (another luxury), and woke for breakfast of leftover cold seafood that was surprisingly good and found cheap parking at 13th and Smallman.
And the summer sun soaked into our skin and dirt from The Strip painted my feet black and we jostled with the crowds and drank cold lemonade from lemons squeezed at the point of purchase and admired the linen dresses and tunics and skirts and bought a travel guide to Italy from a used book store so we can dream.
I didn’t take any pictures of The Strip; there was too much to breathe in to remember to pull the camera out of my bag. I smelled roasting chickens and roasting peanuts and popcorn and corn dogs; I found proof that Mung bean pancakes exist, not just another silly name he made up; I visited Wholey’s Market and looked into cold, dead eyes of fish set in mounds of shaved ice, and cold, living eyes of fish in tanks waiting to be chosen for somebody’s dinner, and looked up into turkeys and a pig suspended from the rafters.
I bought three avocados for one dollar, because how much cheaper am I ever going to find them?
And finally we made it back to 13th and Smallman, and found our way back across the bridge, and stopped at Olive Garden for a late lunch because we had gift cards to use and the smells from The Strip had made us so hungry.
And when we pulled into the gravel parking lot bordering our house and unlocked the front door and saw two little ferret heads peeking up from their blanket, I was glad to be home, in my little house in a little town.
And doesn’t that make it just the perfect weekend get-away?