Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Pier

It was the young couple's first day on the coast; his first time near the ocean. They walked down the length of the beach in the chilly fall air. Wasn't it supposed to be warmer in LA? She saw a long pier reaching out to the ocean with a familiar ferris wheel and roller coaster winding on its track over the salty waves. She hadn't been here before, maybe she had seen another one like it.
"Can't we take a quick ride on the ferris wheel?" said Virginia, with a playful exuberance. David smiled at her, patiently. "You left your jacket at the hotel Vi, you're going to freeze." She smiled, thinking that he would keep her warm on the ride and insisted. Content to play along with her little adventure, he followed her past the indoor carousel and the carnival games. The pier was long and he watched her closely, afraid she'd trip on the large nails sticking out of the hefty wooden planks. They passed a caricature artist and a man selling glass statues of dragons and unicorns before they finally reached the giant wheel. David paid the operator and they jumped into a lurching, yellow car.
The sky was cloudy and oppressing. Beach goers still ran along the surf, but the chill in the air made it feel more like the last desperate days after indian summer has sputtered it's last breath than the sunny vacation spot she'd hoped for when they boarded their flight. The winds blew over the ocean and lifted her hair, causing her to shiver. David chuckled a little bit as she cozied into his shoulder. It was just like her to insist on freezing in a ferris wheel on a cloudy day just to get a good look at the ocean. 
After they came down from the wheel, he walked her all the way to the edge of the pier where a white haired man was singing Jimmy Buffet songs and many different kinds of men were casting poles over the side. It would have been the perfect spot for a photo except for the pigeons and their droppings and the buckets full of bait and guts. Vi wanted to put money in his case, but David, ever the pragmatist resisted. Finally she pried a dollar out of his pocket and dropped it in the shabby old guitar case. Despite his resistance, he couldn't help smiling as she smiled at the man and complimented his songs. She was more his opposite than anything else, but it made her so beautiful to him.
As they left the edge of the pier she ran ahead to read the menu of Mariasol, a restaurant serving mexican cuisine that boasted a roof deck where diners could view the ocean under the moonlight. Even though the menu seemed too esoteric for either of them, Vi smiled at David and told him how very much she wanted to return and have dinner on this pier. "But Vi, there's so much else to see in town, and we've already done the pier," said David. By the resolute and slightly pouty look on her face, he knew he would be back at the pier.
David had some business the next morning and Vi spent the day alone wandering the beach. On this particular day, the sun was out and she stopped to photograph little birds running through the spray. She walked alongside the pier and took photos of it in the sparkling sunlight. She wasn't sure why she felt so drawn to this place. Perhaps it was the sounds and smells of a carnival, or the beautiful view of the beach and the nearby mountains. She wandered leisurely looking forward to her evening, fantasizing about what their romantic dinner might be like.
When she returned to the hotel, he was there waiting for her, pressing a shirt for dinner. She put on the nicest dress she had and walked downstairs with him, like an old time movie couple ready to go out on the town. Once again they walked down the pier, this time after dark. The ocean and the sky were equal black expanses, but the sound of the waves and the salty scent of the spray let them know that beyond the restaurant, which glowed yellow and blue and flashed with the colors of the game lights, the sea was still there.
Vi felt an overwhelming sense of anticipation as David helped her down the pier in her dress shoes. Many of the vendors from the day had gone and couples walked along the pier, hand in hand. They walked into the restaurant, but no one was there to greet them. The bar looked empty and only a few people could be seen talking quietly over their round, hand painted, wooden tables.
Finally someone came to seat them. Vi craned her neck to see the rooftop deck, but the hostess immediately told them it was closed for the season. She sat down and looked at the menu, but instead of the high-class coastal cuisine she had read earlier, the lower part of the restaurant only served down to earth tacos and refried beans. Instead of showing her disappointment, she tried to remain cheerful and pleased. This is the perfect night for David to propose, she thought, her stomach quivering.
All throughout the meal she looked for signs that he might be preparing to drop down on one knee. They hadn't known each other too long, but when he invited her on this trip, she began to suspect he was up to something. A trip would be perfect for a proposal. Tonight seemed like the logical night; his shirt was pressed and he looked gorgeous with his glossy black curls and his soft brown eyes. She was patient through the appetizer, but by the time the entrees began to fade, she felt her heart sink. Maybe he will have the ring brought out on the dessert plate, she thought, but when he declined dessert, all was lost.
As they walked back out on the pier, her disappointment was palpable. "Vi, is everything ok?," he said. "I know you were disappointed about the moonlit deck." His breath made little clouds in the cold night air as he spoke. "It wasn't just that," she said suddenly feeling very silly for her previous excitement. "I, well... I thought you might propose." He laughed, thinking it a joke, but then realizing that she was serious, he stopped to think. As she explained her reasoning and gave him a play by play of the many ways he led her on, he looked on with bemusement and a touch of embarrassment. At first his laughing eyes sparkled with apologies, but then he stopped in his tracks, looked at her and said, "do you really think we're ready?" 
In that instant all the doubts of their relationship crept in and filled the place where her heart had fallen, making her chest feel a little tight with question and the shame of having guessed him wrong. As if he could feel her uncertainty, he slid his hand around her waist and pulled her close to him. "Soon enough my dear, soon enough," he said and kissed her. She slipped her cold hand into his back pocket and they walked along the pier, watching all the other happy couples and wondering if they would ever return a truly happy couple.


finnegan flawnt said...

that's a cold shower of a story. sad, really. where's her anger?

StarlitEve said...

She knew she was being premature and decided to enjoy the crisp walk on the pier. Not to be confused with a long walk off a short pier. Don't worry, I'll tell you a secret. She gets him in the end.