Waiting for the Right Answer

By Felice Prager

Waiting for the Right Answer

Sam and I aren’t married yet. We will be married someday; we just aren’t married yet. We haven’t even discussed marriage. I’m happy. He’s happy. My dog is happy. His cats are happy. Life is good. And surprisingly, marriage isn’t on my mind.

But marriage IS on Sam’s mind and if there are hints, I am oblivious to them. We have planned a trip to Niagara Falls. I’m thinking of it as a romantic getaway; Sam sees it as a pre-honeymoon – and I miss all the signals. I have not developed the intuition that comes with time and stretch marks. Things don’t play themselves over and over in my mind until I have to wake Sam up in the middle of the night because something ticked me off six hours earlier. Sam has a plan, and I’m lost in dense fog as we head to our winter wonderland.

When we leave for our trip, there is snow piled on the side of roads and salt stains on our car. However, it never occurs to me that traveling NORTH to CANADA in WINTER is a little odd.

Sam is driving; I’m navigating.

As we approach Niagara Falls, it becomes very obvious to me. I can hear the pounding, rushing water pushing off cliffs, crashing into the rocks below. I can feel the vibrations. Imagine trying to talk while a subway screams past you in your living room. That’s Niagara Falls.

So when Sam pulls over and says I picked the wrong turn-off to Niagara Falls, I tell him I didn’t. With the sounds of Niagara Falls booming behind him, he screams, “YOU MADE ME MISS THE TURN!”

“LISTEN!” I scream – calmly.

“GIVE ME THE MAP,” he yells.

“You are such a jerk,” I say in a normal tone, knowing Sam can’t hear me or read my lips.

“You know, I was going to propose this week, but not after this,” he mumbles loud enough for me to hear.

“JUST DRIVE!” I suggest.

The rest is history. Five minutes later, we are driving past Niagara Falls. Sam says, “I knew we were almost here. Good thing I didn’t listen to your directions!” I ignore him. We gaze at the beauty of nature from our frosted windows.

Niagara Falls looks different in the winter than it does on postcards. Spectacular ice creations are formed on many precipices. There are also NO tourists in winter. It’s too cold for tourists. You have to be crazy to visit Niagara Falls in the winter.

At this point, there is also something very different.

Now, I know Sam’s ulterior motive for the trip. Sam, in his moronic rage, spilled the beans. I’m not sure if Sam remembers what he said in his side-of-the-road temper-tantrum, but I heard it clearly over Niagara’s deafening cacophony.

Before, I was traveling with my favorite guy. Now I’m with someone who wants to live with me for better or worse until death us do part. Before I was relaxed; now I’m wheezing.

We check into our motel. Everything looks acceptable. It looks clean and things match. Bedspread and curtains are of the same color family. I am afraid to look under the bed. I will not stretch out on the carpet to do my sit-ups, but walking across it – with shoes – doesn’t seem to be too disgusting.

As I get further into the room, I notice the painting over the bed of a hill and a field and, in the distance, Niagara Falls. Then, I notice something strange about our painting. There is some dirt in the field below the hill. I put on my glasses. It seems a previous vacationer drew little X-rated stick-figured characters doing things in positions that defy gravity. There are anatomically gifted male stick figures and well-endowed female stick figures frolicking on a hillside near Niagara Falls with their exaggerated teeny-tiny privates.

Discovering the stick figures puts us in much better moods. We’re laughing, and Sam’s my best friend again. We forget the side-of-the-road argument. I decide to take a hot bath to warm up before we have an early dinner.

Sam turns on the TV to check out Canadian broadcasts. Sam cannot be in a room without a TV on. It is still the first thing he does when he comes home from work. The TV runs constantly in our home, even when there is no one in the room. I walk through the house turning off the unwatched televisions, only to find them on again five minutes later with no one watching them.

I disinfectant the bathtub and fill it with scented bubble bath I brought with me. I get in to relax and warm up. My eyes are closed as I soak in the moment.

Then it happens.

“Honey?” says Sam, who is standing in the doorway. He is not in the bathroom and not in the bedroom but sort of halfway here and halfway there with his eyes on the TV.

“What, Sam?”

“Want to get married?”

This is said with the same expression as, “When was the last time you had the oil changed in the Honda?” He doesn’t move from the doorway and is not even looking at me.

“I’m in the tub, Sam!”

“Oh, okay,” he replies. He plops down on the bed to watch a rerun of Happy Days.

I sit in the tub contemplating what just happened and wonder if it was a hallucination.

A little while later, we are at the motel’s restaurant. Immediately, the level of cleanliness worries me. I mention this to Sam, and he says, “I know it isn’t your mother’s kitchen. Stop being such a clean freak. We’re on vacation.”

To be safe, I order a grilled cheese sandwich and a Coke.”

Sam orders the all-you-can-eat baby back ribs.

“Are you sure?” I ask.

“I haven’t eaten since New Jersey.”

Fact of significance: Sam finishes two and a half racks. My comment that the ribs looked green doesn’t impair his appetite.

Then the romantic side of Sam once again shifts into overdrive. Sam decides that we should go for a walk to see the falls. Sam nixes my idea of getting the car. We walk a few blocks. The closer we get, the louder, windier and colder it gets.

Sam mentions something about having an upset stomach. I tell him he ate too much.

I see the falls. It looks like Niagara Falls, only semi-frozen. Sam snaps some pictures of Niagara and me. I take some of Niagara and Sam. There is no one else there to help us preserve this moment with a photo of the two of us together. No one is crazy enough to visit Niagara Falls in this ridiculous cold.

I begin to worry about frostbite. All I want is to go back to the motel. My feet hurt. My toes hurt. My fingers hurt. My nostrils are frozen together. My ears hurt. I tell Sam I want to go back to the room. I am beyond cranky.

At this point, romantic Sam, yelling over Niagara’s rage, chooses to ask me once more, “Want to get married?”

I look at him. I am sure I heard him right this time!

I am freezing alive in subzero weather with my nostrils frozen shut, and I know I have to answer him. It hurts when the air goes down my windpipes. My eyes are tearing; icicles are forming on my cheeks.

I’m thinking that this is as romantic as Sam can muster: Niagara Falls in the background, the two of us together at a motel room with pornographic pencil drawings above the bed.

As I’m about to chatter out an answer, the color in Sam’s face turns bright green. He grabs his stomach, and then Sam vomits over the railing into the frozen ice formations below.

He vomits all the way back to the motel, all through the night, and never once asks me to marry him again.

The vacation comes to a screeching halt. I am driving us back to New Jersey with Sam stretched out on the back seat groaning about how awful his stomach feels, and that I should have stopped him from eating the ribs.

Before this trip I hadn’t given a single thought to getting married. Sam puts the thought in my head and then cruelly pulls it off life support. As I drive, I replay the scene of Sam calling me a clean freak. I replay him vomiting over the railing. I even embellish the story in my mind by having the vomit freeze midway down before hitting the rocks below. I aggravate myself about my almost-proposal. I mumble under my breath, while Sam writhes in self-inflicted pain. I have no pity. I speed joyfully over every speed bump. I deliberately take corners on two wheels.

Twenty-eight years later, I regularly remind Sam that I never actually said, “Yes!” to his proposals. Then I suggest going out for ribs.

About this writer

  • Felice Prager Felice Prager is a freelance writer and multisensory educational therapist from Scottsdale, Arizona. She is the author of five books: Waiting in the Wrong Line, Negotiable and Non-Negotiable Negotiations, TurboCharge Your Brain, SuperTurboCharge Your Brain, and Quiz It: ARIZONA. Her essays have been published locally, nationally and internationally in print and on the Internet. Learn more at www.WriteFunny.com.

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