I already bought the goddamn tickets.
She repeats, “You know nothing about me.”
We’ve been dating for six years. I asked her to marry me once and she said no. I’m further away from marriage now. Closer to alligators. The alligators are right there. It looked fun. The ad said thrill-seekers and once in a lifetime and a story to tell your friends.
“Ziplining over alligators is something a moron would buy for a girl who is also a moron.”
“Can’t you think outside the box,” I say.
“Box?” she says, “Box!”
She’s emphasized the word in a way that ensures it has double meaning. Maybe triple. I start to think of other errors.
On our second date, I put in a VHS of Se7en. We got thirty seconds in and she made me stop it. All she needed was a shot of a razor blade to Trent Reznor’s score and she said, “Is this a serial killer movie?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “I haven’t seen it.” (I had seen it. About seven times.)
We never watched it.
Brad Pitt’s “What’s in the box?” line was something people know without even having seen the movie.
She ejected the tape and we went and had a picnic instead. While we ate strawberries, she said, “Can you please throw out that VCR? Please.”
Or maybe it was the time I took her to a boxing match. They fight throwing fists and she asked me why it’s called a boxing match. I said I didn’t know. She said she knew; it’s because if you see this much violence it makes you want to strike a match and burn the place down so that this won’t happen again. We left and went bowling. She beat me by fifteen pins.
I also thought it might be the time I bought her lingerie. She picked up the box and said, “If this is a nightgown or some crap like that, it’s not a gift for me, it’s a gift for you.” I told her not to open it and, thank God, I had two other presents for her, both unwrapped, but at least they were there to save the day.
I thought of some other box mistakes I’ve made too.
I’m not smart.
I’ll admit that.
I was raised with no mother in the family. Just me, my dad, and two brothers. Even our dog was a male. Even our mailman was a male. Even the goddamn chairs in our house looked male. So I don’t know how to be what she wants me to be and she says what she wants me to be, right in front of the alligators, right in front of what looks like half of a Tennessee college football team standing in line: “I want you to be more elegant.”
In an hour, if we stick around, the sun will be setting and there’s the option of doing Nude Alligator Ziplining. The alligators aren’t nude, but the people are. We would be. If she wanted to. I saw it on the brochure. It said, strip and clip and zip for the trip of a lifetime.
I wonder if the Tennessee college football team will be sticking around until sunset. Naked middle linebackers and cornerbacks and nickelbacks and quarterbacks and running backs with their naked backs and butts and bones and bladders all hovering over alligator teeth with my girlfriend safe on the other side of the double-layer of fencing, breathing heavily after having successfully ‘strip-lined’ with our feet dangling a thousand feet or whatever over lazy threatening alligators below, and me kissing her neck all elegantly, but I instead I say, “Let’s go.”
And she looks surprised.
I say, “Come on.”
And she looks a bit happy.
And I say, “What?”
And I say, “I’m sorry, come on.”
And she looks like I’ve just given her a necklace she’d mentioned to me once that she thought was beautiful and I remembered it, because she says, “I thought you were going to try to make me go up there.”
And I say, “No.”
And she takes my hand and the Tennessee football team sees me walk away with a woman I’m in love with.
It’s almost like I hear one of the alligators whisper to me where we should go instead, a place I have a feeling she’ll love, and when I say it, she says, “Yes.”
“Yes,” she says, “Yes.”
Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. (Ghost Road Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press). Riekki co-edited Undocumented (Michigan State University Press) and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead (McFarland), and edited And Here (MSU Press), Here (MSU Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book).