She picked me up one afternoon and told me she was going to take me somewhere special. "It's spectacular," she said, her eyes a deep green. "You're going to love it." She always spoke with a mysterious edge in her voice, like we were about to embark on a grand adventure.
I held the car door open while she moved the greasy bags of takeout out of the way, old fries flying onto the passenger seat. She stuffed the strays in her mouth like it was no big deal, sweeping off the crumbs so I could take my seat. Her car was a mess-- a homey, welcoming mess. I loved it, stale food smell and all.
When we parked I looked around, trying to figure out where she was taking me. But it was a regular street, a busy downtown street packed with people fighting to get home after a long day at work. She told me we had to walk a few blocks to get to our final destination, and turned south. "Wait," I called. "Tell me where we're going!" But I knew she wouldn't say. She kept walking and asked me questions about my day, my job, my classes and everything else. We talked about music and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while I surveyed the street, searching for a clue about today's secret plan.
When we arrived at the bridge I barely noticed the crowd. This was the city spectacle, what we were known for. Number one on every travel book and magazine, deemed "not to be missed!" and demanded it be added to the "top of your bucket list!" Hundreds of folks gathered around the bridge to see a colony of two million bats emerge from underneath. At dusk, standing in the heavy heat with the lake resting below them, people waited. It was the crowd I drove past every afternoon on my way home, one which had become, after so many years, another blurry scene in the background.
I kept going, side-stepping tourists, until I noticed I'd lost her. I turned back to find she had snuck into the crowd. I waited, confused, until she looked back at me and smiled, nodding for me to join her. I shook my head, trying to understand.
This? It could not be this.
Up until now, all of her surprise activities consisted of these grandiose plans and hidden gems. She somehow knew all the secret bars and old tiny theaters in town, places most people walked past every single day and completely missed or chose to ignore, thinking: Unimpressive. Unimportant. Uninteresting. I suppose we could grow used to almost everything.
From the moment we met, she pulled me into her life with such a force. I couldn't remember the before. I never thought about what might happen after. She was all about the now, now, let's go-- get in the car, we're heading to the country, to the lake, to a concert, for a hike, for the best pancakes of your life in a remote town you will fall deeply, madly in love with. But the bats were a thing you did when you were from out of town, or when your family came to visit and you were desperate to find a sober, parent-friendly activity.
I watched her for a moment as she settled on a spot and turned to meet my eye again. She knew exactly what I was thinking. She knew that for the first time in a month of grand adventures, I doubted the plan. I doubted her.
Just for a second.
"Look a little closer," she said to me the very first day we met, her eyes that alarming green, right before she pulled me in.
And so I walked into the giant mass of people, squeezing between tank tops drenched in sweat and screaming toddlers. She edged closer to the rail, longing for a front row view. I took her hand in mine and we waited, together, for the sun to set.