Rob Azevedo puts his love to the test soon after their married lives begin.
Not long after we started“dating,” or whatever it is two people do in that mad, mess known as college, I found myself in a jam with the local authorities, the result of one of those Late Night Overreactions that eventually, as this one did, lands you a court date. But the town law was on their way to visit me a couple days after the “overreaction.”
I’d been sitting in my apartment in front of the television set for the last four hours, waiting to a see any Springsteen video MTV might’ve had in the rotation. It was 1991. While I tried piecing together a ham and cheese sandwich out of a half slice of pickle and something that looked like mayonnaise, one of my roommates comes humming up the stairs and tells me a cop car just pulled up in front of the apartment.
So long, sandwich. Out the back door I went, racing toward my girlfriend, Flower. I get to her place and I’m panicked. I’m shouting before she even answers the door of her student condo, “Where’d you say you were from?! Where? Where? Where?”
“Wha? What?” she’s saying at the door.
“Where’d you grow up?! Where you from?”
“Upstate New York. Rochester. Why?”
“Let’s go to Rochester … now!”
All Flower said was: “Let’s go.”
And off we went. Just like that, no questions asked, no judgment, no schooling or scolding.
Even after I explained to her somewhere on the Mass Pike that this hard-on I had for seeing where she came from wasn’t fully embedded in her roots, she stood firm in her gesture. I told her how a few nights back when I was cashing out at the Chinese restaurant I delivered food for, three drunks walked in and started setting a tiny Rose of Sharon, or something, on fire at the bar. Things quickly escalated into a “hit or be hit” situation and I was dead sober.
Anyhow, as I said, Flower didn’t lecture me, didn’t freeze me out with silence. She settled me down, told me how things were going to be fine, even if the police were there to meet me when we returned. Which they were. Of course.
“Can’t wait to show you the cornfields we used to party in when I was in high school,” was about all she said.
Never in my life had I felt that sense of devotion. I have since, though.
On the first day of our marriage, she agreed to take my heart and all my baggage to boot as we boarded the Scotia Prince, to begin our honeymoon touring the sea coast. As my faded out Honda Accord rolled down the boat plank, Flower greeted the crisp, sunny morning with fervor. In capri pants and an unforgivably revealing V-neck orange summer top, she looked spectacular, fresh, and anointed.
With my bride’s leg swung over my lap, a border inspector approached our car and asked our reasons for coming to Canada. Flower said to the official: “We’re on our honeymoon! We can’t wait!” Then she plunged her French tipped left hand out the driver’s side window, proving it proudly.
“That’s great,” the inspector replied. Then he pointed and said, “Now, head over there, please.”
I dropped my sunglasses onto the bridge of my nose as the man with the badge pointed “over there.” Over there wasn’t where any of the other cars were heading. A caravan of sport cars and utility vehicles were closing in on downtown Yarmouth. We were heading in the opposite direction, towards a small brick building with sharp corners and tight parking spaces out front.
As I steered slowly towards two uniformed officers, I pushed Flower’s legs off my lap, knowing nothing good was about to come of this. “The hell’s going on?” I said to my new wife, sitting there all orange and committed while I suffered with rot on my tongue.
“Relax, honey,” she said, her voice shrinking unnaturally. “This is probably just what they do.”
Yeah, right. We had a problem.
The night prior to docking in Yarmouth, I had enjoyed a fatty on the deck of the Scotia Prince, which I had poorly rolled the day before in Portland, Maine as we waited in line with the other vehicles to board the cruise liner. One tiny knot of grass, that’s all. Barely a joint. More like a celebratory whack for commitments sake.
Over the night water, with the moon, the wind, the slap, slap, slap of the sea, I felt reborn, slightly, as I took that joint right down to the nub. Then brought the roach back to my cabin and tucked it into a gym bag.
The inspector asked us to step out of the car. My hands swelled and lips cracked. Flower remained composed as the inspector rummaged through the ashtray and glove compartment, performing a standard inspection. We watched from a few feet away while Flower assured me everything would be fine.
We were anything but fine.
Stepping out of the car, the inspector asked me, “Do you have any marijuana on you, sir?”
“No.” I said quickly.“Course not.”
“I found seeds and stems on the driver’s seat,” he said. “Park the car and lock the doors. You’re both being detained.”
I knew it: Marriage was a curse!
Flower looked terrible. Her glow was gone, along with the pride she so briefly felt for her new husband.
“Pot gives me cankers,” I pleaded. “Many people drive this car. Please, it’s our honeymoon.”
We were both stripped and searched. My Flower went first with two female guards. I sat silently in a room with a male inspector, regretting every decision I had ever made, envisioning my bride’s humiliation.
Flower returned shamed and exhausted. She disappeared into the wooden chair beside me as I raked my fingers down my face. Soon I was in a room with no windows, pulling my own underwear down, lifting my nuts. They found nothing.
“Okay,” the guard said.“Button up. Out to the car now.”
Outside, they fingered through our belongings for ten minutes, opening every pocket of every bag, every coat, pairs of jeans, everything. Gripping Flower’s waist, I thought back to the day before, when I was crying into my friends’ dress shirts. Now, I was ready to choke on new salty tears.
There I stood, almost passing out, when I saw the inspector go right into the sports bag where that last damn nub was. I knew he would find it. He’d be pissed that I lied, too. I also knew that it was a Saturday and we would be staying the weekend, stuck until Monday morning, at the earliest. My wife in one cell, myself in another.
The inspector pulled his hand out and zipped up the bag.
“Enjoy your honeymoon. You’re free to go.”
Steering the car through downtown Yarmouth, I was locked into a million emotions, my sensory on overload, exhausted. I wanted to pull over on the side of the road and dream this nightmare gone.
Flower was fast asleep in the front seat: out cold. Not a single sign of rage anywhere. Just the Canadian wind blowing through her hair, ruffling her now sweat creased orange top.
The experience at the border was traumatic. Horrifying, to say the least. I still couldn’t believe we were safe.
She would walk on knives for me, I thought with wonder. And I for she.
I drove on toward Digby.
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Image credit: Tela Chhe/Flickr