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Cartoons and the Wedding Proposal, part 2

The next day brought us to a car rental place with the help of Anna. I was thinking that I would get a car that was a bit more British than a green Ford Taurus, but we got a green Ford Taurus. We had our day bag and I had my map. We also had a map from the rental company and the desk person gave me brief directions to get to the M1. The M1 was the highway that went out of London. Once on the M1, it would be an approximately four hour drive to the castle. Once behind the wheel, the desk person’s directions started to fade away like ether. In a matter of moments on the streets of London I could only smell a slight hint of something that used to be a word resembling right – or was it left. Really, just like that Mind? What is wrong with you, Mind? Have you no pride or dignity? Ok, Mind, you forgot the directions, so, why don’t you tell Cynthia. Don’t make Mouth do it. Mouth was just minding his own business.

“Why are you so quiet? Is everything all right?” Cynthia asked.

“Ah, my mind forgot the directions.”

“You mean you forgot the directions?”

“Not me. My mind forgot the directions.”

“Just for the record, you and your mind are sort of together.”

I just quietly shook my head “no”. She got out the map and tried to see where we were. Thus began one of the most painful driving experiences of my life. I have driven in multiple countries and in many large cities. The only driving experience more frightful was driving on the 101 outside of Tampa, FL. The road itself is not frightening, but having grey and blue haired people who can barely see above the steering wheel making right hand turns from left lanes adds a level of difficulty that can’t be compared to any other experience.

The Taurus was too big to be able to compensate for the front left quarter panel with me now seated on the right side. I had a left front quarter panel mental block. Having the steering wheel on the opposite side was proving to be a problem when trying to think quickly and make quick lane changes like one does when one is lost. Ten minutes into the experience I glanced off the side of a parked car with the passenger side mirror. Crap. Twenty minutes in I glanced off a bus with the front left bumper. Not hard enough to break anything, just hard enough for me to hear the hollow plastic sound of the bumper. We needed to stop and regroup. I was normally good at high pressure situations, but it was looking like this one might crack me. I suggested turning back and returning the car. Cynthia asked if I knew where the rental place was. Fine. Let me see the map. I could see the M1 on the map. We weren’t that far. It started raining, just to add another level of difficulty. The fish and chips I had the night before were all balled up in my stomach like a fist mid punch. I turned left, then right and saw the sign for the M1. I changed lanes, and in doing so glanced off the back of another vehicle – just to keep it interesting – this time a moving car. I slowed up. There was no damage on the car, but I waited for the car to pull over. I readied myself to pull over and the car didn’t pull over. The ramp for the M1 came up quickly. I veered onto the ramp and surfed onto the highway. We had made it. I had no idea how to get back to the car rental place, but that was a battle for another day.

After around three and a half hours on the road we came to Leeds. I knew the castle was about 24 miles from there. Once again Cynthia was starting to ask questions. I had decided to let her in on the viewing of the castle some time ago. She was starting to get hungry but we both wanted to see the castle and were buoyed by the fact that we were close. Soon we made our way into the small town of Spofforth. It looked like half the town’s buildings were for sale. There was not much going on in Spofforth and I have to say I felt pretty fortunate that my ancestors left back in the mid 1600’s. But then again, if the good townspeople of Spofforth had visited the town where I grew up, they would probably have said they were glad they stayed put back in the mid 1600’s.

As we winded through Spofforth we saw what looked like a park. The park had the remains of a castle. Our family castle was mostly remains. There were three walls and part of a fourth wall along, with some windows in the walls. No roof or any sign of a roof – ever. I only hoped that at one point our castle had had a roof. We pulled the car down a long gravel road to the Spofforth Castle site. It was overcast and threatening us with off and on drizzle. We got out of the car. I had slid Cynthia’s stolen ring into my front pocket from its hiding place in my suitcase. As a person who does more urgent things than me might say – “it was go time.”

I had brought my 16mm film camera and was shooting some film of the castle and getting Cynthia in the shots. Cynthia is a good photographer and she was taking some photos of the castle. After about 2 minutes I had all the motion film footage I really needed from an unmoving edifice. I was now only looking through the lens while I tried to decide how I should ask Cynthia to marry me. As I was approaching her on the other side of the castle, a group of 4 or 5 twelve to fourteen year old boys approached her. Her being a teacher and not readily frightened by the grotesqueness of that age bracket of pimply boys, she struck up a conversation with them. I held off, waiting for them to go away. I think the conversation ended, but a couple of the boys just followed her around as she took photos. How often does a pretty young American woman get onto the grounds at Spofforth Castle? Answer is apparently not often. I finally approached Cynthia with the boys still hovering around like the intermittent mist. She was obviously all pictured out.

“Are you ready to go?” she asked.

“Sure, if you are,” I said.

“Let’s go. I’m starving and I’m getting a huge headache from not eating.”

“Right. Food. Yeah.” I said as we walked to the car and I could see my whole plan evaporating away like the runny nosed teens biking away in the mist.

I sat for a moment in the car. I prodded my lazy Mind to think. Come on, think Mind. She wanted to go. The headache was getting worse. I had got us this far. Why didn’t the Mind think to pay one of those runny nosed kids – who was probably a cousin, anyway – to film me propose to Cynthia. Maybe that was too contrived – said the man who tricked his girlfriend to come to a castle in England to ask for her hand(s) in marriage. But what could be done. I started to slowly drive down the gravel road. Mind was half thinking and half driving. I looked the wrong way and almost pulled out in front of someone coming from an unsuspecting English direction. I slammed on the brakes. Now Cynthia was frightened by an almost accident AND she had a headache. If something didn’t change soon I was going to have to let Mind go. I decided to work without Mind. Maybe he could catch up.

“I forgot a roll of film up by the castle.” I said suddenly.

“Can’t you just forget it?” Cynthia’s headache said.

“I shot footage on it. I’ve gotta go back and get it.”

In response to Cynthia’s grimace I turned the car around and headed back down the gravel road. I had nothing and Mind was not catching up like I had hoped. I got to our old parking spot. It was drizzling more now.

“Why don’t you come up with me,” I fished.

“Are you kidding? My head’s going to break open. Just get it and let’s get going.”

“Ok.” I got out of the car and half ran towards the castle up a hill. Since I really had no film up there I didn’t exactly know where to go. I just ran deliberately so it looked like I knew where I was going (A trait I would carry forward in all my endeavors). I got up to the wall and there was a window ledge about five feet off the ground. I looked around. Nothing. I sat the ring on the window ledge. I turned and walked quickly back towards the car. Come on, Mind. You’ve got to be kidding me.

I bounded down the hill quickly, hoping something would come to me. I needed a very good reason to get Cynthia up a hill to the castle in the friendly light drizzle. This kind of high pressure lying was something I’d always wanted to be better at. I didn’t want to be able to lie to people, but it seemed like a good skill if I ever decided to be a spy and found myself falling into an interrogation situation. I wanted the perfect rouse to come into my mind, but Mind was still on break. The car got closer and closer. Cynthia and her headache patiently waited for me to get back into the car. In a moment I was outside the car. I time traveled from one stupid idea to another. My hand touched the door and in a second Mind was back like the cavalry coming to save the day.

I opened the door. I let Mind go. Do your thing Mind. There was a brief pause as I looked at Cynthia and she looked back at me through squinty eyes that were being pinned by a headache outside of her weight class.

“So? You got it?” she said.

Excitedly, Mind sent words through mouth. “You gotta come up and see this thing!”

“What? I’m not going up there. What thing?”

“I don’t know what it is. It’s an animal or something. It’s a dead animal. You have to see it. I don’t know what it is. Some kind of dead animal.”

“No.”

“Come on. It’ll only take a minute. You’ve gotta check it out.”

Cynthia was more confused than anything and possibly felt bad for me in my moment of mental breakdown. She slowly got out of the car and we quickly walked up the hill towards the castle. Every few steps my stupid mind would say something else about the dead animal, as if it were trying to also convince me. We approached the wall near the window and I begged Mind to shut up and it did.  I looked around to just add one last touch to Mind’s lie. I said I thought it was in this closest castle window and pointed in the direction. Cynthia looked and saw nothing. Then she spotted her stolen ring. She picked it up. I got one of my knees onto the drizzle covered grass. She started to cry. To this day we’re not sure if these were tears of joy or tears of standing in the drizzling rain looking for a make believe dead animal, while maneuvering a massive headache and hunger pains, and having this fool about to ask to marry her. I like to believe in the tears of joy theory.

I recited the phrase engraved on the inside of the ring and I asked her if she would marry me. She paused choking back some tears. Oh, no. This whole thing was too late to take back. Good reader, what had I done. Could this be the most embarrassing moment of my life? Had I read everything wrong? Man, I was super hungry too. Then that second passed and she responded with a “yes.”

This is where I usually end the story when telling Lila. I don’t tell her that we got in the car and drove to this quaint English town about ten miles away where we had a B&B reserved. As we pulled into the town we saw an old building that looked to be hundreds of years old. It was made of stone. It looked like it was big enough to be some kind of community center. There was a line of people that went around the building. Cynthia’s headache subsided with the thought of a meal and seeing the towns people lined around the building. Maybe there was going to be some cool performance, some traditional dance perhaps. We were both excited to think that we were fortunate to stumble upon some northern England infused entertainment – possibly a Shakespeare play. We slowed to try to see what it was about. As we came around the corner we noticed the line was even longer. We saw a quaint blackboard of a larger size hanging off the side of the old stone community center. It was hard to make out what the chalkboard said. As we got closer we saw that it said something about “Stones”. It didn’t make sense. There were some people blocking the sign. All we could make out was “Fli Stones”. Maybe a band or some kind of special creek bed stones that are on display. In one more second, we got closer and the line moved, revealing the true meaning. It read, “Flintstones,” with show times below, 7pm, 9pm.

It was the horrible John Goodman live action Flintstones movie from 1994. A bad piece of our world from the United States had followed us to this quaint little northern England town. There would be no interesting cultural experience. We would go directly to a restaurant, split a bottle of wine and talk about the irony of the Flintstones playing here in that stone building (not quite irony, actually) and that within six months we would be referring to each other as “husband” and “wife”.

I don’t tell this to Lila because she would want to know if we went to see the movie. When I explained that we didn’t, she would ask why not. Then she might go onto explain how it would have been “kinda” relaxing to watch a movie after our long day. Finally, she would suggest that we maybe watch a Flintstones episode or maybe watch that movie with a real person playing Fred. So, that’s why I don’t talk to her about that part of the story. It’s bad enough that some days the memory of the Flintstones showing in a remote English setting is stronger than a wedding proposal at a castle.

Yabadaba do, she said I do!

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