I once went on a date with a guy called Bob, who decided to surprise me at the end of the night by telling me that he would be rowing me home in a rowboat, rather than driving in a car.
Backstory:he was my boyfriend. We lived next door to each other, and also lived in beachfront houses, not too far across the wide open ocean, once you got out of this bay. So theoretically the whole rowing home thing could have worked. Bob could have literally rowed us up onto the shore in front of our houses. Apparently people had done this successfully before but I wasn’t really a boat person, and was mildly terrified of being attacked by a shark, so I had my reservations.
After coming to terms with the fact that this wasn’t a joke and that the only way home was across the ocean in a rowboat. I convinced myself that there was some kind of speckled patterned romance in this scenario. I got my spontaneous on. And I rolled with it.
It was about 11pm by the time we got going.
At first it was indeed almost romantic, with the quiet night surrounding us, the sound of soft water lapping at the sides of the boat and our conversation ebbing and flowing with ease.
Most of that ease was, of course, due to the fact that we were only moving through the still waters of the bay between the two headlands. We weren’t yet in the open ocean, you know, with waves and stuff.
I remember it taking a lot longer than Bob had anticipated, to row to the end of the bay. I remember watching the houses as we passed them, some with lights still on, some with lights off. Bob and I creating stories about what was happening in each house.
And then, I remember, as I became colder and colder and the rocking of the rowboat became rougher as we neared the end of the bay, looking at the houses with more of a longing for the warmth and soft beds I was imagining.
Did I mention that I’m not much of a boat person?
As nature would have it, the wind really picked up that night. By the time we reached the end of the bay and were trying to push our way out into the ocean, we were not even at a stand still, we were actually floating backwards, back into the bay.
It took Bob a fair while longer than I, to realise that his heroic efforts to row harder into the incoming ocean swell were beyond futile.
At one point, I remember being so cold, with the waves now washing into the boat, and disorientated by the pitch blackness, that I wasn’t even that concerned about sharks anymore. It seemed it would be easy enough for a small shark to just float right in on the back of one of the waves, but it didn’t really bother me now.
I figured we were going down anyway. What did it matter if it were by drowning or bleeding to death from shark bite?
In hindsight, that was probably the disorientation talking.
By the time Bob finally admitted defeat, I was soaked through, exhausted, freezing cold, had absolutely no idea where we were and wasn’t sure whether I had a migraine or an aneurism coming on, but was starting to favour the aneurism as I felt I just needed this night to end and if it had to be by death then, at this point, so be it.
We managed to get the boat to some rocks in front of a waterfront property.
Where we BOTH had to drag the boat up over the rocks and carry it to a safe place for the night.
I felt like I was in some kind of bizarre b grade noir/horror movie. The two of us, soaking wet, hoisting the rowboat above our heads and carrying it to safety. I was just waiting for some monster to jump out of the bushes. Which was making the shark attack and/or aneurism look more and more appealing.
Not to mention the moderate case of what-the-fuck’s I had going on in my head as we hauled the bloody boat to a safer place.
A safer place? For the fucking BOAT?
Oh yeah, sure, we’ll get that bleed in my brain sorted out in a minute but first let’s make sure the fucking boat – which, let’s face it, should have been a car – has a safe place for the night.
Apparently we were hoping the boat wouldn’t get damaged overnight. Well, I can say with certainty that not all of us were hoping for the same thing.
The night ended with us calling Bob’s mother to come and get us. Me getting a migraine rather than an aneurism (thankfully) but it being one of those glamorous migraine with vomiting — so the 45 minute drive home was a hoot.
That night was one of the worst ends to a date I’ve ever had. But I do remember watching, with fondness, the ambition of Bob as he tried so desperately to make something unique and special happen.
His desire to create a wonderful memory for us both, whilst a tremendous failure, was also incredibly endearing.
And I think it is that quality of trying that I commend so much.
Thanks, Bob, for a date gone terribly wrong. And for trying.