We'd been together for about three years and we'd only been there to visit her old haunts and friends a couple of times so I planned a surprise trip to Montreal ... kind of a nice diversion in the summer. Two days, one night and lots of planning.
We were basically broke so thrifty was the name of the game. The plan was to go on a couple of weekdays and crash at this flat some friends of mine kept in Montreal for the summer - they'd use it for baseball game road trips, and numerous lost weekends. Best part... free.
So, on the morning of, we waited 'till after morning traffic and headed out. First stop, downtown Ottawa to get some road-food in the 'byward market'.... While Zebra bought some stuff at a deli, I nicked over to get some coffees. Enroute to the coffee, I make a quick stop in another shop to pick something up - something I artfully wedge into my sock.
OK, we're on the road! Couple of hours later, burping deli meat, we arrive in downtown Montreal. After tooling around we finally find the 'flat' - oh gawd, what a dump... but we can make it live-able for sleeping... besides, we have better things to do then hang around the flat. We can see the Olympic stadium out the window - in the distance...
Montreal has been a bit of a fashion hub for Canada and we made a point of making like we had loads of cash and hit dress and furniture shops. I grab my knap sack and off we go to tour around. Planning.
Remember the movie Pretty Woman... I love dragging fancy-ass-snooty-patooty dress shop sales people thru our fantasies of having money to burn on sequin dresses and designer names... I get cool little euro-coffees out of 'em and Zebra gets to play dress up... Dam, this thing in my sock is driving me nuts!
Dinner time. Did I mention this was in the late spring? Well by around 4:00 it had turned nasty... cold, windy and we were decked out in light jackets. So of course, it starts to look like rain.
There are about 600 million restaurants in Montreal... I need to find one that is relatively close to a subway station 'cause we've been planning all along to try to go to the "Sound and Lights" international fireworks competition... at Le Ronde. It was the night for the show from Spain and it was supposed to be good - weather permitting of course.
We had a nice dinner, but I was so pre-occupied with my sub-plot to the whole night (no, I haven't mentioned that yet) that the meal is a blur in my memory. I recall Zebra being surprised when I uncharacteristically bought a rose from rose peddler (sweeps into the restaurant and wordlessly approaches every table looking for interest...). It rains throughout dinner and is still coming down after dinner. I, however am insistent that we at least try and hope against hope that the rain lets up and that the show is not cancelled.
When we stepped out of the restaurant it was pouring!! We grabbed a cab and jumped a couple of subway stops to get the best / shortest trip possible to the show... but we are painfully behind schedule... It's now, like 9:30 and the show is supposed to start at, well, now. We got out of the subway station and thankfully, it had stopped raining. Better yet, the fireworks were delayed - we would have been able to see them. So there we are, hot foot'en it across intersections, heading into a park area that is across a waterway that separates Montreal from the island that La Ronde is on. So the deal with the fireworks is that they broadcast a short range radio show of the music that is to accompany the fireworks, and they go off directly across the waterway from this park.
As we run towards the park, we pass row after row of parked cars... I am only nominally aware of the fact that the cars are all occupied with people here for the same reason, except they're smart enough to have nice warm cars. This works out well for us, 'cause they all have their radios going ... tuned into the show.
Ok, so we're sloshing... the ground is nice and wet. Oh good, mud - how appropriate. The sky is dark... in fact, everything is dark. You need to imagine the scene: large - very large - park, bordered on the left and right with tall trees, beyond which is the city, directly in front is about 100 yards to the waterway across the park and behind is all those cars. The show starts.
Snuggling against the chill, I have my arm across Zebra's shoulder and her head leaning onto my chest. Brilliant fireworks are exploding in a choreographed pattern filling the sky in front of us and the symphony against which the fireworks are playing is filling the air from the car radios behind us. I keep looking sideways at Zebra to look at her eyes... I can see the fireworks reflecting there. Out of nowhere I remember an episode of "Happy Days" ... the one where Richy has this total hottie over to his house to do homework with. he keeps looking at her instead of the homework and she finally looks up and kisses him huge on the lips. "Now, can we get to work?" She explains that the kiss was to get it out of the way and he shoulden't get any ideas, cause she didn't hear the "Bells of St. Mary's" - something she is confident she will hear when she kisses the "one"...
A part of the symphony is bells. Giant explosions in the sky keeping time... I kiss Zebra... and I'm hearing the "Bells of St. Mary's". She liked the kiss, but pushes me back to say "Ok, now would you watch the show... it's what we went through all that trouble to get here for..."
"No" I say, "it isn't."
One step forward, turn...
"Zebra..." I kneel in the mud (mud!!), and pull from my sock a little box. The music is awesome, the fireworks are freaking purrrr-fect... the monstrous saucers that are Zebra's eyes clearly reflect sparkles. "Zebra, I love you. I love you more as every second passes and I want every second to pass with you. Will you marry me?"
So, she says yes and I slip the ring on, get up and we have this huge hug.
Remember those cars? Every one of 'em had a guy and his date... every one of those dates had our situation pegged solid the minute I hit the ground. Every horn, every set of headlights, begin to sound and flash together drowning out the symphony of sounds and lights that were otherwise filling the night. Next October will be ten years...