It was sometime in late August 2000 when we drove off that boat ramp into Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, ready to begin our lives together, legally, as a committed couple.
It should have been the time of our lives.
After a stellar ceremony on Cape Cod where friends and family drank themselves swollen, my new bride, Flower, and I planned our honeymoon around the seacoast of Nova Scotia. Our first stop would be to a romantic fishing town named Digby, located along the Bay of Fundy, about a two-hour drive from Yarmouth.
We were anxious to see if our decision to marry after ten relatively painless years of dating would add anything to the relationship. I had my doubts. I was certain that marriage was the cruelest sacrament of them all, a fairytale saddled with distance, resistance and resentment.
Still, I bought into marrying Flower for a million right reasons. Sure, she was (is) humble, funny, deliciously brown skinned and sincere. The Best of the Best. Quite impossible for me to have done any better.
Yet, long before the full spectrum of Flower’s beauty presented itself to me; she teased me one afternoon with a gesture of loyalty I’d not soon forget. The gesture read: I’d walk on knives for you.
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.
It’s a common fools story, so let’s move on.
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 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 Flower.
I get to her place and I’m panicked beyond. Yes, beyond.
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.”
“Okay. Let’s go,” is all she said.
And off we went. Just like that. No questions asked. No judgment. No schooling or scolding. Never had felt that sense of devotion before in my life.
I have since.
So, one this first day of our marriage, she had agreed to take my heart and all my baggage to boot as we boarded the Scotia Prince. And the Gods of Fate would begin to test not only our faith, but both our nuts, and see just how strong we’d stand together.
As my faded out Honda Accord rolled down the boat plank, Flower greeted the crisp, sunny morning with fervor. Dressed in beige Capri pants, flat-soled shoes and an unforgivably revealing V-neck orange summer top, she looked spectacular, fresh and anointed.
With my brides 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, probably saying to himself, “Sweet knock off, femme.” Then he pointing 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 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 enjoyed a fatty on the deck of the Scotia Prince, which I had 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.
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.
Standard stuff, no?
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.”
Right there I cursed the sacrament of marriage, kicked it right in the face. 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. Sitting in a small office, I planned our defense after telling the inspector there was nothing left to find, offering this: “Pot gives me cankers. 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 brides 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 my wedding day when I was crying into my friend’s dress shirts. The orgy of love caused the marshes to wept fat, salty tears.
Now, I was ready to chock 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, riding this delicious slice of life out till Monday morning, the earliest.
My wife in one cell, myself in another.
Pretty picture, huh?
But then I saw the inspectors hand pull back and zip up the bag. Nothing. Holy fuck.
“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 well-worn orange top.
Then, thirty miles down the road, after listening to the first side of John Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow” on a cassette, everything felt right again. Just like it did back in college when I was in a jam and I needed someone, anyone, to have my back, no questions asked, Flower was there standing strong beside her man.
The experience at the border was traumatic. Horrifying, to say the least. Yet we endured, once again, together as one, from Day One.
She would walk on knives for me, I said to myself. And I for she.
Rob Azevedo, from Manchester, NH, is a writer, columnist, radio host and filmmaker. His short films have won awards for BEST OF THE FEST, BEST COMEDY and BEST SHORT DRAMA at the SNOB FILM FESTIVAL in Concord, NH. His radio show can be heard each Thursday night on WNHN 94.7 FM in Concord, NH, and his columns run bi-weekly in the Laconia Citizen.