Things are starting to quiet down for the summer, and I'm turning to figuring out what a single college professor is supposed to do with her time after the craziness of a difficult year.
At the beginning of the year, I moved closer to school, about 10 minutes away, in Rockland County, New York. There not much to do here. I don't have friends nearby. New York City's about a hour away, and I don't like going there that much.
But the most gorgeous state park I've even seen east of the Rockies is right here: Harriman State Park. Beautiful hiking trails, about 200 of them. The park itself is 40,000 acres.
There are also a dozen big, beautiful lakes. But there's only one beach on the lakes I know of, and I hear it gets pretty crowded. When it's hot, I need to be near water. A pool, a beach, a bathtub, something.
So I bought an inflatable boat, kind of like a little inflatable bathtub. I know nothing about boats. As a result, I was forced to invent a husband. How do I get into these situations?
So I go down to the lake to inflate my boat and put it in the water for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It's a Thursday, and no one else around.
I read all the instruction books obsessively, as befits any geek, and filled all the chambers, and got the oars ready, and put my diet coke and a paperback in the boat.
Now it's time to put the boat in the water, so I lug it down to the lakeside dock, and push it in.
Uh oh, it's floating away.
And I'm trying to figure out how to get in without killing myself, when I hear a voice from the bushes. "Need some help?" he cheerfully offers.
"Uh, do you know how to get into one of these?" I ask lamely, looking helpless, because I am.
He comes over and tells me I need to inflate it more. Okay. I do that. Then he helps me lug the boat back down to the lakeside, and put it in the water, and he holds it, and my hand, while I gingerly step in. I did it!
Meanwhile, he's still holding on to the boat.
"How long are you going out for?" he asks.
I don't really know, but I tell him a half-hour, which was probably a mistake.
"Are you married?" he says.
My mind whirls. He seems harmless enough. Nice guy. Kind of cute. But you never know.
"Uh, yes," I say unconvincingly.
He looks at my ring finger, which has no ring.
"You ought to bring your husband down here sometime," he says.
"Oh," I reply, thinking quickly, "He doesn't really like this kind of thing. Can I go now?"
He lets go. Off into the water I go, flattered to be the object of his attentions, a little concerned about whether he's a serial killer, kind of hoping he's not there when I get back.
I stayed out about an hour. It was absolutely gorgeous. I figured out how to use the oars, rowed around for a bit, then dropped anchor and read for a while. After I had enough, I thought of rowing back to shore. I looked to see if my friend was still fishing on the bank. He was. Drat.
I rowed back to shore. The boat handles like a bathtub. It's a real workout rowing that thing. The birds were chirping, and the crickets were starting in. The dragonflies were starting to come out in force. Perfect timing.
He offers to help me out of the boat, but I decline, saying I need to learn how to do it on my own. I get myself out of the water, kind of hippo fashion, rolling myself in the most ungainly way possible onto the dock. I lug my inflatable bathtub back to the car, figure out how to deflate it.
Who do I see getting ready to leave? It's him again. He glances over.
Oh Lord. I didn't want to give him a chance to try out his new pickup lines.
I shove the boat in the car, hop into the driver's seat and zoom out of the lot.
I checked to make sure he wasn't following. (It's happened before.)
I've been back to that lake, and some others, several times. He hasn't been there.
Now I can't go to the lake without thinking of him. Now all I need is an inflatable husband.