We headed out to the concrete stairs that looked very similar to the steel stairs used for planes when you deplane onto the tarmac. These concrete stairs went up about ten feet to a platform. Standing on this 4 x 4 platform, one simply had to wait for an elephant and handler to come up and then hop on. This morning Reka and I were really in luck. There was room for four people in the elephant saddle, but people were getting frustrated by not seeing a tiger, so Reka and I had this one to ourselves.
As we rode we followed the elephant in front of us out of the camp. (I still snicker to myself when I see the backside of an elephant. I think it looks like an old, fat, bowlegged lady lumbering along). O.K. enough of that. This was a really important morning. Everything was going great. Reka and I were alone on this elephant with only the guide, who didn’t speak English. The Indian pollution problem made for a spectacular red/orange sunrise. There were deer, peacock and wild elephant all around us.
This was the day, this was the morning. I was going to ask Reka to marry me.
As our guide and elephant broke away from the others we began to go down a very steep embankment out of the forest and onto the river plain. Sitting in the saddle, we slipped up next to each other and tried to hold on and not squish each other. It was so quiet, only the sounds of the forest awakening surrounded us. The elephant is actually quite graceful in its ability to walk down such steep rocky terrain.
I started my approach to Reka, “Have you though much about our future?”
Reka responded, “Some. I hope we see a tiger this morning.”
I said, “I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”
She turned and looked at me with a very peculiar look in her eye.
The morning sun continued to rise, turning the entire sky to bright orange. We leveled out on the river plane and several deer ran right by us. A peacock crowed a morning call. She was beautiful.
Holding Reka’s hand, I looked into her eyes and began, “Reka, how would feel…?”
She grabbed her hand from mine, slapped her hands over her ears, looked away and started singing, “I’m not listening, I’m not ready , I’m not listening, I’m not ready!”
Dumbfounded, I think, Damn, she did it again, just like that first kiss, she did it again. She caught me completely off guard.
Reka pulled her hands away from her ears, “What were you going to ask me?”
O.K. I’ll try this again, I thought. I looked into her eyes and reached for her hand, “Reka will you…..”
Same damn thing. Hands over her ears singing “I’m not listening, I’m not ready, please don’t ask me anything right now. I’m not ready.”
O.K., I got the picture then. I may not be the brightest bulb on the tree but I understood when a nervous English girl riding on an elephant at sunrise in India looking for tigers, singing “I’m not ready, I’m not listening, I’m not ready, I’m not listening.” She just wasn’t ready to get engaged. Reka had got me again, she just wasn’t ready. OK then Fine.
Four months later, in a canoe at sunset, on a lake in Northern Minnesota, I finally got to finish my sentence and of course Reka said “Yes.” Maybe it helped that I knew she couldn’t swim and so I rocked the boat.