For our 10th anniversary, I wanted to pull off a grand romantic gesture that would remind my wife that she's more than my friend—she's the love of my life. I thought about taking her out to dinner at that new French restaurant that just opened, but in the end I decided that something old-fashioned was in order. So I left work early, picked up a bottle of wine, and drove Jenny out to the country to have a picnic and watch the sunset.
What a joke.
It started to go wrong from the very beginning. We climbed to the summit of the hill to stake out the best location, and found no one else was there. It was just my wife and I looking out over the endless, rolling hillsides. The lack of people should have been the first thing to tip me off. And even though there were wildflowers covering every good sitting surface, we found the nicest spot we could, poured two glasses of wine, and settled in for a dynamic natural light show.
I had high hopes. All the signs were right. The sun was dipping down to the mountain peaks, which looked almost purple in the autumn dusk. But as the light spilled over the landscape in a flood of fiery streaks—if you can even call them streaks—I thought to myself, "Where is this going?"
Straight down the tubes, that's where. The soft light surrounding the burning sphere wasn't anything close to a glowing halo. It was more like a crown. And the tendrils of pinks and reds that slowly crawled up the mountainside and disappeared over the horizon were pedestrian at best. In fact, I'll spare you the description of how the warm hues and rich undertones utterly failed to mix effortlessly in the darkening sky. I wish I hadn't had to see it myself.
After a few minutes of the most monotonous cascade of delicate apricot and peach tones I've ever seen, a cloud, pushed across the drooping sun by a faint breeze, became instantly illuminated from behind, sending spears of light down to the earth below. "What a crock of shit," I thought. All my planning and one wispy cloud has to go and ruin everything. My wife leaned over, touched my hand, and told me that she had never loved me more than at this very moment, but I know she was just trying to make me feel better about forcing her to sit through one colossal celestial shit-show.
You know how watching a burning ball of gas several thousands miles away streak across the sky and then disappear can make you realize that every single day we are given on this earth is a blessing? This was nothing like that.
After a few excruciating moments, a light breeze pushed the cloud aside, just as the sun was about to disappear behind the mountains. I tried to turn away, but out of the corner of my eye I saw slivers of orange crawl across the horizon, then, as the sun approached the earth, the whole sky turned crimson. Not otherworldly crimson, mind you, but just run-of-the-mill movie-theater-curtain red. Finally, there was a pathetic little flash of brilliant green—more like a flicker, really—and then the inky darkness, illuminated only by thousands of stars.
And that was it.
I couldn't even look at my wife, I was so embarrassed. For heaven's sake, is it too much to ask to have a beautiful, breathtaking sunset on your 10th anniversary? I guess so. And this isn't even the first time I've been disappointed like this. Oh, no. Our honeymoon in Stockholm was ruined completely by the most anticlimactic aurora borealis I've ever seen, and I don't even want to go into the moonlit gondola ride we took on our visit to Venice last year. Let's just say "underwhelming" and leave it at that.
But this, this was the most unremarkable display of rich fall colors I had ever witnessed. And as if that weren't enough, just as we were trying to leave, a young fawn appeared from the edge of the wood and began to eat acorns out of my wife's extended hand. Well, that was about all I could take. The last thing I needed was Lyme disease from this tick-covered abomination. I chased the deer back into the woods and, in my rage, chucked the empty wine bottle westward.
I spent the whole drive home apologizing to my wife. She said that it was fine, but I know she'll never look at me the same way again. I don't know how I'll make it up to her. Maybe a nice film or some Belgian chocolates—anything but some subpar natural phenomenon that only partially fills one with a sense of the universe's enormity and the unimaginable magnificence of space and time.
Ugg. There is no God.