To my love, thank you for the Mystery Ride
You might have heard of mystery rides, or maybe you have a similar tradition in your family. Well, this past Saturday, August 23, 2014, we woke up at 6:15am. Matt rolled out of bed first. When he came back to give me my morning tonic, I could hear the water starting to steam and boil in the background. "Are you making cooooffffffeeeee?", I intoned. "No", he said, and I couldn't tell if he was playing coy or not. He went to tend to the water, and I could hear something hard bouncing lightly on the bottom, elevated by the stream of bubbles. Eggs! He came back a third time and took the phone out of my hand, plugging it in next to the bed. "Are we going somewhere?", I murmured. "No...", came the reply. And then moments later, "Are you ready to go on a mystery ride?" "Oooooooo." I climbed out of bed eagerly and padded into the kitchen. Ten brown eggs were bouncing happily in the pot. A ten-egg mystery ride!
After the initial excitement and my half-joking inquiries, "Where are we going?", we set to work. He wanted to leave by 8am. While getting ready I kept my guessing to an absolute minimum. I happily resorted to questions like, "Shall I bring my umbrella?," and "Do I need nice clothes?" or "Will I get dirty?". Answers, received from questions asked not out of curiosity but as a point of direction, quiet the inquisition. Deduction, reasoning and inference are not in the spirit of mystery rides.
We cooked our requisite soup and nestled some ham slices and melon into a Tupperware, placed the cooked eggs back in their carton, and ground a ton of salt and pepper to accompany them.
I teased him about how he'd behaved on Friday — being so eager to make a second go at picnicking at Cinéma en Plein Air, wanting to get up an hour early, not wanting to commit to cooking fish when I suggested we buy some, etc. At the time I'd chalked it up to him being enthusiastic about the weekend. "You're such a sneak!" He grinned.
We moved through our morning ritual with extra fervor. Simple as it was — a mystery ride — my stomach did excited little flip flops.
As we walked down the hill to the Belleville metro station, I admired the calm morning after a night of fitful rain. The sky was ever so pale, with wisps of grayish clouds. Halfway down the hill he turned to me, making me promise to look down and wear headphones as we traveled. I nodded.
I covered my ears when we got into the station, keeping my eyes on the ground and listening to an Audible book. I could just hear the faint sound of him whistle our special call. With the appearance of a disaffected youth — headphones on and gaze down — but really all the eagerness of a puppy, he led and I followed, keeping close watch on his lime green soles. This was no easy feat; Matt walks fast on a mission. He looked for signs and I watched the floor, studying the people movers and escalators and scuffs on concrete. Every now and then he'd whistle or lightly tap my shoulder or mouth out words, indicating a seat or direction, or telling me when it was time to meditate.
Not having planned my audio for the occasion, and having only ambient music on the phone — good for walking the streets of Paris but bad for covert operations — I played "The Cloud" by Jim Guthrie on repeat. He would check his charge now and again, making sure my volume was up. As per usual, the Mystery Driver tends to think the Mystery Rider wants to foil the plot. But really, we want to keep the innocence going as long as possible. I turned my volume up until I could hear the buzz of the feedback audibly, and cursed the track's long, silent ending — all 5 seconds of it. Our stops must have been regular intervals because the ending of the track kept coinciding with the slowing of the train. Thankfully the stops were only announced before and after arrival.
We exited the train and he motioned with two fingers to keep my eyes on the ground. It was cooler here, and I noticed many sneakers and casual dress. We walked over and he motioned for me to turn around and stay still. He took my backpack and headed to a line. I could see the brim of a hat out of the corner of my eye, and had the vague realization it was a security check. A little girl in a blue gown caught my attention as she passed under my nose. The security man put our bags through the X-ray and we were in! But where?