It was one of our early dates. I’d driven out to Buffalo to spend at least a day and a night with Tina. Her mom was staying with Scott down in Farmington so we had the apartment to ourselves for the night.
Tina didn’t seem to have much explored her environs and wasn’t sure where the nearest bars and restaurants might be. I’d previously identified a couple in the area, but they weren’t in easy walking distance. Since the old Buffalo Hotel that served as Tina’s home was in the historic downtown, I was pretty sure we were overlooking some nearby entertainment and I was determined to find it.
We decided to go for a walk. It had rained recently and it was humid. The sidewalks still had a sheen of water. Central Avenue had been under seemingly perpetual construction and wasn’t yet paved. Dump trucks had recently poured tons of leveling sand. I told Tina, who was weary of the project, that sand was a good sign. Concrete would soon follow, I assured her.
She wasn’t convinced. “They already did this before. Then they tore it all up and started over.”
Tina had boots on and I was wearing casual shoes, so we decided to directly cross the construction zone, but quickly realized our mistake when Tina took a step and sank to her knee in the damp, lose sand. Tina was stuck and as she struggled to free herself, she only became more mired. It was quicksand! By the time I was 44 years old, I was pretty well disabused of the notion that quicksand was ever going to be a potential hazard in my life, yet here it was.
I found a plank nearby and situated it behind Tina so I could stand on it and get firmer footing to pull Tina out of the morass without sinking into it myself. The rescue effort was successful and Tina threw her arms around me, proclaiming me her hero. I didn’t realize the significance of the moment at the time.
We circumnavigated the treacherous main street and continued our adventure, exploring the town together. We found a place Called BJs to get sandwiches for lunch. We’d made an effort to brush the wet sand off, but apparently not enough of one. I was a bit embarrassed when we left the deli and I noticed a considerable amount of sand on the floor under the table we’d been sitting at.
Google maps seemed to indicate there was a bar right there, too, but it was well-hidden and we didn’t discover the infamous dive that would become part of our mornings until some time later.
Tina showed me where the cinema was and we checked out a couple shops. Later that evening, we ended up driving up the highway to Norm’s Roadhouse to shoot some pool and have some drinks.
When we returned to the apartment, Tina brought up the quicksand rescue again. “Have you ever seen the Princess Bride? Or read it?”
“I’ve never read the book, but it’s one of my favorite movies,” I told her. “Have fun storming the castle!” I quoted Billy Crystal from the film.
“I don’t know if we have any rodents of unusual size in Buffalo, but I didn’t know we had quicksand, either. You rescued me just like Westley rescued Princess Buttercup. You’re my Westley,” she declared.
In the earlier days of our relationship, sleeping together in the actual bed in the actual bedroom in Buffalo was still an option (before we became relegated to the futon, ostensibly due to perpetual clutter on the bed) and we smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey and made love in the dark little room. I believe that was the first time Tina told me she loved me. “I think I’m falling in love with you,” she said.
Amazingly, I felt the same. I wanted to spend every possible minute with her. I thought she’d be put off if I’d admitted the depth of feelings I felt growing for her so very early on, but was able to reciprocate once she kicked that door open.
“Well, you know,” I began, “I was thinking something along those lines, myself.” I paused for the briefest consideration before plunging head-first. “Tina Mary Szxxxxxski, I love you, too.”
The euphoria in that room was off any chart, meter, scale or theoretical state.
Maura came back to the apartment the next day and Tina was enthused to tell her mom about how I’d rescued her from quicksand and pointed out the shelf I’d put up for her the day before. She was beaming with pride and adoration. It occurred to me later what a coincidence it was that she’d previously mentioned getting stuck in quicksand as a metaphor for becoming engrossed in a story.
From then on, Tina often referred to me as her Westley, which I just took to mean “true love,” but I was missing something. Westley never denied his Buttercup anything. His response to even her most outrageous demands or abuses was always “as you wish.”
Like Westley for his Buttercup, I indulged my Tina anything. That made me perfect supply for a narcissist, but I was blissfully unaware of the quicksand I was becoming entrapped in, myself. At that point, Tina was still in the early stages of idealizing and love-bombing me. I remember around that time, commenting on how much I was enjoying our time together and Tina shot back wistfully, “It’s always great in the beginning.” She went on to warn me about what a terrible person she was, which I found laughably absurd – she was delightful! “Just wait,” she said. “You’ll find out.”
Even then, I think she knew exactly how our relationship was going to play out. She’d probably been through the cycle many times before she ever met me. Idealize-Devalue-Discard. She was probably in different points of that cycle with different sources of supply even as she was building me up as her perfect savior and one true love, but on that weekend, I got to be the hero. I was loved and adored. That’s all I could see at the moment.