02 August, 2008
The heat of day has just started to abate. I sit at the lakefront in a shady spot, whiling away the afternoon and early evening hours before heading back to the stifling city oven. I gaze in one direction, letting the ducks, and birds, and sailboats randomly pass in and out of its frame. The warm breeze cools my inner restlessness that has been accompanying me these last days.
The bow of a made-in-Taiwan inflatable boat, the type that is popular to use whilst drinking cocktails in pools, slips into the corner of my view. The boat is almost suspended in motion, except for the young man who valiantly, madly, churns and churns the miniature paddles. They are objects of such insignificance that dipping the ends below the water surface is a heroic feat. Seated at the stern of the vessel, is a young woman squished in between various bags, using a black-and-white polka-dot umbrella as a shield to keep off the sun from her sunburnt body. They discover me sitting on the shore in my shaded paradise of a place and ask me whether I know of any cheap camping spot they can stay for the night.
It turns out that they’ve been paddling down the Wagnetiz river from Luebck and across the Ratzeburg lake for the last two days in this wee excuse of a vessel. They are sunburnt, probably have sunstroke, without significant funds to afford the 15 Euro camper fees, have run out of food, and they are far from their reaching their goal of rowing to the end of the lake and back… they are literally up the river without a paddle. But, they are in love. They are so much in love that the woman still is amused at the man’s fanatical comic churning of the paddles, and the man is courageously willing to push on even though his hands have blisters and his back is as sore as sore can be.
This is summer love. Hot, fiery beautiful summer love. I breathe it in and I am transported back thirty years to a memory of such joyful intensity that I have to stop myself from giving these two strangers a hug in gratitude. Instead, I nonchalantly offer to take them back home if they wish, in my air-conditioned car; saving them from paddling onwards into the inevitable defeat they are heading towards. Elated, they fall upon the suggestion and spend the journey homeward laughing at their folly and palatably relieved that they survived the adventure with their love intact.