It all began with the movie Red Hill.
Now, I am not saying that this modern western tale of betrayal and revenge is a great movie; objectively, it may not even be a good movie. But I can say without hesitation that my experience, watching it, was nothing short of a spectacular, and upon finishing the film and subsequently telling everyone I knew that they must too experience its wonder and glory, I found that I had changed. Red Hill had awoken something inside of me that had long lay dormant. Suddenly I remembered, with marked clarity, a desire that had last been voiced when I was no more than a seven or eight year old girl, wearing pigtails: I wanted to ride a horse.
Now, being a practical woman, I found myself painfully aware that riding a horses costs money. Not having a huge sum of money to spare, and feeling the guilt of spending said money on sudden horse-riding whimsy inspired by Australian B-movies, I hesitated. Perhaps my dream of riding majestic Fudgesicle into the sunset, the wind in our respective glossy manes, was not to be. Perhaps some fantasies are best kept to oneself.
And then an idea struck me like a thunderbolt: Staff Appreciation.
My employer has a longstanding tradition of showing gratitude to its employees in various ways, one of which is an annual outing to a random destination to engage in an activity which is, theoretically, designed to build camaraderie among staff. While I know of this tradition, I have not experienced it firsthand, and despite almost four years of full time labour I have yet to know the joy of, say, kayaking with my boss and coworkers on a frigid winter lake. This knowledge has long sown bitterness within my soul, so that I grew avoidant of the topic, lest I feel the pangs of thankless drudgery.
But now, suddenly, a golden - nay - palomino opportunity lay before me.
I would ride a horse, and I would do it as part of my long overdue Staff Appreciation Outing. My employer would pay me to fulfill my newfound equine fantasy. And it would be magical.
I will not say exactly how I lay my plan in place - how I convinced my coworkers, one of whom was traumatized by a childhood horse attack and now suffered from a crippling equinophobia, another of whom was deemed medically unable to ride a horse due to lower back surgery - to band behind me with unanimous support.
How too I convinced my employer, who for years had avoided any such events, to commit to a date and activity, I cannot say for certain. It was a long, laborious process. Many times, I came close to giving up. And then I thought of Red Dawn, and about the noble police officer determined to defend his town and discovered the truth, at all costs, despite repeated serious injuries, a violent gunman on the loose, and almost being eaten by a panther.
Giving up was not an option.
And somehow, six months after my plan’s inception, I saw it finally at long last coming full fruition, and the very next day, Wednesday June 26, I was booked to go horseback riding in the British Columbia mountains with my coworkers, at no cost to myself.
And then my boss said, with a “what can you do” shrug, that he had cancelled Horseback Riding, because the weather app on his phone told him it was certainly going to rain. Instead we would have a staff meeting and then maybe we’d do something else.
I blinked, and heard the distant neighing of noble steads fall silent.
To say that my mood was poor, during the morning staff meeting of Wednesday June 26, would be an understatement. It started out with my spilling my coffee all over my coat, which was unfortunate, and had the side effect of robbing me of vital caffeine. The meeting ran long, and when asked about staff appreciation that afternoon, the usual cacophony of half-baked ideas and vocal dissent ensued. I feared no consensus would be reached. I knew that nothing would compare to my plan, so close to fulfillment, so cruelly quashed. Someone suggested we go bowling.
I could feel a stinging pang within my chest, and I knew that my heart was breaking.
I excused myself to the washroom and took an antacid, because heartburn also causes stinging chest pain, and when I returned to the room my coworkers informed me of the plan made in my absence.
We were going for lunch, and then to the aquarium.
In retrospect, some or all of the sadness I felt may have been the result of low blood sugar, because lunch helped my mood considerably. Upon arrival at the aquarium, my disappointment had all but faded away entirely, because: Sea Otters and Jellyfish.
And then there were penguins. And two orphaned dolphins. (I strongly object to dolphins and whales in captivity, because of the movie The Cove, but these guys were orphaned and rescued as babies and thus lack the life skills they’d need in the wild, so my guilt was assuaged.) I discovered that I could play peek-a-boo with my new dolphin friend, and he seemed to enjoy it. A lot.
And that is the story of how I saw my first erect dolphin penis. Because apparently I am arousing to dolphins.