Sometimes, you know true love by the look in your lover's eyes. Sometimes, it's by the way they smell. Sometimes, it's the way they complete your sentences before you've even started. Me and my wife, we're not really like that. She and I love each other because of the way we bust our asses.
Now, there are some subtle differences. Take rollerblading. Problem: We both want to work out, but I don't like videos, and she doesn't like sitting on her ass (hey, watching TV is hard work!) Solution: strap eight wheels, four to a side, under our feet and play on the same asphalt as two-and-a-half ton SUVs driven by folks who learned to drive in places where traffic lights happen to other people.
Me, I go for the straightforward, spectacular jackass approach. That parking lot was mostly a shallow, say about 4 degree incline, hill, with a nice flat bottom area to cruise around in. Ellen, who claimed to never have used rollerblades in her life, had been skating backward in front of me talking trash while I was busy trying not to prove how open my mind was by dumping it all over the sidewalk. One too many "c'mwon... whaat ahya, sahm kinda wimp?" was all it took. I decided to Test the Hill.
So up we go, rollerblading on what, during ascent, isn't really much of a hill. It got even better when we hit the concrete of the covered parking... much smoother, easier to manage than the mistuned lawnmower vibration of the asphalt. By now Ellen had gone into damage control mode, knowing this was more about her pushing me just that one extra step too far than about any skill I happened to claim to have acquired.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked, visions of ambulances dancing in her head, "I mean, we can turn around now if you like."
"Let go of my arm, woman, I know what I'm doing!" I said with all the arrogance of my species I could muster, blessed with more testosterone than brains. It was only as I turned the corner, around the top of the hill, that I realized my mistake.
You see, a 4 degree slope is nothing. Your driveway has a steeper slope than 4 degrees. My problem was this particular 4 degree slope was spread out over an easy 100 yards. Worse still, the first fifteen yards was concrete so slick it did a convincing imitation of teflon when the light was right. On every side were defenseless, unsuspecting automobiles, just waiting to be on the receiving end of an uninsured collision.
Really, on the concrete it wasn't half bad. I simply knelt down into my pads as the wind quickly started to flutter past me, like standing in front of a window unit airconditioner as you turned it on. The real problem was when it switched to asphalt.
First, there was this really nasty bounce as I went over the expansion joint. Just enough to throw my arms in the air, but not enough to down me right away. I could just barely hear Ellen yell "you better slow down!" when the asphalt had me.
You get to this point, everyone does, where you know, you know you're going down. It may be on a bike, or on waterskis, or (in my case) rollerblades. Time dilates and you really do get this Scorsese-like heartbeat thudding bass-drum like in your head as you start to plot your final resting point. As far as I was concerned, padded up with kneepads, elbowpads, wrist braces, and helmet, I could heal. It was the deep-ocean blue Mercedes in front of me, so new that I, caught in the throes of my apocalyptic time crystallization, could easily see still had the sticky left from its dealer sticker, that I was worried about.
Someone smart, someone whose brains were not outweighed by their "no, really, you're not too old for this sh*t" balls, would've steered for the soft grass and gone in face first. Me, I decided to do the opposite.
Later, Ellen said I looked exactly like a Scooby-Doo cartoon. My feet flew straight out in front of me (on purpose! I swear!), high and fast enough that I went completely horizontal, and then down I went on my skinny, completely-not-padded-enough-for-this-sh*t, ass. She says I bounced twice before coming to rest with my 'blades underneath that very pretty German sedan.
Of course, Little Miss ProSkate had followed me down just close enough to make a timely entrance. "Are you OK?!?"
"Yeah... Yeah... I'm OK..." It was right about then the adrenaline wore off. "No... no... I'm not OK..."
Of course, my mother-in-law arrived on her annual visit shortly after. Ellen explained why I couldn't sit down properly in the back of the car with great relish.
Ellen is much more subtle about her screwups, but they happen more often. If my screwups are cinema-quality, hers are more along the lines of America's funniest "goddamned you didn't see that" home videos screwups. My mom keeps warning her she'll have a really hard time when she gets further along in her pregnancy. What she doesn't understand is that Ellen trips over carpet. Regularly. Well before she even thought about becoming pregnant, my wife was stumbling over surfaces that would make a pool table look like a Manhatten street.
Many has been the time when I was being the good husband, walking ahead of Ellen to open the apartment door as we hauled in the groceries, only to hear an impressive "thumpady-thwump-crrrunch" around the corner. The evil, short-pile carpet of the hallway reached up and grabbed another victim.
"Aaah... I'm okay!" She'd say.
Now that it's been snowing, dropping her off at work is even better. The street can be clean, the trees can be bare, and the parking lot for all the world looks only a little wet. I'll close my eyes to get my goodbye kiss only to be greeted by air and the sound of two sacks of potatoes hitting the ground... Ellen having found the only patch of black ice in the entire county, right under the car.
"Aaah... I'm okay!"
Having five small, fuzzy, quadrupedal accidents-in-motion just adds to the chaos. In the mornings all five of them will gather around the bathroom like a herd of hyenas waiting for the carcass to be thrown into the pen. As soon as she opens the door they spring into action, a feline example of brownian motion. "Everybody downstairs!" is usually the cry that wakes me up in the morning.
What seems to have developed, however, is a points system, judged by how quickly one cat or the other can send her ass-first down the stairs. Ajax has developed a particularly effective technique. Rather than simply thundering downstairs with the rest of the herd, he goes in an "S" pattern step-by-step, ensuring his entire body blocks the stair, scratching furiously at the carpet with excitement. I know a point has been scored when I hear "thumpadeethumpwhUMP"
"Aahhh... I'm okay!" She says she has plenty of padding for the fall.
But you know what? You can have your moonlit nights of passion, your swelling orchestras of eye gazing, your breathless kisses in a summer meadow. I'm happy as can be with my girl kissing me as they load me, strapped to a stretcher, into the ambulance.