My wife makes me nervous when I’m driving and she’s in the passenger seat issuing critiques and giving directions. My own tension causes me to make mistakes – which only fuel her rebukes.
Age removes a portion of peripheral vision and overall flexibility. You don’t react as well, as quickly, as you once did. But for me it’s worse when I’m driving and she’s there. Her edginess rubs off on me.
So when Barb said, “Turn left here,” at a commercial intersection in Lake Havasu City, a resort town we visited to mark our 22nd wedding anniversary, I swung into it without seeing the stop sign.
As I was making the turn, already committed, I had to negotiate my way around a guy swinging into his own (quite legal) left and now needing to go around me to avoid a collision. I made one of those grimacing faces you make to let the other guy know you fucked up and at least feel bad about it.
And I did. But I had to concentrate on her next directions from a cell phone GPS that for some reason wasn’t talking. The fraught moment was further complicated by my realization that the guy I’d cut off was after me, having circled back to that same intersection, made the same left I’d made, roared up ahead of me, and come back in my direction.
I slowed to a stop on the fairly deserted street. He pulled over on the other side and stuck his head out the window.
“Learn how to drive, asshole!”
My own, clever rejoinder:
Just so he didn’t think I was a chickenshit, I glared at him to see if he wanted to get out of his car. But he pulled away.
“What an asshole,” Barb said. “He didn’t have to chase you like that. That was wrong. Wow. My heart’s thumping.”
We’d made progress in our marriage. Was a time any of my profanities would have drawn a stern rebuke. Barb sees in my constant swearing a toxic anger that’s at the root of my emotional difficulties and our marital problems.
LAKE HAVASU was nice, if you’re about twenty-eight, love Trump, deck your boat out with emblems of that brand of coopted patriotism, and drink about a case of beer a day. “Party central,” Barb said. The lake was cluttered with boats the first day we got there, at the tail end of some boat show we hadn’t known about.
The weather was warm that first day, a Sunday. The forecast showed cool the next two days, though warming late Tuesday, and then hot Wednesday. We’d discussed checking out of our room on Wednesday, then renting a boat to get on the water. But we never did. The water remained a postcard view from our balcony. I for one didn’t relish some Three Stooges scene managing even a little rented boat, and my wife didn’t care enough about boating to press the issue. We could have signed up for some overpriced charter cruise, but that, like so much else around here, seemed like a drunk fest, and I didn’t look forward to gazing over the side at the rippling water grinning tightly as the atmosphere waxed louder and drunker around us.
We saw London Bridge, that we did. We enjoyed each other’s company. Had soul talks about our long slog together, with a level of affection and frankness that seemed a breakthrough.
Even went on a three-hour hike. It was only that long because we got lost.
You drive to SARA’s Park in Havasu to hit the trailhead of a hike known as, er, Sara’s Crack, a lewd name for a squeeze through a mountain pass alongside the Mojave Desert. You can take this hike all the way to the Colorado River. But we got so lost in the labyrinth of trails, many mere dirt biking single tracks, that by the time we finally stumbled into Sara’s Crack we were fried. Having ambled precariously and with very sore thighs over the umpteenth wrong turn to attain the, er, Crack, and begun to squeeze through narrower and narrower portions, Barb declared she was beat.
I was relieved.
“Me too. We can come back tomorrow and do the Crack,” I said, “even get all the way to the river. All I wanna do now is get back to my SUV.”
I had hated the hike. I have dreaded getting trail-lost ever since an incident that’s filed in my memory as the Williams Nightmare.
Not long after Barb and I moved to Arizona, we got lost in the Coconino National Forest around Williams.
It was getting cool, even a little chilly, the sun nearing the treetops. I thought we might have to last out the night sitting on the pine needles, hugging each other for warmth and getting bumped into by elk. When we finally staggered into the clear and saw a ranch house, I was so ashamed I had Barb knock. This nice rancher drove us back to where my car was. I let her ride in the cab with him while I ducked down on the truck’s metal bed, preferring the ass bumps to what I perceived as the humiliation of being next to this Western alpha male after I’d confirmed myself in abject want of male resourcefulness.
I’ll never forget Barb looking at me over the dim light at Rod’s Steak House in Williams, an accommodating old person’s restaurant, and saying, “Nobody has to know about this.”
After getting lost at Sara’s Crack, I said, “That’s it.” I tried to download All Trails, a common orientation device, onto my new Apple iPhone SE, but I couldn’t figure it out. Why does every application insist on Google accounts? I have Microsoft Outlook as my email! I am a techno-dunce.
JUST TO FINISH this story, we didn’t go back to the trail any more than we got on the water. On Tuesday we drove to Parker for the hell of it (there’s nothing there) and took a right to get to the Colorado River, where I sat on a rock “watching the river flow” per Dylan. I wish the pictures Barb and I thought we’d taken on my new phone weren’t actually movie shorts or I’d have something photographically to show for it here. Ah well.
We got up Wednesday and found a good place for breakfast and hit the road back to Prescott, armed with a bag of banana chips from a health food store.
One thing I did accomplish on this trip was I got fat. To me anyway. My wife says I am too skinny.
Between the Super Slam at Denny’s on Monday and the steak and eggs with all the trimmings just before heading for home, oh and the blueberry muffins I saw fit to keep in our room once I spied them on our shopping trip to Safeway, the suite, representing an upgrade, being outfitted with fridge and microwave, I found as I stepped on the scale back home that I’d ascended to a tubby 153, a five-pound gain that is not inconsiderable for a guy who manages his poundage like a skittish welterweight.
Maybe Barb’s right, I need to loosen up, even if that means letting out my belt.
A friend back in Cleveland once told me, “Bobby, I just know there’s a happy fat guy in you dying to get out.”
Maybe that guy is emerging into the clear. Hey, pass those Hostess Cupcakes.