To Love and To Be In Love
I met my wife on a college camping trip in 1992. At the time I was trying not to spend the week drunk beyond imagining. A friend convinced me to sign up for this trip through the community service center, then he backed out at the last minute, stranding me in a van full of strangers hurtling south on an overnight run to the Georgia coast, where we’d volunteered to help clean a national park.
There’s a cute story wherein I lock the keys in the van and beg her to help me wrangle a locksmith, which led to us on a ferry hours later than the rest of our cohort. I have loved her ever since. I have never not loved her basically in all of my adult life.
Love might be a feeling or a fact, but I’d venture it’s also an action, or some set of actions by which the feeling and facts are expressed. It’s better as a verb than a noun, I think, but we aren’t always focused on showing the people we love how we feel. We hope they’ll take our feelings for granted, just as we take theirs, while both navigate the nouns and verbs of everyday life.
I sometimes say that I always love my wife, but sometimes we are IN LOVE.
I hope now, you will forgive me the pivot to cycling, to riding bikes. Because I have always loved bikes. I have always loved riding them, even though there have been vast swathes of months and years when I took them and it for granted.
I met bicycles out in front of my house, a cookie cutter, white split ranch, in East Greenwich, Rhode Island circa 1976. Older kids on ten speeds and proto-BMX bikes. Something precognitive stirred in my innocent mind, something pituitary. And it never left.
I recall times when that love burned particularly bright, skinned-knee days before I discovered girls, college nights when we had the freedom of the city, my first real mountain bike, a stainless-steel roadie I copped for a song in California, my heart flirting with its max up a dirt hillside in Vermont. I won’t go on, because the details aren’t important, and mine are likely entirely similar to yours, a reshuffling of the proper nouns and a changing of dates.
Usually, it’s food, the way I express my love now. It’s Wednesday and my wife is tired, worn down by an important and persistent day job. I make her an omelet. My youngest son has overslept, but I’ve fried some bacon and made him an egg sandwich. Little prosaic gestures to let them know I see them and I care and I want to help. I think they know.
In the evening the television is on, but I’m not paying attention, Netflix or HBO. Whatever. I’m daydreaming trails, spools of dirt strung across hills, past boulders. My timing is impeccable, front wheel clearing the lips of low stone walls and fallen trees, the rear swooping behind perfectly, momentum preserved. And I’m texting friends to see who has time in the morning. Writers usually have time.
I always love riding bikes, but sometimes I’m really in love.