It’s the season for various types of bailout: melting icesheets, CrashBs, recovery.gov, and love. I offer up as a resource the bucket (in lieu of an Elizabethan Medical Cone) snapped around my dog’s head to prevent him from scratching at the eye-job that just set me back one month’s rent.
Since my last pub-crawl-style entry, I have watched the Charles River (more-or-less) melt, received serious CrashBs’ lung-burn, read the first 143 pages of the American Recovery and Reinvestment act, attempted cornea surgery on a hound (just kidding mspca), and grown introspective on February 14’s Hallmark-ian love.
Umberto Eco has a long dense tirade (or, um, essay) on postmodernism that uses “love” to define various literary theories. I’d like to do the same. New Historicism says that your love is best defined by the ad-space next to your facebook relationship status. Astheticism doesn’t really care so long as its pretty. Deconstructionism turns love into an acronym. Eco-Criticism involves a tree. Yeah, that’s what she said. For a Realist, love is a battlefield. But I believe that when it comes to love, the pineapple is crucial and that sometimes we may be better off in a hound’s bucket with our eyes stitched shut.
When I was fourteen, I was awed by a boy named Peter. Peter (never a Pete) had sandy-blond hair in a bowl cut. He was skinny-wirey-fast in that athletic-feline-here-but-gone kind of way. That might be a social indicator for not-great-things-to-come but Peter was that rare breed of nice who held doors, blessed sneezes, and made pretty sketches of me in art class. We were partners and his options were limited to: draw-me-in-charcoal-or-fail. But I knew that he liked me because he kissed me in my basement then farted on me and ran away.
We went to the same ski academy as wee-thletes and our standard warm-up was to run the bays in the parking lot. The lot was shaped like a giant rounded triangle (if that has a name, it’s unknown to me) broken into four bays growing progressively smaller toward the bottom of the rounded triangle. And running the bays involved running the perimeter, then the perimeter of the 3 smaller bays, then the 2 smaller bays, then the final bay and back up the hill to the Training Center. Peter was the kind of kid who had a work ethic that no I-walked-three-miles-in-the-snow authority figure would ever think to question. When pressed for time most of us wee-thletes skipped the inner laps of the warm-up. But never Peter. He just ran faster.
One particular pressed-for-time afternoon I ran only the outside of the perimeter with the rest of the girls team (we definitely weren’t called women, yet) and we passed Peter along the way. Peter had big beautiful blue eyes (did you expect another color?) and they shot judgment with almost maternal skill. And I knew at that moment that in the name of love, I would never skip a bay again. And in the shadow of Peter’s judgment and on-snow and on-land and on-water, I think I actually became an athlete. Sadly our love ended when my family moved and we had infrequent visits at state championships. And when my family packed up our VT-life and moved to the Wild, Wild, West (still a few states East of the one depicted in this month’s Rowing News) even his stale, lingering odor couldn’t travel that far. So I finished high school. I went to college. I quit ski racing. I started rowing.
I like to think that when it comes to rowing (or erging at the moment), I am all-or-nothing. I think it’s both a time management issue, a product of years of strict coaching, and the shadow of first-love judgment. If I’m training, I’m training hard. The problem comes when I’m on the “nothing” portion of the “all-or” which, as Sunday’s erg proved, makes redemption a long-term goal. This brings me to Central Square and a time in my life that I call lethargic-at-best.
Central Square, like a Fanta Pineapple Soda and facebook, can both bring people together and establish the foundation for the lawsuits that drive them apart. There are two florists in Central Square. One sells cacti on the street 9 months a year and the other sells pineapple plants and allows customers to shop-by-sympathy. Not only does Central Square offer the wonder-that-is-the-Cantab, but it is also one of the few locations that despite how batshit crazy you may be, someone else is still crazier. So carrying an enormous pineapple plant down Mass Ave on a Friday night (bearing fruit, no less), did not seem socially unacceptable. Until I ran into Peter.
At the 2007 HOCR, I met Mahe Drysdale. He stepped into my office and I immediately pretended there was something of real-time importance buried somewhere under my desk. And I shuffled, rifled, searched-for-something-that-didn’t-exist, and generally hid until I heard the door shut and the clomp, clomp sound of tall, strong man grow distant in the hall. When I ran into Peter, I practiced roughly the same routine. I crossed Mass Ave, dodging traffic with my head hid behind a pineapple plant. I wasn’t ready for Peter to see me yet. The “me” I wanted him to see didn’t exist and never really had. The “me” I imagined him knowing could run straight up mountains without oxygen, could out-box-jump the best of box-jumpers and then draw pretty pictures of them with charcoal, and the “me” I imagined him knowing did not hide behind plants instead of saying hello.
And I knew at that moment that the only course of (in)action was to name my pineapple plant Peter and become that “me.”
But like most ill-conceived grand plans, this failed. I did not start running up mountains and out-box-jumping box-jumpers. I did run two marathons (slowly), complete winter training (first time since 03/04), come within 20 seconds of my 2k pr (seriously, this is an accomplishment), and paint underwater sea creatures in acrylics. I also killed the pineapple plant which as the eco-critic might tell me, was nature’s indicator of not-great-things-to-come.
A few months ago I ran into a friend (in Inman, not Central) who was a ski-racer wee-thlete with me back in the days of parking-lot-bay warm-ups. And we drank beer and ate sweet potato fries and talked without using plants to disguise ourselves. She brought up Peter. I confessed my secreted emotions. She drank her beer a bit more quickly and mentioned that I would be dissapointed in his “interested in:” facebook setting.
First loves have formative consequences. Likely because the qualities we find attractive in other people are the qualities we want to see in ourselves. So it may be a truth univerally acknowledged on “the book” that my first love will never kiss-fart-and-run from me again. But so what? Peter (never a Pete) helped shape the rough outline of the charcoal blurry “me” I am right now. I side with the realists on this one. And I think, thank you Pat Benatar, that love is a battlefield and in these Lear-like moments when we have buckets blinding our peripheral vision, the best we can hope for is a rare-breed-of-smelly-nice-who-may-not-love-us to help move the obstacles in our paths so as not to get bucket-stuck on pieces of furniture along the way.
For now, I suppose I’m looking for a new pineapple plant for my oxygen-free mountain-runs and I really can’t wait to pick out the name.
* How I Met Your Mother, Season 1.10