I guess I did need that shot in the arm

I guess I did need that shot in the arm

The day after I got my first shot of COVID-19 vaccine, a jellyfish bit my wife.

I guess it’s true what they say.

The couple that stings together, clings together.

What’s that?

They don’t say that?

Well, they should.

That kind of authentic synchronicity can only bring two people who love each other closer, especially after they’ve been experiencing all that life has to offer for more than 30 years.

I know I’m not the world’s best husband, but I’ll be damned if mine’s not the best wife.

There was a time, way back, when I was certain I’d never, ever get married. It was like an old country song about a guy stuck in his ways, used to the life he’d built, happy enough hanging with the boys, playing cards, hitting the bars after a ballgame, cranking the tunes, going to work and doing the best he could, um, socially.

I believed, to quote rock and roll’s resident rapscallion Rod Stewart, I was so complete I didn’t need anyone but me.

Oh, and if it’s even possible that anyone reading my words doesn’t own a copy of “Every Picture Tells a Story,” run — don’t walk — to your favorite purveyor of fine vinyl and purchase one immediately.

That album can save your soul.

What’s that?

They don’t have record stores anymore?

Well, they should.

When I was in college, South Bend had two of them, one called Boogie Records, the other Just for the Record. I cannot even begin to tell you how many hours I spent in those sacred spaces, riding city buses to get there, just looking for something important to do on Saturdays when football was out of season.

Sure, I could have volunteered my time being part of any number of worthwhile efforts to improve the community — Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, children’s literacy programs, et cetera — but you have to remember I was rather selfish back then.

If something didn’t benefit me directly, it was a waste of my time, thus I’d devote valuable hours to seeking out the best bootleg albums available — live, rare, unreleased stuff by the Stones, Springsteen, Patti Smith, Neil Young — because I needed them.

That was all that mattered.

When you get into serious record collecting, it’s like a drug.

You live for the high of scoring something so hard to find, so revered in the underground, so legendary that when you finally find yourself face to face with that artifact, you feel like you’re the first person to gaze at Stonehenge or to see the Galapagos Islands.

Of course, like any addiction, it’ll take its toll on you, and ultimately, you have to face Robert Frost’s fork in the road.

As the Clash, rock and roll’s resident rebel conscience, put the question nearly 40 ago: Should I stay or should I go?

I once had a good friend with whom I could discuss important questions like that all night long. We met my first day on campus and sat, side by side, at graduation four years later, waiting for President Carter to deliver the commencement address.

As you might expect, we had debated the existential implications of skipping the whole ceremony entirely, showing not only our disdain for most everything Notre Dame embraced that we consciously rejected, but also an appreciation of the absurdity of it all.

But there were limits to our Merry Prankster Day-Glo daydreams.

“Man,” I said late one night as the big day drew near, “I don’t think I could ever do that to Mom and Dad. It would really hurt them not to see me graduate.”

My friend nodded, saying nothing, just passing me the bottle.

“I mean,” I continued, glancing over my shoulder and nodding at an upstairs window from our spot on the off-campus house’s front porch steps, “I can’t even get a ticket for her.”

“I’m guessing she’s not happy,” he sighed. “You two … .”

Juggling a girlfriend with finals and the fine spring weather was tough enough without introducing something as momentous as graduation into that potent, unstable, volatile, hormonal mix.

“It’s like one of those movies,” I said, “when you know the hero is doomed no matter how much you want him to make it out alive. That kind of futility, you know, the kind that makes you wonder why he ever went down that road in the first place.”

When his silence replied, I went back inside.

Let history record that both he and I attended our college graduation ceremony and that neither of us drew undue attention from the Secret Service, though my friend had to explain the presence of a music box dangling from his neck under his robe.

“It just plays ‘Pop Goes the Weasel,’” he said. “Go ahead, turn that crank. You’ll see. Nothing subversive or dangerous.”

“Just good, clean, old-fashioned fun,” I said. “God bless America.”

In the years that have passed since Sunday, May 22, 1977, I have buried my parents, left a couple of jobs I liked, lost track of some friends I miss, been involved with a few women who changed my life and married one who got stung by a jellyfish the other day.

It was hot on the beach that Friday the 13th, with extreme heat warnings being broadcast hourly, which kept the crowds down.

Still, it was mid-August and it was the Atlantic Ocean and people were going to be there, come hellish temperatures or high water.

Once I’d gotten my wife safely out of the surf and back to our cozy, little encampment under the shade of our floral-print umbrella, I asked her how she was feeling.

“I’m OK, I guess, a little scared, maybe,” she said after applying a healthy, healing dose of vinegar to her right forearm. “But you’re the one who got that shot yesterday. How are you?”

What’s that?

They don’t make marriages like that anymore?

Well, yes they do.

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