‘How Road Rash Saved My Life’ or ‘Ten Years Ago Today You Could Have Been Cordially Invited to the Wedding of Mr. and Ms. Sensational’

Lucha Libre WeddingMS. SENSATIONAL and I got married ten years ago today. We’d known each other for eleven years before that. So I guess it means this angle has been playing itself out for…twenty one years now? Wow.

During those twenty one years there were plenty of twists of fate that, had they broken slightly differently, could’ve led to an endless number of ‘Marvel: What If?’ scenarios for the Mr./Ms. Sensational relationship, but, being thankful with how it actually turned out, I figured I’d write a few words on this, the tenth anniversary of our legal marriage.

First off, here at Sensational Manor, birthdays, anniversaries, and other date-based observances don’t hold a lot of weight in and of themselves. We do birthday parties for the kids, and use major holidays as an excuse for some elevated, seasonal celebrations, but when you get along as well as we generally do, and have lived together on and off since the mid-1990s, it gets kind of weird to play the anniversary game.

And a game it often seems to be, as anniversaries frequently become a yearly reckoning of a couple’s political alliance, a time for the two parties to size one another other up and tally whether or not proper social ceremonies have been enacted over the past 12 months, culminating in an annual observance.

Personally, I’d rather skip all that and just split a growler of Pliny the Elder with Ms. S like we do most Friday nights, anniversary or not, and fortunately Ms. Sensational feels the same way (or at least she’s a very good liar).

Still, this year’s ‘ten year’ theme has been a significant enough marker to make even an unsentimental anniversarian like myself pause to reflect, a reflection that takes me even further back than 10 years of legal marriage, to around 1997.

In 1997 I was 21 years old, and Ms. S and I were living in a small apartment near the Santa Rosa Junior College. I was a student there, and she was finishing up a four year degree at nearby Sonoma State. Our relationship was fairly stagnant in those days, each of us being entirely preoccupied with our own pursuits, but whenever we did spend time together it was great. However, as every social message out there told us our individual pursuits were far more important than our relationship with one another, we were usually more than willing to overlook that greatness, and our relationship suffered.

Finally, we got to a point where Ms. S finished Sonoma State and was going to be moving out of town to pursue a Masters Degree, while I was almost done with the JC and getting ready to transfer to UC Berkeley…a transfer that was contingent on passing one final math class. After an eternal ‘one foot in front of the other’ whirlwind of retail wage slaving, college classrooms, and paper writing, we’d come through to a place it never occurred to us we’d actually be. And as we unthinkingly plodded toward our respective fates–though it was never overtly realized by either of us–it was inevitable that we’d be going our separate ways. Six years of life together, tossed aside for the pursuit of credentials.

Sega Genesis AdAnd then something weird happened, something I’ve alternately beat myself up over and thanked the kindness of fate for as the years have gone by. Despite being a ne’er do well ‘D’ student in high school, I’d reinvented myself as a straight ‘A’ student in junior college. I’d been accepted to the transfer destination of my dreams. All I needed to do was to finish one final math course. Everything else was set in place for my transfer. But for some reason, instead of attending this last class dutifully as I had the scores of others I’d attended at the JC, I took my Sega Genesis video game console out of the closet, inserted the six year old game ‘Road Rash’ and proceeded to play it non-stop during class time for the next four months. Needless to say, I failed the math class and my transfer was nullified.

At the time I wasn’t sure what had come over me. It felt strange, knowing I was letting an opportunity I’d been working toward for 2+ years slip through my fingers, all the while my eyes glued to pixelated images of motorcyclists on crotch rockets, cruising against a lush, 16-bit horizon to the tinny beat of a jaunty, electronic soundtrack. Each lash of a chain or club from one rider to another may as well have been across my own back, but for some reason I didn’t care. I’d committed to this track and I was going to see it to its end.

Ultimately the track’s end meant moving to San Jose with Ms. Sensational, where she took to pursuing her–interestingly enough–never completed Master’s degree. I remember some of my peers who’d also been planning to transfer to UC Berkeley (and who did so successfully) being confounded by my decision. “You didn’t go because of…Ms. Sensational?” I recall one of them asking me in a particularly aghast tone.

Not that he had a personal problem with Ms. Sensational, it’s just that the idea of shelving one’s collegiate ambitions for a chick sounded so absurd, as I’m sure it would have were it a chick making the same decision about a dude, a dude for a dude, a chick for a chick or what have you. I certainly wasn’t equipped to deal with or understand the choice I’d made at the time, and there’s been all sorts of darkness in the time between making that choice and where I am now, but I still remember a little glimmer of light in the face of my friend’s incredulity. “Yes,” I remember thinking to myself, “That’s exactly why I didn’t go.”

Road Rash Biff ScreenOf course, the relationship between Ms. Sensational and myself was a sometimes-rocky one for years afterward, and at times still can be to this day, but, through dogged persistence and dedication, the two of us finally allowed ourselves to accept that whenever we did spend time together or make time for one another, it was, in fact, great, greater than anything either of us might be stumbling after on our own, and in 2002 we decided to end the “off again” part of our on-again/off-again relationship and get married.

Ten years later, while things have their occasional moments of being worse than ever, they are, for the most part, better than ever. Over these ten years, Ms. Sensational and I have continued coming closer to arranging our life so that, despite the trials, tribulations, and demands of the day to day, our focus remains primarily on one another. Oh, and in the meantime we managed to meet up with Miss Sensational I and Miss Sensational II, our daughters, 7 and 3 years old respectively. They themselves can present quite the challenge, but ultimately they’re part of the triumph, a triumph that I honestly believe wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t unearthed the accursed Sega Genesis and allowed Road Rash to save my life.

This isn’t meant as a call against higher education or career aspirations. In fact, had Ms. Sensational not managed to carve out her own career path, it would’ve been even harder, if not impossible, for us to maintain the kind of focus on family life we’ve been fortunate enough to claw together. I’m simply saying, in my own case and set of circumstances, I received much more by letting go of certain things that I think I would have by holding on.

Strangely enough, writing this piece made me wonder how the original Road Rash game ended, since, while I’m sure I beat the thing, I couldn’t remember a final scene. Ends up, that final scene is an embrace between the female and male biker characters, after which the female throws the male across the front of her bike and rides off. Weird. I guess everything happens for a reason/there is poetry in the universe after all. Love you, Ms. Sensational.

(Road Rash ending scene at 8:05)

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