The weird thing about the tip of Tenerife’s celebrated volcano El Teide being the highest point in Spain is that it’s in Spain only politically, Tenerife being something like 800 miles south and west of Cadiz. Becuase the missus and I had ridden the cable car to the top on neither of our two previous visits, and she was quietly aggrieved, we drove up there Saturday morning from El Medano on the sort of windy roads that makes her palms damp, and then queued forever for tickets, I with the gravest misgivings. I’m a little bit claustrophobic, and slightly more acrophobic, and the thought of being confined in a…what to call it?…cramped cabin a skyscraper’s height above the ground sounded like a prescription for panic, or at least intense discomfort. I remembered my adrenal glands going into overdrive on the much less scary-looking cable car on Madera, and wondered what would happen if I suffered a heart attack halfway up.
I was reassured by the fact that there’s actually a national park employee on board pushing buttons to manage the ascent, and he seemed about as nervous as a bus driver who’s been driving the same route for 12 years. Standing in the front of the cabin, with the best view in it, I found myself holding onto the railing tightly, but with dry palms, and my adrenal glands perceiving no need to start pumping, and here I am on Sunday night feeling embarrassed about having been such a wuss.
There were some new faces in the very crowded dining room last night for Valentines dinner, none more meticulously made up than those of a new mother/daughter team dressed as though they hoped to catch the eye of a prince or German manufacturing magnate, one of those guys called Jurgen who wears no socks under his loafers. Of course, a great many of the ladies were tarted up a treat last night. Still, I observed a great many of the older diners eating in their customary silence, lost in their own thoughts as they chewed. That used to break my heart a little bit, but I’ve come to understand it. When you’ve been married to someone for 35 years, and then, on holiday, spent pretty much every waking minute with her, you might not, at dinner, remember lots of interesting autobiographical tidbits you’ve somehow neglected to share before, or realized you don’t know her views on British membership in the EU, or on your daughter’s new boyfriend.
I have always loved talking to the missus, who regularly makes me laugh, as she did mere minutes ago over breakfast, when, noting that I never get a saucer on which to rest my morning cup of caffe soluble, or whatever it says on the miraculous machine, she marveled, “What a renegade!” (There are few pleasures in life like that of the perfectly chosen word, chosen on the fly.) But there are times when even we both stare into space.
The point at which you cease to worry about keeping the conversational ball in the air, I think, is that at which you’re truly comfortable with someone. Moreover, I don’t think two people who haven’t had a godawful screaming match that ended with at least one of them slamming a door hard enough to threaten nearby windows should consider marriage. One who hasn’t seen his or her prospective spouse at his worst simply isn’t qualified to make a decision of that import. You need to know how your prospective spouse fights. Will he or she seize anything at hand with which to try to maim you, or fight graciously?