The first time I fell down the stairs in our old apartment, I learned two things. First, I learned that falling down gets more painful with age. More importantly though I learned that my wife is only helpful in situations that can’t be confused for slapstick. Sadly, I gave myself countless opportunities to confirm both lessons. Eventually we moved to a place without stairs. So far we have never found a place without slapstick.
My wife likes it when people fall down. She’s not malicious about it–the same part of her likes it even when she falls down–she just appreciates the silliness of it, especially when people fall suddenly. This is easily the best way to make her laugh. (In fact as she read the above paragraphs, she laughed heartily just from talking about it.) I suppose this might be why she married me; it’s the arena in which I am most suited to provide, and being a manly (clumsy) sort of husband (goofball), I provide abundantly and often.
All of which is relevant because my cereal situation had certain hallmarks of physical comedy. I should have anticipated my wife’s reaction. I’m getting ahead of myself.
I believe I left off with the sneeze heard ’round the house, by which I mean my average sort of sneeze, which can be heard even by people who are merely near where I live, not only by people who live with me or who are around me. I sneeze loudly and with commitment. Consequently, I try never to sneeze with reservoirs of fluid on my body.
I recently failed.
If you’ll remember, I was lounging in bed underneath a veritable vat of chocolate cereal, the size of which can only be properly imagined or justified if you think about the caloric intake that someone of my size requires. All of those calories have to come from somewhere. (Not that I’m in danger of wasting away, at least not in anything short of geological time.) I prefer to get them all at once; that’s just efficient. I also prefer to get them through chocolate, although that’s more a personal than a practical consideration.
Either way, I was trying to do too many things while balancing cereal on my belly. In the event you have never done it, when one sneezes, one’s belly moves suddenly. When a bowl of cereal moves suddenly, the situation can develop into a full-fledged (albeit exaggerated) catastrophe very quickly.
I like to imagine that time slowed down, and that some sort of evocative music played. It would be like those scenes in movies in which the fragile thing the heroes have heretofore protected gets suddenly tossed into the air and everyone watches, horrified but unable to help. One person, in such slow motion as to give us time to consider how the human face distorts while shouting, dives toward the object? Will he or she catch it? Will it shatter on the floor? What will happen? We have time to wonder.
I had no time to wonder. I found out very quickly. I would not be able to catch the bowl of cereal, no matter how much I distorted my face in the manner of an action hero. Instead I dumped the entire thing on my lap. (It might have made a deep and resonant rushing noise, like that made when someone shatters a large aquarium and the water surges out across the floor as though seeking revenge. I wouldn’t know, because a part of the heroic face distortion is yelling incoherently. I take my heroic business very seriously, so I yelled incoherently as is proper. When someone makes a movie about this–since it is the pinnacle of drama–I will leave it to post-production to add in the surging sound of milk and chocolate spilling across my legs.)
Here’s another piece of important information about me. Being a large person, I have been gifted with what might be politely termed “a gigantic posterior.” I suppose it might not seem gigantic relative to the rest of me, but if it were on a smaller person it would certainly inspire something like awe or pity, depending upon one’s view of Sir Mix-a-lot. It is manifestly heavy, because I am manifestly heavy.
You can probably imagine what happened next. Having cold cereal in my pants, in addition to the general shock of the spill, caused me to sit up. Sitting up concentrated all of my weight in one area. The mattress beneath me responded as mattresses do. Suddenly, I had formed a large bowl shaped impression in our bed. The cereal obligingly returned to it, like a soggy sort of homing pigeon.
Thus, in a single action, I transferred the bowl of cereal from above me to below me. First it was sitting on me, and then I was sitting in it. It was particularly unpleasant, but I couldn’t figure out how to extricate myself without making the mess worse.
Luckily my wife arrived only a second later. Unluckily, it was not someone else who arrived instead. My wife came into the room and saw chocolate cereal splattered all over the place, as though someone had edited a crime scene the way television stations edit bad language in movies, through innocuous but thoroughly awkward replacement. She started laughing. She kept laughing.
Actually, she just kept laughing. If you listen carefully, you can probably still hear her.