I Don’t Even Know Who You Are Anymore

I’ve always fancied myself an aficionado of the pop culture, particularly of any variety born or raised in the 80s or 90s. And while I’m not the encyclopedia of information that my friend Mitch is, I am, perhaps, something of an abridged coffee-table reference. Or maybe a pocket dictionary. I remember once playing Trivial Pursuit, 20th Anniversary Edition with C’s family several Christmases ago and being given the following question: “Who was the front-man for the 80s rock band Twisted Sister?” I remember how they had all looked at each other like maybe they hadn’t read the card right, or perhaps it was written in a different language or something. And whoever had read the question began to put the card back in the box and pass the lot to the next person because, you know, what the hell was a “Twisted Sister” anyway? And, whew! sometimes this game really tossed some crazy shit out there, and well, better luck next time, Dave, and . . . “Dee Synder” I said, confident and matter-of-fact. “I’ll take a wedge, please.” They all looked at me with wonder and awe. And I sat back and smiled, basking in the glow of my own pop-acumen, a byproduct of my grueling after-school regimen of MTV and Fruity Pebbles. It was tremendously satisfying given the fact that I normally have to sit on the sidelines of most of C’s family’s discussions because they’re apt to involve the finer points of business strategy or physics, subjects which often render me completely mute.

But C got me back last night. After watching our old NFC-East home team get beaten by our new NFC-East home team, C told me to fast-forward past the post-game recap and sideline interviews with Eli and Romo and get on to the next show. We always TiVo football these days so we don’t have to watch the commercials. I didn’t know it at the time, but C had extended the record time to be sure to catch the show that came on directly afterwards, the pilot of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

I zipped past Eli in his shag cut telling Pam Oliver how his brother’s loss earlier in the afternoon was “tough.” Translation: Suck it, Payton. This time I’m the one going to the Championship. Then, I slowed things down when the next show started. At this point I still wasn’t sure what the show was. But C seemed excited about it, so I watched the first minute or so. And after seeing a bit of the opening sequence, which involved lots of gun fire and a frightening, indestructible robot, it dawned on me: “Oh, this is that Terminator thing, right? I think I heard about this.”

C nodded and eyed me suspiciously. It was as if I had just uttered, “Oh, shoes are things people wear on their feet, right?” — something ridiculously apparent like that. “Yeah,” she said, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

“Was Sarah Connor one of the characters in the movie, then?” I asked.

Again, I detected some skepticism from C, if not downright distrust. She paused the show. “Yes,” she said, minor annoyance brewing. “She was the mom. Remember?” She rewound, then started the action again. Clearly this was not a time for talking.

“Oh sure,” I said. I immediately recognized that “the mom” probably should have sufficed as an answer, not — as it did for me — open up more questions, like: You mean there was another character in the movie besides Ahhhnold? Wanting to keep my pop-culture cred in tact, I kept this one to myself and instead decided I’d just let C watch the show in peace and maybe sneak upstairs and look up “The Terminator” on IMDb. I started to get up from the couch. C paused the show again.

“What? You’re not going to watch it with me?”

I hesitated. Weighing my options. “Sure,” I said, “But . . . you know . . . I . . . ” It was time to come clean with her. After all, she was my wife. She’d understand. “You’re going to have to bring me up to speed.” C looked confused. “I’ve never seen the Terminators, okay?”

I can’t be positive, but I think this was the most outrageous and hilarious thing C had ever heard uttered from anybody’s lips, let alone mine. She erupted in laughter, betraying her complete incredulity and wonderment.

“You’ve never seen the Terminators?”

I shook my head.

C’s hilarity gave way to stunned silence and an aw-shucks sort of bewilderment, as if this piece of information was actually making her doubt my very existence. As if she was thinking, by God, who is this man and how did he wind up seated across from me in this living room?

“What else are you going to tell me?” she stammered, clearly disturbed and perplexed over this tragic revelation. She almost seemed sorry for me. Like I had been deprived in some vital way. “I mean, did you ever see . . . Sesame Street? Or how about drink water?” Her eyebrows raised. “Is that something you ever did in your life? Did you ever breathe?”

And that was about the crux of it: For C, a life without science fiction was akin to a life without water or air.

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