They were hurtful words that, I could only hope, were untrue and said in frustration.
I gave my mate every chance to retract her statement.
"You don't really mean that," I said.
Her response: "Yes, I do."
I was surprised and hurt, and hoping to make her feel guilty I said: "We've been together more than 20 years and you are just getting around to telling me? How long have you felt this way?"
"Since the beginning."
Five weeks into an eight-week trip in our small RV, Ellen declared in frustration: "You are the loudest person I have ever met."
I could only assume she was not talking literally - she was.
For me, that was a little hard to swallow. She was saying of all the humans she had ever come into contact with, her entire life, I was the loudest.
Though I was doubtful, I was also curious. I know I'm not particularly loud in public. I don't often speak loudly. I hate loud music; but here was the person I spend the most time with saying I was the noisiest human she has ever met.
I didn't know what to say, so I said what I often say in situations such as that: "I'm going to write a column about this, and you'll be sorry."
"Good," she said. "I'll help you write it."
Ellen wasn't backing down, and she continued: "Have you ever listened to yourself? You groan when you bend over or squat, grunt when you lift heavy things, constantly talk to yourself, hum, mutter and sniffle." She added, "When we were first dating, I came over your house late at night to surprise you and stood outside your door afraid to knock because I heard you carrying on a conversation with someone. When I finally got the courage to ring the doorbell you were alone; pretty much since that time you have never stopped talking to yourself."
There is only 24 square feet of living space, not counting the bed, in our RV. Living in such close quarters with the loudest person in the world, I guess, could weigh on your nerves. But I think much of the trouble stemmed from our decision to ski the Chattanooga Gullies that day.
Now, one thing I will admit to is the habit of humming or singing the first song that comes into my head that morning for the rest of the day. So yes, when I looked at the map and noticed that we were going to ski Chattanooga, I sang a few bars of "Pardon me boys, is that the Chattanooga choo-choo/track 29/Boy, can you give me a shine." And, after being asked to stop, I probably did continue humming the song (quietly) the rest of the day.
The climb up was a little nerve-racking, steep, firm snow and an occasional falling rock. When I get nervous, I tend to hum/sing slightly more loudly: "You leave the Pennsylvania Station 'bout a quarter to four/Read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore." Per Ellie's suggestion that my singing was making her even more nervous, I hummed to myself.
We gained the summit safely and waited in the sun for the snow to soften. The views were magnificent, there was no wind and any fears or second thoughts were only a memory.
When I am particularly happy, I tend to burst out in song. "There's going to be a certain party at the station. Satin and lace, I used to call funny face."
Ellen picked up her ice ax and stared at me; I stopped singing right away.
It was that evening over a glass of wine and two fingers of Breckenridge Bourbon when Ellen dropped the bomb declaring me loudest of all time. I think it came up when I groaned as I got up from my lawn chair.
"You are the loudest person I have ever met."
But to my mate's credit, she added: "But I'm OK with that, that's who you are and I love who you are."
None of us is perfect; there is weirdness in us all. The recipe for love is being able to see past the peculiarities into what is lovable.
But as important as accepting is the willingness to adapt.
So after a good night's sleep I vowed to try to keep my groans, grunts and humming to myself for the entire day. But, as luck would have it, the tune "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" came on the radio.
Ellie hates that song.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.