When last we saw our intrepid trio, they were stopped on the way to the wash rack, discussing the vagaries of life to pass the time. Barry blurted out that Bill wished to take Sue to the section picnic coming up in a few weeks.
It seemed like a good idea so I said, yes.
When the day came, I was pretty nervous. Those were the more proper days when before men were not allowed to just walk into the women’s dormitory. To add to the anticipation, I had to wait for the runner to come from the Charge of Quarters office. I got downstairs and there my date stood in his shining armour of cut-off shorts and football jersey, in a pair of green Puma running shoes, with a ball cap. (We all wore ball caps, bill forward.) Bill looked like a jack rabbit surrounded by coyotes.
He took me to his chariot: a full-sized blue and white Dodge pickup, which he DID laughingly call his chariot. Or Doggie. We drove for what seemed to be hours through the desert to a man-made reservoir called Strike Dam. The 8-TRACK played The Eagles, On The Boarder. Little did I know that they would become the quai-soundtrack of my adult life. Ask me sometime how the nihilist anthem, “Life In the Fast Lane” became “our song.”
After the dusty drive, we got to the reservoir. The place was packed with dogs and families.
The section picnic was the small-scale version of a company picnic. I had been to one company picnic before this one, as the daughter of an employee. Other than making sure I didn’t get into trouble, no one paid attention to me then. Now, I came to this picnic with my own identity: Airman Susan K. Litton. And Airman Litton had not been initiated into the section.
Since we were at a man-made lake, you can see how the initiation would entail being dunked.
I hate the water. I grew up where the water, even in a lake, is freezing cold all-year-round. The beautiful Coeur d’Alene lake tops out at about 50 in the dead of summer. The rivers in the area are colder because they are fed by the melting snow from the mountains. Hence, I never learned to swim. (Well, Mom tried. In fifth grade I got swim lessons, but fear got me only to the floating stage after 7 lessons.) I like my bodies of water at a distance.
Somewhere between finishing my first hot dog and going back for ice cream, someone, (Barry), got the bright idea to carry me into the lake and unceremoniously dump me so as to make me a true mechanic, and part of the group.
As a much thinner me was dragged out by several co-workers, I begged and pleaded—genuine terror is very convincing—and Barry made sure my head didn’t go under.
This is proof that external elements can overcome rat DNA when the subject desires.
I took my swim like a good little troop and was on the way back to Bill’s truck when on of the NCOs thought it would be funny to do it again. I suspect he thought it was funny, AND since I was wearing a shirt that was practically transparent when wet, it might be good to extend the fun.
Bill didn’t agree.
I can’t tell you precisely what Bill did, but I will tantalize you with this: he did something very gallant, and at the same time should have made me wonder about riding back all those empty miles to civilization with him. We didn’t have shows about serial killers back then, but I know Bill would have fit the profile if we had.
What he did stopped any further thoughts of dunking the newbie and I was grateful.
Bill and I getting together is a romantic story. To me at least. You’re saying,” I don’t about that, Sue. You’ve made it impossible to judge by leaving out a very juicy, and vital bit of information here. I can’t possibly make up my mind.”
Trust me, it is. And here is the difference between romance and love.
I used to tell the story with ALL the bits and bobs. I love the story of my first date with Bill. I treasure it.
But, it embarrasses Bill.
And he won’t even tell me why.
Once after telling it, and receiving raves reviews from some new friends, Bill asked me not to tell it again.
Bill is extremely quiet and private. You can ask Laura Hile. She’s known him for over a decade and has likely not heard him speak more than 20 sentences. Pamela Aidan has met him and probably couldn’t identify his voice in a blind comparison.
His privacy and obvious distress at my telling made me say yes when he asked that I not tell it again.
As I said, I love the story of my first date, it’s the stuff of legends. It would make a fantastic scene in a film.
I’m waiting to tell our grandchildren. That’s years off.
I’m working on him.
I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day.
I hope you all have reason to know the difference between romance and love.
Take care—Susan Kaye