Through my first fourteen years on this planet, I suffered through what is probably close to the usual number of schoolboy crushes, vague longings, and other emotional effluvia, and at some point towards the end of that period I came to the not-exactly-surprising conclusion that it had all been a waste of time, that my existence would be far happier if I could just somehow come up with a means to toggle off these all-too-hormonal reactions and concentrate on things that actually needed to be done.

An event in the spring of 1969 caught me offguard, as it were, and forced me to reevaluate: maybe I'd been wrong, maybe I'd judged myself too harshly, maybe there actually was someone for me after all. I coasted for the better part of a year on hybrid emotion, half delight, half delusion. Eventually the warm fuzziness was dislodged by the cold hard facts of life, which, if nothing else, gave me an excuse for not being scared spitless when they started drawing draft-lottery numbers: it wasn't quite as exotic-sounding as running off to join the French Foreign Legion, but it would occupy my mind and my spare time, and what's more, I lacked both the urge to improve my French beyond nous avons, vous avez, ils ont and the desire to find myself up the Chari River without an air freshener.

By the middle Seventies, I had learned two things:

  • That empty place was just getting emptier;
  • Some women look damn fine in khaki. Camo, even.

There is, of course, nothing at all unique about the feeling that no one wants you, and it was perhaps inevitable that I'd eventually run into a woman with the same perspective. We hit it off at once, despite the fact that we had nothing in common other than that attitude. It lasted longer than it should h