It began in the rain on a summer evening.
Jerry was a Cadet at the Air Force Academy, and we had met the week before at a dance. He did not have a car, and I had picked him up in my dilapidated Chevy Vega – which was not only ugly, dented, and scratched; it had a habit of dying at the worst possible moments and would not restart. It was a problem that I could usually fix, but it required jumping the solenoid with a screw driver. The traitorous Vega sputtered to a stop at the first available stop sign, and I had to jump out (in the rain) to get it going again. There were several cars behind me and Jerry was deeply embarrassed when one of his friends pulled around us in a Porsche and asked if I needed help. I straightened upon restarting the car, soaked to the bone, a fresh grease stain on my white shirt, and said a polite, “No, thank you.”
Jerry was mortified. Not only was he embarrassed to be seen in such a broken down heap, he was embarrassed by my messy wet hair and the grease stain that now stretched across my shirt. I was none too happy myself and we started off for the theater in petulant silence. After a few miles of silence I promised him that I would fix my hair and tie my sweater around my waist when we arrived at the theater. No one would see the destroyed hairdo or the offending stain.
The parking lot was full, and we made a mad dash for the theater. I slipped on the rain soaked asphalt halfway across the lot and landed on my right knee. To my dismay, I could not get up. It was impossible to move my knee or put any weight on it. The fire department arrived about 10 minutes later, followed by the ambulance. Jerry left a few minutes after that, never to return, never to phone, and never to be heard from again. I was left alone to deal with the fact that I had a torn meniscus and would need arthroscopic surgery to repair it. I hobbled about on crutches for several weeks afterwards and had a noticeable limp which took an entire year to recover from.
I did learn some things from the experience. I learned what a meniscal tear is and what is required to repair it. I learned that crutches are very uncomfortable to use. I learned that limping is a drag. And I learned that hospital employees are much more fun than cadets. I started dating a radiologist shortly after my release from the hospital.
I also learned that dating is relative. Did you know that what one person considers a bad date another person may consider a good date? Not that it applies in this situation. Even though I never spoke with Jerry again, I’m fairly certain that he considers this his worst as well…and he may be right…but at least he didn’t require surgery.