mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

Bad Date, 1969

I never dated much as a girl, but when I did, it was ugly.

We were watching "Deer Hunter" (1978) last night -- a classic movie about the effect of the Vietnam War, which neither of us had ever seen. I have always felt pretty insulated from the horrors of that war, but suddenly I remembered this.

It was 1969, maybe spring break. I was heading to St. Louis from Chicago to be in my roommate's wedding. I took the train to Joliet, where the Maid of Honor lived. I would spend the night, then ride the rest of the way to St. Louis with them. Kathy was a beautiful young woman who had left school earlier that year to marry her fat bobo of a high school sweetheart. They had a cute little house and were domesticated in ways I didn't give a hoot about.

Also staying with them was Kathy's cousin, a soldier just back from Vietnam. I had lost a lot of weight and was feeling pretty good about myself. We drank some cheap newlywed wine and I flirted. The newlyweds approved.

In truth, I was about as interested in the guy's tour of duty as I was in the domestic life of the newlyweds. But I thought it might be fun to be kissed.

The sofa bed was pulled out. The newlyweds went smiling off to bed. Lights switched off. The soldier appeared out of the shadows and sat on the edge of my bed. Okay, I thought. I got my kiss and a little more. My attractiveness was validated.

But the soldier wasn't satisfied with schoolgirl necking. Oh shit. This was not a Loyola Theology major. This guy had just come home from... combat. I said no. He said yes. He attacked. I fought back. Clearly I was going to lose the wrestling match, so I started crying. It seemed impolite somehow to scream for the newlyweds cuddling down the hall, so I broke into tears, with the please, please, please don't. Blubbering tears.

Maybe he realized the newlyweds were just down the hall too because he backed off, with a curse. He might have called me a c-word, but I didn't care. He was gone.

The next morning, the four of us had breakfast in the newlyweds' cute little kitchen. I'm sure there was no eye contact between the soldier and me. The newlyweds didn't have a clue but might have chuckled something about what might have transpired between "you two" after they went to bed. I was rigid with the need to get out of there. I wasn't angry at him -- it was still a year or two before an attempted date rape was an acceptable thing to get upset about. I was only angry with myself -- I'd been stupid and unprepared. Lucky by a hair.

I escaped from Joliet and never told a soul about that encounter.