In high school, I dated the class secretary, a pretty girl with red hair and
an outgoing personality. Cindy could have been class president except
she wore glasses, an outward symbol of genetic imperfection in the days before
contact lenses. Worse, hers had red plastic frames that curled up and
came to points at the top. In those days, that little accoutrement automatically
placed her in the category of smart, and smart girls only got elected
to positions nobody else wanted. Cindy was among the most popular in
school, but poor eyesight dictated the duties she was deemed suited for.
know what Cindy saw in a tall, skinny introvert, but somehow, out of the white
noise that was her social life, she decided I was all right and picked me out
of the heard. Cindy ran with the class elite, people
who’d never dream of throwing a snowball or tipping over an outhouse. When
I hung with that crowd, I stayed pretty much in the background. I didn’t
really have much to say to the school swells, and they were not at all interested
in me. They considered Cindy’s fondness for me just another hiccup
in her genetic assembly. Once, at a school dance, the class president
noticed me leaning against the wall while Cindy flitted around the room. He
walked over, looked me up and down, and then asked me how things were in the
chemistry club. I knew the guy was being an asshole, but all I did was
stammer something stupid and walk away. Later, I heard him repeat that
story to a crowd of his smirking buddies. Whatever the reasons, like
most other high school infatuations, Cindy’s interest in me eventually
waned, we drifted apart, and I never saw her again.
On my own, I was more comfortable
with the crowd that hung out in the school parking lot, smoked cigarettes and
talked cars. In time, my adolescent
social life became like a carnival house of mirrors. Each way I turned,
I was somebody different, and I developed methods for moving unnoticed between
the groups. I never knew whether I was truly accepted by any of those
disparate people, nor did I care.
- The skill of managing interpersonal relations served Lance well in his role
as an army officer but eventually symbolized a terrible deceit in which he
played the lead actor and which haunted him for the rest of his life.