Once upon a time, your humble narrator sat at a table in a dormitory courtyard with a girl I shall once again refer to as “Martha Quinn.” That is her alias because she looked like Martha Quinn, one of the first MTV VJs. (My stories about girls actually named “Martha” are for another time and place.)
Mario Puzo once wrote about being struck by “the thunderbolt”; for me, that was “Martha.” She was beautiful, though she described herself as “plain.” She said she had “brownish” hair, but more precisely she was brunette with hints of auburn. Her “skinny” build was in fact slender and graceful. She was intelligent, she had a lyrical Italian name, she had this silly little laugh thatwou—well, you get the picture.
We were chit-chatting at a table near my dorm, almost exactly ten years ago. We came to the subject of the Challenger explosion, since the ten-year anniversary was rolling around. We began having a light-hearted argument about the date of the accident.
That day was etched in my mind. It was a “headline moment,” one when you remember exactly where you were when you learned that Something Big went down. On January 28th, 1986, I was in Mrs. Hopson’s fourth grade class. She left the room for a moment to talk to someone, came back in, sat down, and very calmly said, “The space shuttle just blew up.”
I was a little surprised that it wasn’t as etched in “Martha’s” mind. I said it was the 28th, she insisted it was the 29th. Back and forth. Finally I said that I would bet her anything that I was right. Anything.
She said, “Okay, what do you want to bet?”
I sat back and looked off into the distance… which wasn’t that distant, because she sat with her back to Harcombe Dining Hall. So I sat back and looked off into a great big cafeteria, thinking about what I wanted to win from her. I say “win from her” rather than “wager” because I was right, and I knew I was right, because the shuttle exploded two days after the Bears won the Super Bowl on January 26th.
So she sat there, smiling, while I was trying to figure out how to make the most out of this opportunity. Would she… this? Could I say… that? And so on.
She derailed my train of thought with a suggestion of her own. It was a gooood suggestion. A suggestion that, as much as I might’ve liked to, I wouldn’t dare have made myself, for fear of getting slapped, scratched, and possibly fileted. A win-win suggestion. I shifted my gaze from the cafeteria into her light brown, freckled eyes, and it looked like they weren’t kidding.
For a long time thereafter, I would believe that at the very moment she made her suggestion, aliens silently landed nearby and zapped me with a mind-control ray, forcing me to say what I said next, which was, “No, stop playing around.”
I immediately regretted saying it, and simultaneously regretted regretting saying it. At the time, I honestly couldn’t figure out why I’d grudgingly said no. Well, the “grudgingly” part was obvious, but why did I say “no”? To her, of all women, even if she was only playing around?
Right after I said no, I suggested that the loser would cook for the winner. She agreed. A few days later, she admitted that I was right, the shuttle did in fact explode on the 28th, and because she was a good, honest girl, she dutifully made a pretty good pizza. And that was all.
Much later on, I’d realize that perhaps my conscience had shot down her suggestion because there was something distasteful about winning certain favors by knowing exactly when seven astronauts fell to their deaths after their shuttle had been destroyed. Perhaps that’s what happened; the aliens were still a possibility.
This entry was posted on Saturday, January 28th, 2006 at 6:09 PM.
8 Responses to “Stupid conscience.”
- Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
January 28th, 2006 at 7:09 PM
[Heavily edited by moderator.]
- aabrock Says:
January 29th, 2006 at 2:44 PM
You played it straight Dom, that’s the way to be. Besides, I like your suggestion; haven’t you ever seen “9 1/2 Weeks”?
- Vincent Viscariello Says:
January 29th, 2006 at 3:36 PM
- Fat Tony Says:
January 29th, 2006 at 7:29 PM
While I can not make an accurate judgement of the situation since I lack the exact knowledge of the opportunity you passed up or the whole relationship between the 2 of you at the time it was probably best the choice you made though not the wording but better that you did the right, good thing and not taking advantage of the situation. now that thats out the voice in the back of my head feels compeled to tell you that if my cousin or brother or i were to do the same thing i would have smacked them in the back of the head.
- The Questioner Says:
January 29th, 2006 at 11:59 PM
You have forgoten what is best in life…something Conan did not…
- PaxonGator Says:
February 13th, 2006 at 8:00 PM
And to think you used to be my favorite teacher. So much for you being my idol.
- Vincent Viscariello Says:
February 14th, 2006 at 12:43 AM
Well, I was young and stupid. I will do my best to redeem myself in your eyes.
- clarkkent Says:
February 28th, 2006 at 9:50 PM
i neither praise you nor condemn you….ill just say this….no i wont, because if i did, your eyes would turn radient green and youd ruin the fine clothes youre now wearing….
so ill just stick with this: youre a good man….a good, evil man