RIDE TO DESTINY
Diane was my sweetheart during my junior and senior years in college. Everyone thought we would spend our lives together. She was of Italian descent, small in frame, with long dark hair and deep brown eyes. We affectionately nicknamed her Runt Wop. That was shortened to R.W. and eventually became R-Dub. At the end of her junior year, she chose to travel in Italy and came back to me. At the end of her senior year, she decided to join the Peace Corps and vanished from my life ... or so I thought.
I saw R-Dub only twice after she decided to join the Peace Corps. On her first return visit from Swaziland, after a year on the job, Jack, Nancy and I hooked up with her at her folk's house in Pittsburgh. Jack and Nancy were invited. I was the surprise uninvited visitor still carrying a torch. I had broken my ankle in a motorcycle crash in which I went thru a car windshield on the way to rent a car to drive to the airport to see her off to Swaziland at the end of her senior year. I didn't make it to the airport. (That's another story in itself involving Cindy Light). Anyway, I'm not sure if my not showing up was the problem or if it was a lot of other stuff, but when the three of us showed up at R-Dub's folk’s home in Pittsburgh, Jack and Nancy were warmly greeted .... I was met with a glare of steely daggers tempered with seething wrath. She showed photos of Swaziland that included pictures of her and her future husband Harold, the headmaster of the school where she taught. There was a smile on her face while she was in his presence that I knew I could never put there. That's when I conceded to myself that we were not to be together. She had found somebody better. When Jack, Nancy and I left R-Dub's house, it was bittersweet but I cut bait and moved on. A clean break. No regrets.
Eight years passed quickly. R-Dub and Harold had married, come back to the States, and were living in Erie, Pennsylvania. My youngest brother, Marvin had just moved into the cabin with me in Jamestown, Colorado. One late night, Marv and I were watching TV. It was in the old days before The Dish Network was available and all reception still came in thru an antenna on the roof. In those days, broadcasting ended at 1 a.m. instead of running ‘round the clock, and as every channel would sign off for the night, they posted an image of an Indian on the screen that was surrounded by the station's call letters. The station also emitted a high frequency audio tone that was there to annoy you enough to turn off the TV and go to bed.
On this particular night, Marvin had just passed out and the Indian had just come onto the screen. As I was watching it and getting ready to turn the TV off, the Indian's image started to roll up toward the top of the screen, stopped 1/2 way, and the lower 1/2 was replaced by an image of the upper 3/4 of R-Dub's face, lower lip to forehead, arms flailing, distraught, silently mouthing something in a panic. I shook Marv to look, but he was asleep and never saw anything. I turned off the TV and went upstairs where I was then sleeping to escape his snoring. About 5 am, the phone rang up there and I answered, "Hello, Diane?" There was silence with only the sound of a long distance connection coming thru the ear set. "Hello, Lar ... how did you know it was me???" I told her what I had seen on the TV and she went silent. About the time I saw her image, she and Harold were having a gut-wrenching discussion in bed. He claimed that for eight years, he had felt the presence of someone else in their marriage. That someone was me.
R-Dub never told her husband about us. Her secret festered for eight years. Unfinished business. She said she had to see me immediately to cleanse her conscience and find closure. Harold put her on a plane the next morning. I had to work so I could not spend the day with her. She stayed in our mountain cabin and thought a lot. The next day, we grabbed a bottle of wine and headed up into Rocky Mt. National Park where the altitude and wine had a tremendous influence on her. The alcohol had an enlightening effect as she began laughing lightly, turning over rocks, and talking to bugs the way an entomologist would do. She was happy. I kept my distance, observed, and smiled to myself. I had cut bait and moved on eight years earlier when Jack and Nancy had taken me to visit her. Diane had festered in silence. In the end, I told her to go back and fall head over heels in love with Harold again. There was nothing more between us. I put her on a plane the next day, waved as she entered the boarding gate, turned my back, and did not look back. Another clean break. She went nuts for a while, called all the time, and wanted to break off her marriage, grab her kids, and move in with me. That's when I had to tell her to quit wasting time on me and instead, invest her energy in her husband. The rest is history. Harold eventually wrote to say thanks for saving his marriage and to apologize for "stealing my woman". He and I remain friends.
Here's where Cindy Light fits into the picture:
Diane was about to fly out of the States for her first tour in Swaziland. I was going to rent a car that morning, drive to the Philadelphia airport, and see her off later that afternoon. I was on my Honda XL350, with credit card in my pocket, on my way to some car rental place in State College. I was wearing the helmet that I had painted to look like a globe, work gloves, sunglasses, a brown brushed leather jacket, and hiking boots. After turning onto one of the side streets, my bike suddenly lurched to the right. The rear axle had broken at about 30 miles an hour and I found myself destined to crash into the rear of a parked car. As the bike crumpled into the trunk, the last thing I remember was going over the handle bars while covering my face with gloved hands as the top of my head went through the rear windshield. My legs got hammered as the bike twisted in the air and smashed into my ankles. I felt my neck compress and my helmet split upon impact. I blacked out and awoke on the trunk of the car. My first step told me that something was wrong with my right leg and I immediately collapsed on the grass between the curb and sidewalk to see if anything was broken. I remember a woman running out of her house in a robe carrying a tray of ice cubes. By the time she got to me I was unlacing the right boot to check the damage. It's never good when you can see bone exposed under the skin. Then I looked over to the side to see my helmet neatly cleaved in half. It saved my life. My head and neck were pretty sore, but OK. Somewhere off in the distance was the wailing siren of an approaching ambulance and in the blur that followed, somebody put an air splint on my right ankle and drove me to the university hospital.
About an hour later, I had a new cast from the knee down and needed a ride home. There was nobody available after the first few calls. A neighbor, Cindy Light eventually came to get me. Along the way back home, we stopped at Penn Whelan Drugs to have Bob Heiser fill the pain script that the emergency doc had written. Cindy took it into the store and a minute later Bob rushed out to check on me. After seeing that I was OK he smirked and went back into the store. A few minutes later, Cindy and I were on our way back to Southgate apartments where she had a place and Ned and I had a place.
My group of friends and I were completely off the wall. Our apartment had things like blenders and irons and cinder blocks, hanging from hooks and ropes, in the hallway ceiling where we would obviously smack our heads into them as we stumbled around in the wee hours to find the bathroom. Best thing about it was that just when you thought you had all of the obstacles memorized, he or I would hang a new one where it was least expected. There were some great thunks in the middle of the night.
Anyway, Cindy got me up on crutches as we left her car and got me into the apartment where the couch was waiting. The first thing we did was fire up a bong and pop open a few 16 ounce Buds. After that, we looked into Bob's package to discover a script for Talwin, a real potent pain killer. Cindy said, "Oh, Talwin, I've taken these before, you should probably take 3 of them." And I did. The TV was on and we continued bonging and drinking for another 30 minutes or so before I had to pee. She got me up onto the crutches and helped me maneuver the obstacle course that hung from the ceiling. Once we got to the bathroom, she asked if I was OK, I nodded, and she put me on my own. I remember edging into the bathroom sideways, closing the door, and positioning myself in front of the toilet as I supported myself on the two crutches. I fumbled for my zipper, found myself, and started to pee. The next thing I knew, I was falling over backwards into the wall as a stream of pee went up the back of the toilet, up the wall that was behind it, and all over me as I crashed, laughing, thru the drywall behind me. She came running in to find me still peeing all over myself and laughing hysterically! She asked what happened and I told her. Then she went back out to look at the instructions on the medication. She came back in looking guilty as hell but laughing with her hand across her face. The pills she had taken were three 15mg. Talwins... these were 50's!!! And the best part is that when she turned away from me to go back into the living room, there was this loud "THUNK" as she smacked her head on the blender! The two of us ended up on the floor with tweety birds circling our heads and tears of laughter coming down our faces. My cast had an obvious explanation, but she had to explain how she bruise on her forehead for weeks! True story!