We didn't last long, but that's just life

We didn't last long, but that's just life

This is going to sound all wrong, but before she took off her glasses, I had no idea how pretty she actually was.

Then again, without them, I’m sure I looked much better to her.

Such was the dichotomy that defined high school for me; on the one hand, it was a time of wonderful discovery … on the other, every new experience carried with it a switchblade up its sleeve.

When you’re a senior, though, you’re supposed to have mastered at least the basics of social interaction so that when — not if — the whole thing went badly awry, you had a sense of plausible denial.

The Blame Game was an integral part of surviving any post-relationship fallout, and it was played by both boys and girls; in fact, without the ability to rewrite the Book of Love to one’s selfish advantage, high school hallways would have become a much more treacherous teenage landscape than they already were.

In short, losers had at least a chance to cling to some sort of dignity.

It didn’t always work, of course.

Friends suddenly developed Sherlock Holmes-like detecting skills and spent hours sifting through the forensic evidence of your most private moments — the grand and the shameful — and had few qualms about arriving at conclusions you’d just as soon not face.

“I don’t know, man,” one might say, adopting the tone of a priest who had heard a particularly damning confession. “Seems like you could have at least called her on the phone to let her down easy.”

“Yeah,” another friend might add, “that was kind of chickenspit.”

“Thanks, guys,” I might have said, “but I feel bad enough as it is.”

Then again, peering through the wrong end of the telescope at the events of that November, I could probably take on the Pigpen persona, the one whose catchphrase — “On the contrary, I didn’t think I looked that good” — offers at least some source of succor.

To put it in a “Peanuts”-shell, I was part of a field trip the journalism class teacher organized, one that took us to Chicago.

I know, I know.

Questions abound.

How was a less-than-swanky school district able to afford such a luxury item when, truth be told, most of its dog-eared textbooks had been in circulation since the Eisenhower administration?

Why was it deemed necessary for a group of — let’s face it — misfits, iconoclasts and just plain weirdo outcasts be driven to the Windy City the week before Thanksgiving for no real purpose other than to experience a slice of mega-metropolitan life?

And did no one foresee the possibility that someone might get hurt?

Before you attempt to answer those queries, it would be well to remember that road trip in question took place in the early ’70s.

Everything, it seemed, was up for grabs, and traditional values with their roots in the Protestant Reformation and Nixonian paranoia were coming apart at every nail, leading to spasms of seismic self-expression, especially among the blossoming Baby Boomer young.

We believed some truths to be inalienable, some rights to be self-evident, and that among them were life, liberty and the pursuit of Grand Funk Railroad tickets, which you could score for four bucks.

She was more of a James Taylor/Carole King kind of girl, introverted to the point of an almost painful reticence to raise her voice beyond a whisper, which placed her squarely outside the norm of student journalists, most of whom would never shut up.

And yes, I was among the biggest offenders. Not only did I insist on writing two columns for every edition — one on sports, the other on whatever was on my mind — I believed in myself, that I had something relevant to offer, though the evidence was rather thin.

I mean did anyone really need to have me explain why “Easy Rider” was among the most important films ever made?

So we ended up together in a seventh-floor room of the Palmer House, one I shared with my best friend who was almost never in residence, having met a Southern girl with whom he spent an astonishing amount of time, giving me free rein of the place.

I burned sandalwood incense I had picked up in an Old Town record shop, the radio was tuned to WLS and Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” was in heavy rotation as we got to know each other better, ordering room service club sandwiches and laughing a lot.

It was as if she appeared out of nowhere, though we must have shared some kind of connection, owing to our journalism link, but as it turned out, her interest was more in the business end of things.

I have absolutely no idea whatever happened to her, either in the short term or the rest of our lives, because after that November weekend in Chicago, I never spoke to her again.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care.

It was more that I didn’t know who she was with those glasses on.