Schenectady is a dreary place. For 300 days a year, it is gloomy, overcast, with low, grey clouds. But two or three times in the Spring clouds disappear completely, revealing the most perfect blue sky arcing overhead

On one of these perfect days at Union College circa 1980 was an Event Day, with all the various groups on campus showing off. The newspaper gave out free fliers, there were Ultimate Frisbee games, our wargaming group (When Diplomacy Fails) had a table with miniatures and board games, there were non-stop productions from the Music Department, the engineers poked at weird science toys, and the SCA put on demonstrations.

Well, after watching my first SCA fight, I decided that the life of a Sword Jock was not for me. Not only do you have to get packed into 50-100 pounds of padding and armor, and wear a 20 lb chopped-down propane tank on your head, but other brutes are whacking incredibly large clubs at tender parts of your body. No thanks, I think I'll take up SCA dancing.

I did square dancing and ballroom dancing in high school (ok, so call me a weirdo), so I picked up on them quite quickly. Soon, I was an informal second-in-command to Jude, the woman calling out directions. When teaching a circle dance, you want to watch the feet of someone next to you, not someone on the other side. So, Jude and I often were across from each other, staring into each other's eyes.

Jude was, um, more experienced than I. Way more. Not only several years older, but also married and divorced. She had thinning and scraggly brown hair, and was overweight - but I was captivated by her dancing, her sense of humor, and her different background. My interest in her, and her recognition of said interest, and her interest in seeing how far I would chase her, given my up-until-then faithful relationship with my fiancee, grew over the next few weeks. Until a night when I invited her over to my apartment on Saturday, when my roommate would be away. She accepted.

When she arrived, I pushed the table out of the center of the kitchen, and put the music tape in the player. We practiced some steps for almost fifteen whole minutes, before the kissing commenced. I don't remember much of what happened for the next hour, but there is one scene I vividly recall. We were on my bed, in a state of relative undress, and she pulled a condom from her purse. I was surprised, because, although we hadn't talked about birth control, I had some, but hers was lubricated - a vast improvement, and I stopped buying the other kind. I remember trembling badly, with an uncontrolled shaking caused by my nervousness and the psychic break caused by my cheating on by long distance sweetie. I ignored it, Jude didn't comment on it, I kept going through the appropriate motions, and it went away after a minute or two.

After sex, Jude lit up. She was an inveterate smoker. I knew my roommate would disapprove, so I opened my window, and hoped the smoke would blow out. (It didn't - he muttered for weeks.) She left and neither of us were sufficiently motivated to seek a return engagement between the sheets.

Time passed. Jude dropped out of the SCA chapter; some bookkeeping problems involving fiduciary responsibility. I saw her a year and a half later, just before I graduated. She looked much older, had put on a lot more weight, and was on unemployment. She didn't ask for help, so I didn't offer any.

I went back to Schenectady three years later, visiting friends. The phone rang. It was Jude. She had pulled her life back together. She recounted how she was having a panic attack about interviewing for a job, when she had an epiphany.

"There I was, on welfare, fat, deep in debt, no boyfriend, two failed marriages, and I was worried about doing badly in an interview at the Department of Motor Vehicles? I mean, get real - how much lower could I get? So I interviewed, and they said I was just the sort of person they were looking for."

So I guess that's where they find those window clerks, huh.

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