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Hookup. A year after Linda & I went our separate ways, I hooked up with Sally. She waitressed at a pizza joint just up East Tennessee St from the hippie sandwich shop where we put on our weekly chanting + meditation sessions. One night after being all holy & shit I wanted something a little greasier than those hippie sandwiches, so I walked up to the pizza joint for a slice or two, and Sally was my server. She was slim with tightly curled mouse brown hair that she wore in an afro. Fetching.

Flirtation retarded. She seemed unusually talkative for a server in a pizza joint. Despite being profoundly retarded in this particular dimension of human interaction, I finally realized she was flirting with me. So I clumsily flirted back, and before I left we had a date: I would take her out to dinner. I offered to pick her up, but she insisted on meeting at my place. I said great, we can have a glass of wine there before going out.

Butterflies. I was aflutter the night she was coming over. My apartment was spotless, I was in my third or fourth outfit, the wine was open to breathe. I saw her park her little beater, heart in throat. She rang the buzzer, I let her in, and I don't think we actually said a word after that, we were just all over each other. We were together a little over three years.

North Florida cracker. Sally's accent was just like mine, only she was the real deal, not some chameleon faker who was just passing through and found it easier to adopt the local lingo than to stand out as a foreigner. I never met any of her family or even other friends; now I realize she was hiding all that from me.

Family. She sure met my people. She came to the chanting + meditation sessions and got one of the t-shirts I had designed with our lotus logo. She started coming with me on my regular weekend trips to visit my folks over on the Suwannee River, which probably cost her lots of choice shifts.

Mullet, Miller's & Merle. On a rainy afternoon when there wasn't much to do, Sally & I liked to drive south to St Marks, the closest salt water to Tallahassee. It was on the Gulf, but there was nothing like a beach; the Gulf was actually several miles down the Wakulla River estuary. We liked to go to a classic funky dive down there, Posey's Oyster Bar, billed as the Home of the Topless Oyster. Besides oysters, Posey's served delectable smoked mullet, sometimes still warm from the smoker. Mullet is an oily fish with a bad rep: it spoils fast due to the oil content. The Tallahassee Mulletwrapper was what local wags called The Tallahassee Democrat. But if you smoked it right away, it was scrumptious, the best smoked fish I'd ever tasted. At the time I hadn't yet tasted smoked chinook. We ate raw oysters and smoked mullet, drank Miller long necks, and listened to country music on the jukebox, leading me to coin that motto for those rainy afternoon expeditions.

Hidden factors. Sally was amazing. A dear friend and a hot lover all in one; I felt like a lucky boy. But our relationship was doomed from the start, and the denouement was a sad affair. Sally got pregnant. We used a diaphragm, but also carefully avoided fertile periods. When she announced her pregnancy, it was suddenly all over; she didn't get the response she was hoping for. Her gamble didn't pay off.

Atlanta. I drove her up; one clinic still offered abortions. It was the most miserable trip of my life, and clearly much worse for her. Soon after we hit the road home, she started having terrible cramps as the air used for inflation worked its way out. The nurse had said, "There may be some discomfort." Discomfort my ass. Her pains got so intense that we finally pulled into a La Quinta Inn so she could lie down. The desk clerk was a fucking asshole, all but outright proclaiming us a john & his ho, but I gritted through it and got the room key. Lying down was a relief, but the air was so dreadful between us that she soon chose to get back on the road; she wanted to be home and done with me. It did burn a bit to leave after an hour, fully justifying the asshole clerk's assessment of us, but that's what we did.

Clueless & self-absorbed. The pieces never came together until I started writing this up. I was supposed to be Sally's ticket out of a life she wanted to escape. I never saw it coming.