Back when I was young and foolish, my uncle told me, "What goes around, comes around." At the time I thought his words were just words. I thought it was just another platitude.
I was used to platitudes from my mother. She was always coming out with something like "A stitch in time...", "Waste not, want not...", or "A bird in the hand...". It was several years later when it finally hit me that there might be something to these sayings.
My girlfriend and I had both just gotten our Bachelor's Degrees from the University of Michigan. We had been together for three years and I thought we really had something good going for us. I had even gone out and bought her an engagement ring. I was just waiting for the right time to give it to her.
Since I was a computer programmer and my degree was in Software Engineering, I had three job offers before I even finished classes. Donna, my girlfriend, had taken her degree in nursing. I figured she could go to work anywhere.
We had been talking about the offers I had for a couple of weeks. One of them was in the San Francisco area. Another was in Phoenix, and the last one was in Detroit. We discussed the places as well as the companies.
I had just about ruled Detroit out. Winters in Detroit are not nice. I had liked Phoenix when I had gone out for my interview, but even at the end of April it was hot. I talked to several people in the area and the most they would say was "You'll get used to the heat." Well, I didn't know if I wanted to get used to it. To me, it looked like San Francisco was my best shot.
We went through our graduation ceremony and the next day, Donna said we should go out to dinner to celebrate. We went to our favorite restaurant. It wasn't the fanciest one in town, but it did have good (I thought at the time) Mexican food.
I had just taken my first bite of an enchilada, when Donna dropped the bomb on me. "Matt, I accepted a job today," she told me.
"You did? Where?" I asked. My stomach clenched as I asked this and I knew it wasn't from the enchilada.
"It's at Massachusetts General, in Boston," she said.
"But... Honey, I haven't been looking on the east coast at all. I don't have any offers in that area."
"I know that, Matt. I'm sorry, but you didn't think our relationship was going to last forever, did you?"
"Well... Yes, I did. I'd even bought you an engagement ring."
"Awh, that's sweet. We're still young yet. We have a lot of things to see and do. We can keep in touch and maybe in a year or two we can get together and see how we feel then."
Then it hit me. Those were almost exactly the same words I'd said to my high school sweetheart, Tina, when I had left for college. We hadn't kept in touch and I hadn't even thought about her for years.
Tina had cried and it had nearly broken my heart. I was determined I wasn't going to show Donna how badly she had hurt me. I somehow made it through the rest of the meal, listening to Donna tell about the job she was going to. I decided I'd call the San Francisco people in the morning and tell them they had a new employee.
When we got back to our apartment, we even made love. Although, I guess I was thinking of it more as fucking now instead of making love.
Donna was up before me the next morning and when I stumbled out of bed she was packing. She said she was only going to take one suitcase today and that she'd be back with her dad in a few days to get the rest of her stuff.
Donna tried to give me back her key to the apartment, but I told her to keep it. "I'll probably be gone by tomorrow," I said. "I think I'll go home for a week, then head for California."
Donna gave me a little peck on the lips when she left, just before noon. I never saw her or heard from her again. I called the San Francisco company and told them I'd be there two weeks from next Monday. They were agreeable and seemed pleased I was taking them up on their offer.
It only took me about an hour to pack up everything I wanted to take. I figured I'd let Donna worry about the things I was leaving. I left her a note to that effect. I took one last look around the apartment and almost lost it. I'd been happy there. Hell, Donna had even been happy there. She just didn't think I was the one who was going to make her happy for the rest of her life, I guess.
I had a real pity party on the four hour drive home to Muncie, Indiana. I had loved Donna. I had thought she had loved me. When we had first started seeing each other, we had agreed it was just for fun. Later though, we had moved in together. None of our friends thought of us as individuals. It was always Matt and Donna or Donna and Matt. I guess I just assumed more than Donna felt.
Anyway, I finally pulled into home. I guess I should have called, but I had been so down when I left, I never even thought of it. When I pulled into the driveway, no one was home. I found he key they always kept hidden and let myself in.
I put my stuff away and went in the living room to wait for my parents. I just kind of vegged out. I ended up sitting there thinking about the way Donna had treated me and the way I had treated Tina. Tina had been the only girl I had really dated in high school. We had started dating in my Junior year, Tina was a Sophomore, and within a few months, we had given each other our virginity.
We dated right up until graduation, then, when I told Tina I was going to U of M, we had our first fight. Tina had expected me to go to Ball State and I had even considered it. The problem was, Ball State didn't have nearly as good of a reputation in the computer science area as U of M did.
Although I loved Tina, I wanted something more out of life than a second rate degree and a second rate job. I tried to explain it to Tina and I used almost the same words Donna had used to me about seeing how we felt in a couple of years. The next thing I knew, she was dating Bobby Hollerand.
I must have fallen asleep while I was thinking about these things, because the next thing I knew, mom was shaking me awake. I looked at the clock and it was almost midnight. Mom and dad were thrilled to see me, but they were exhausted. We ended up exchanging hugs and kisses and before long we all went to bed.
"So, what's going on with you?" mom asked as she handed me my first cup of coffee.
"Well, I decided to take the job in San Francisco," I said and then took my first sip.
"Is Donna meeting you out there?"
"Mom, Donna dumped me."
"What do you mean, she dumped you? Did she decide she didn't want to go to California with you?"
"Before I even made a decision as to where I wanted to go, she told me she was going to Boston. She said we should keep in touch and see how we feel about each other in a couple of years."
"She asked me if I really thought that what we had was going to last forever."
"I'm sorry, Matt. You seem to be doing okay. Is there anything I can do?"
"You know, Mom, it hurts that she dumped me, but what hurts even worse is that I did the same thing to Tina a few years ago. I said almost the same words to her."
"I know. She came around and talked to me not long after you had left for college. She really loved you, Matt. It's a shame the two of you couldn't have gotten together."
"When I look back on it, I know I really loved her too. I really did intend to keep in touch. The only problem was, she started dating Bobby Hollerand before I even left for college."
"You know she ended up marrying Bobby, don't you?"
"I'd heard that. I hope she's happy."
"I don't know about her being happy. I talk to her mother frequently. Sue says that Bobby is becoming a real drunk. Tina has to work to support them, while Bobby lays around home and drinks up what she makes."
"Awh, shit. Tina deserves better than that. She's really a wonderful person, mom. There's not a mean bone in her body."
"Well, at least they haven't had kids. I don't think they could live on what she makes if they had kids. She's working as a waitress down at Klein's Restaurant. I doubt she makes over minimum wage and I'm sure the tips are lousy."
"Maybe I'll stop in and see her before I go west. I should apologize to her for how I treated her."
"I don't know if that's a good idea or not, Honey. You know it's always better to let sleeping dogs lie. When do you have to head out?"
"I need to be at work two weeks from Monday," I said. "I figure it'll take a three days to drive out and a few more days to find someplace to live. I thought I might leave a week from Monday."
"Good. At least that gives us a week and a couple of days before you have to go. When you get an apartment, get one with two bedrooms. Your dad and I are going to be frequent visitors."
My dad is an aircraft mechanic for one of the major airlines. He and his family have almost unlimited free travel. I think that's the one reason mom hadn't made a big fuss about me moving across the country.
"What do you have planned for today?" mom asked.
"I thought I'd go down to Abbott's Garage and see if they could give my car a tune-up," I said. "It's got about fifty thousand miles on it now and I'd feel better if I had it tuned up and serviced before I head for California."
"That's probably a good idea. Your dad and I are going to be tied up most of the day, anyway. We're supposed to meet George and Betty for a round of golf in just over an hour."
"You'd better wake dad up then. You know it takes him a while to get going."
Mom laughed. "I woke him just before you got up. I'll have to wake him at least twice more."
.... There is more of this story ...