A few days ago, re-posting yellowed text from my 1990s zine Pathetic Life, there was an entry where I mentioned an old friend named Dawn, only to compare her to a cat that had adopted me.

"I ought to tell you about Dawn," I wrote, but never did.

After that, Dawn didn't even cross my mind until re-typing that entry 27 years later. That makes me feel like an ass, so today, I am going to tell you about Dawn.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

In my very late teens or very early 20s, Dawn and I worked together, and we 'hung out' — watched TV with a few other friends, played Monopoly one night, and she was part of a group that went to a movie once, though I can't remember what movie.

I was single, she was single, and she sorta gravitated toward me because we both liked comic books and science fiction, but we never dated, really. There was one almost date. Four of us were going to go to a sci-fi convention, and the other two backed out, so it was me and Dawn at a fairly big con together.

But, barely together. We ate our sacked lunches together, watched a screening of Forbidden Planet together, and left together, but all day we wandered the con separately. When it was over, I walked her to her bus stop because, you know, she was a girl and it was after dark and that's what you do. When her bus came, I walked home alone.

She was after me, though. At work she flirted with me openly, and one night at my apartment — with three other guys, all of us watching a movie — Dawn snuggled up to me on the sofa and whispered that she'd be willing. I laughed it off.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Look at where we were, not on a sofa but in our lives.

I was a few years out of high school, but I was a boy. I'd barely met myself by then, certainly didn't know myself well. About the only thing I'd give myself credit for is, I knew I wasn't ready for anything serious.

Dawn was something serious. More than once she told me (us, really; the group) about where she'd come from — Detroit, Michigan. An unhappy childhood, barely over. She'd had an abusive father, though nobody asked what exactly that meant. She'd been badly beaten in an attack at school. She'd packed a suitcase a week before graduation, and once they'd handed her the diploma she went straight to the bus station and Greyhounded herself to Seattle, where an aunt had offered to take her in.

I admired the part where she simply said goodbye to Detroit and went someplace new, just to see if she could do it. And she did it.

Possibly, Dawn's backstory was what planted the idea in my head, that eventually bloomed into me living in my van for a couple of years, and finally saying goodbye to Seattle and driving to California.

To whatever extend knowing Dawn led to that, I can only say, Thank you for my life.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

So why wasn't I interested in dating Dawn?

Well, the most obvious reason is that Dawn was kinda plain-looking. I was an idiot and wanted to date someone gorgeous. I'd already met April, who was gorgeous, and I was hoping to eventually ask her out, which indeed I did.

And Dawn talked a lot about where she'd come from. Which makes sense — she was new in town, so what else is she gonna talk about? Where she'd come from, though, was a bleak story, and being open about it made it seem like Dawn herself was bleak. I didn't want to get tangled up with someone bleak.

Maybe my biggest hesitation with Dawn was that she was so young. Not even in years — she was 18, I'm pretty sure, maybe a few weeks shy of that marker. Only a few years younger than me.

And yet, despite what she'd been through, despite getting herself from Detroit to Seattle and getting a job and being maybe more grown up than me, something about her seemed lots younger. I was barely out of wet pants and knickerbockers myself, but I didn't want to date someone so young.

So I said no to Dawn, and April said yes to me, and pretty soon Dawn quit the job where the three of us had worked. She didn't say goodbye, and I never saw her or heard from her again. Hardly ever even thought about her, which seems damned cold to me, but there it is.

I'll end this by reprinting what I wrote in 1995: There was nothing wrong about Dawn, really. She wanted to like me, that's all. Maybe I was an ass pushing her away. OK, not maybe, definitely I was an ass. She was just way more complicated than I could handle at 20.


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