Scott and I were a good couple, and chances are we would have endured even if we hadn’t been slammed together just coming out of the gate. But the abortion cemented us more tightly than normal dating might have. At the time we met, I had moved again, and was now rooming with Janet. She had started out at Purdue, but later transferred to Eau Claire to study medical technology. (She would actually go on to become a nurse anesthetist.) We ran into each other our junior year and would sometimes study together.

At the time, the Davies Student Center had a special enclosed area for studying that offered two amenities: You could smoke and you could buy beer. Although we didn’t drink while we studied, Janet smoked back then. One evening, she had run out of matches, so had to chain smoke the entire time.

I was working in a bar then, so while accustomed to the smell of cigarette smoke clinging to my clothes, I hadn’t taken up the habit. That evening, I thought, ‘What the hell,’ and we smoked the night away. The next day, I felt like something horrid had crawled up inside of me and died. So God bless Janet, because thanks to that experience I have never taken up the unhealthy habit of smoking.

Scott’s parents lived in Eau Claire so he lived at home, and they were always very good to me. His dad would hand Scott twenty dollars as we headed out at 10pm on a weekend night, usually going to meet up with friends at a bar. Both his parents loved going to a large flea market on Sunday morning—sometimes adding to their extensive collections of things like old cone-top beer cans, pincushion dolls (“arms away” dolls who still had both porcelain arms were most valuable) and guns—and would often bring us along. They never hesitated to buy a meal for both of us when we were all together.

By then I had abandoned my dream of going to medical school. Scott’s dad, Skip, was a teacher at the area technical college, and Scott’s oldest sister was in medical school at the time. (Even having a box of her old p-chem tests to study from didn’t help me get an A in Dr. King’s wretched class.) Skip’s suggestion was to take the MCAT, the medical college admission test, even if I didn’t have the wherewithal to study for it.

“For one thing,” he said, “Everything is still fresh in your head.” So I might have done OK if I had just taken the test right then. It’s even possible I could have gotten into medical school with the grades and scores I had. “But you won’t know unless you give it a shot,” Skip said. Plus, the test score was good for a couple of years. “Take the test now,” he encouraged, “and decide later.” Best advice I never took.

Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

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