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I was fifteen. I didn't know it at the time, but she loved me for my maths. I found this out a quarter-century later.

She was my first girlfriend, my first kiss. Our brief relationship lasted barely one summer. I was a child, barely five-feet tall, late to puberty. Sex would have embarassed me, so we never progressed past holding hands and experimental kisses -- but she carved her initials in me just the same.

Our break-up was a misunderstanding. A friend and I were riding bikes on a warm summer day. He suggested we stop by and see a girl he liked, Patti. She was also my girlfriend's neighbor and had a body that got her into bars without an ID -- at just 14. She was babysitting a couple of toddlers. Patti actively disliked my friend; had no interest in him whatsoever. He was clueless and unable to take a hint. So, she sent him to the store for some Pampers and while he was gone tried to convince me to tell him to leave her alone.

We were sitting next to each other on a couch in the screen room overlooking the backyard. I told her that it wouldn't work. He wasn't going to listen to me. She'd have to tell him point blank herself. After a couple minutes of arguing about this I heard a bike coming up the sidewalk. Suddenly I was pushed back onto the couch and wrestled into submission. I was being groped and kissed by an amazon. I was too stunned to react at all.

The door opened and my friend walked in. Ex friend. He dropped the Pampers, exited without saying a word, got on his bike and left.

Patti released me and was all smiles, saying, "I think that'll do it."

Still a bit in shock, but catching on to what she'd accomplished, I had to laugh. The friend was getting on my nerves and the loss wasn't that great. After a few more minutes of chit-chat I left for home myself. I didn't realize that my life had changed forever. God, was I in for a rude surprise.

It started a couple hours later when I got a phone call from a girl whose voice I didn't recognize. She called me every dirty name in the book and I couldn't even tell what she was yelling about. This was followed a short while later by a call from another female voice ranting at me. And then another. And another. And another.

Somewhere along the line I was able to piece together the story. Word was out that I was cheating on my girlfriend with Patti. My Ex friend was spreading this tale (though from his POV it was true) and no one was asking Patti, just ranting at me and not letting me get an explanation in edgewise.

Of course eventually my girlfriend called and amidst plenty of tears and curses said she never wanted to see me again - not even bothering to ask if it was true or for an explanation.

I was pretty pissed by this time. Wrongfully accused and convicted. And then Patti calls and she's mad at me! I got her in trouble with her girlfriends. I was duly prepared to take every female in the world and shoot them.

I decided then and there I'd never ask another girl out in my life. They were too damn much trouble.

I'm an obstinate and stubborn person. I stood by that ridiculous self-imposed vow. Not an easy thing to always do, but I did. For years I pined and watched my ex-girlfriend from afar, but tried to never let on that I was still hopelessly infatuated. All through high school I fought the temptation to ask her out again.

Twenty-five years later I ran into my old flame. She told me then that she fell in love with me because I could do maths in my head that no one else could. She always wondered why I'd lost interest in her and never asked her out again.

I related the story as I remembered it and she called me an idiot. I agreed. Then we just stared at each other. Smiling eyes. For me it's always the eyes. But having obsessed over one another for so long, the reality of meeting again had to be disappointing. The physical attraction, the electric spark of those teenage years couldn't survive that long. We both knew it, we were adults -- middle-aged adults. We had spouses and children and this was real life, not some cute romantic movie or book.

So, I think we were both surprised, disconcerted by the realization that the spark was still there. A small ember just waiting to flare anew. She took me by the hand...

In the end, she went home to her husband the doctor. I went home to my wife of 17 years. Any more than that is none of your business. But I reread The Bridges of Madison County with a slightly different view.

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