I was never part of the in-crowd in schools. Not that I didn’t desire social acceptance but that required cultivation; an itinerate military family develops few conventions or social skills. Landing in a new school every year or so makes you a permanent outsider and you get used to that. So it was a dubious prospect to spend three years in the same high school including graduation. Something the stranger in town learns quickly is that there are three social strategies: conform, submerge or vamoose. The last was not my chosen tactic -- it was my lifestyle as a military brat. By regularly high-tailing it, I never felt relentless pressure to conform or conceal my socially unconventional quirks because I knew I could unexpectedly be gone in a month. So I decided I might as well be myself.
As a science nerd, I wore a slide rule on my belt, flaunted my white socks and flouted religious convention. Sophomore year at Chicopee Comprehensive High School, my agnosticism began to feel more a coward's atheism. Although it might startle many in our country now hurtling toward seeming theocracy, many high school students in the '60s (I was class of 65) were not threatened by religious debate and some were brave enough to entertain the notion that some religious dogma was rather superstitious. One day in the lunchroom, I hatched a plan to challenge the more open-minded as we were debating some of the elements of religion that I felt to be rather spooky.
"Do you believe in a soul?" I asked no one in particular. Christine Pekarski was the first to accept the dare. I liked Christine. She was vivacious with an easy, liquid laugh, long blonde hair, and blue eyes but not really in the social clique. I thought she was pretty and I had a crush on her.