Sometimes the pain is hers. Sometimes the pain is his. Sometimes there isn't any pain, but that's comedy, not romance.

The wonder of it all, of course, is that we continue to go on with it, even in this town which thinks little of lightweights and lunacies that can't be legislated. Administrations change, races are lost, but it's still the same old story and here are a few of them. Changes have been made in the names and identifying details of the participants .

They met during the campaign, although actually they'd both been born and bred in Washington and similarly but separately programmed through the halls of St. Albans and Madeira.

They knew politics the way other people know a family business. They were not seduced by glitter -- they'd gone to school with vice presidents' daughters, eaten potato chips and drunk Cokes in the senators' rec rooms and smoked surreptitious cigarettes in cabinet members' bath rooms.

When they finally met (somehow the inevitable Washington web had failed to ensnare them while they were growing up), she was working to elect a senator and he was doing Important Work for Carter. They didn't get involved during the campaign; they were too busy, and anyway it would have been unprofessional.

But then the campaign was over, and they'd both won. He went back to his law firm, and she to her senator's office on the Hill, back to the family business. They met again shortly before New Year's, and this time it was clear things were going to be different.

He asked her out for New Year's Eve. They drank champagne and he kissed her in front of everyone at one of the parties they went to.

A New Year, a new administration, new romance -- despite herself she got rather caught up in it all. It was corny, she knew, but thrilling. She began to adore Jimmy Carter.

Then he got the job at the White House. Not a toplevel job, but quite impressive. The FBI checked him out for weeks before he got his clearance, and she got a secret thrill out of knowing they might have watched her visit his apartment. "They've probably got you in their files," he said.

When he broke a date because he had to work late, she understood. Camp David for the weekend? Of course, it was okay -- how could you object to him going to Camp David? She always understood.

One morning she dropped him off at the E.O.B. entrance. He kissed her and said he'd talk to her later.

He never called. She called his office, and he was In a Meeting. She left a message and he never called back. She thought maybe he didn't get the message, and called again the next day. He didn't call back.

She thought about putting a bomb in his mailbox, but didn't.

She started to hate Jimmy Carter. CAPTION: Illustration, "William, do you have the courage to love?", Drawing by Koren; Copyright (c) 1977, The New Yorker magazine Inc.