hey met in that great state of perpetual pubescence, on the far edge of America. He was a writing fellow at Stanford, she a post-graduate purveyor of lingerie at Macy's West. Together they consumed Paisano and lasagna noodles in a cottage in an acacia grove, with a view of sunlit foothills through gently scaling eucalyptus.

They courted in the Peninsula mode--car trips to the brink of the icy Pacific, car trips to Market Street and Ghirardelli Square, car trips to Marin, car trips . . . Their intensity was decidedly un-Californian. (He occasionally broke things.) San Francisco, Big Sur, Yosemite and L'Omelette on El Camino Real served as backdrops for a passion that, if not grand, certainly was persistent.

Friends pointed out that they had nothing in common. He was a southerner, she came from something called Long Island. He was Protestant, she was Catholic. He read novels critically, she read for the fun of it. He thought Rockefeller Center was a position on an obscure Yankee football team. She was unsure, believe it or not, of the significance of Tennessee in the firmament of the Confederacy.

She wanted life to begin. He wanted to travel to Santiago aboard a guano freighter.

It was, they both agreed, a hopeless affair.

Twenty years later they sit in Washington, on opposite sides of a Grape-Nuts box. She opens this newspaper, and suddenly remembers . . . yes . . . the dizzying fragrance of acacia blossoms, the aching blueness of the Palo Alto sky.