It began over his lust for a yellow Camaro.
"We might be on different sides of the political isle on the war. I don't think there's anything immoral about defending a country against communist aggression."
She shook her head in disbelief. "You don't? Not even when we're destroying the country we're allegedly trying to defend with huge bombs and napalm?"
"We've got to stop them somehow. Look, our forces have nothing on Ho's when it comes to committing atrocities. If Tet taught us one thing, it's that the commies will stop at nothing to achieve their objective."
"Austin, Tet taught us that we have no business being there, that this is one war we can't possibly win."
"Sounds like you side with Walter Cronkite and those misguided people who tried to disrupt the Democratic National Convention in Chicago."
She felt on the verge of exploding. "Yeah, well I was one of those misguided people who paid for her anti-war stance in blood." She leaned forward and pulled back her hair to show him her two-inch scar just above her ear. "We didn't try to disrupt anything. We weren't anywhere near that convention. We were peaceful protesters who were set upon by police acting like Nazis." She looked away. Her eyes filled with tears of rage.
Austin stood with his mouth half open, his shoulders drooped, contrite as could be. "I'm sorry, Tricia, I didn't know." He reached out to her, then pulled back when she flinched away. Spotting a couple vacating one of the tables, he said, "Quick, let's grab these seats. Then we can talk about it further."
She considered throwing her mug of Coors in his face and running out. "I don't know, Austin, I'm very angry right now. If you're so gung ho about Vietnam, why don't you enlist?"
"I just might do that. Meanwhile, I'd like very much if you'd come sit with me so we can talk this out."
After a few seconds hesitation, she followed him over to the empty table.
"Look, I agree with you about the way the police handled things," he said. "It was inexcusable and those responsible should be prosecuted."
"Do you really mean that or are you just trying to pacify me?"
"I'm one-hundred percent sincere. The news footage of that mess sickened me. The cops turned what was a peaceful demonstration into a melee."
He reached over to wipe tears from her cheeks. This time, she didn't flinch. He made a stab at comic relief. "I hope you're not thinking about repossessing my car."
"I couldn't anyway, it's paid for."
"But if it wasn't?"
"Maybe." She kept a straight face, then grinned, enjoying his pained look. "Just kidding, Austin."
He exhaled. "I wasn't sure. Romance and politics never mix. I should have known better."
"Au contraire. Sometimes politics and romance do mix. At least they do when both parties are on the same side."
"That's the catch."
"Right. In Chicago, I saw couples bonded together for the cause of stopping the war, supporting each other, trying to protect each other against the police onslaught. One scene I'll never forget is seeing a girl jump on the back of a cop who was trying to drag her boyfriend into a paddy wagon. She had him around the neck, this big, burly cop, screaming to let him go. Then another cop grabbed her, threw her down and began kicking her. They both ended up in the paddy wagon."
"Okay, I see your point," he said before taking another swallow of brew.
She held up her glass mug. "So we agree on something."
He clinked his glass against hers. "Yes, but maybe the most supreme test of a couple's devotion is when they disagree, even vehemently, but still stay devoted. We're on a first date, hardly a couple, but I'd hate to think that our opposing views on the war would keep us from seeing each other again."
She nodded. "It wouldn't and it won't. Let's just agree to disagree and move on."
"I'll drink to that."
They toasted again, downed their beers and then went up to the bookstore, divided up into two rooms of unequal size.