When I moved to Austin, Texas, in the summer 1994, I made some friends at
church. We were all in college and had a lot in common. The only problem was
all of them went
to school elsewhere in the country. When summer was over, they all left except
for one. The one that remained attended
We didn’t really know each other that well, and UT had an enrollment of about
50,000 students, so there was little chance we would ever see each other except
One day, however, I saw her in the parking lot and asked if she would like
to meet for lunch. She was too polite to say no. So we met. It felt so good
to not be lonely for 45 minutes that I asked if she would like to meet again
the next day. Again, she was too polite to say no, so we started meeting for
lunch whenever breaks our respective class schedules coincided, which was three
times a week.
One day, she didn’t show up. I waited at our usual spot for several minutes,
then checked to see if she had skipped our meeting spot and gone straight to
our eating place. When I failed to find her there, I looked at our back-up
eating place. When she wasn’t there, I returned to our meeting place on the
off chance that she had arrived there while I was looking for her. She hadn’t.
A good thing about being as insecure as I was at the time is that you’re never
really surprised when friends let you down. Why wouldn’t they, after
to go to all
the trouble of not letting you down, they’d actually have to care
about you. Anyway, I walked away to find a place to eat alone.
As I was walking, I thought I heard my name in the wind. I turned around and
saw my wonderful, Happy friend running—running—toward me and
calling out desperately. She had been talking to a professor, clearing up something
about a grade. She was so worried that I would think she had abandoned me that
she ran the whole way from her class to our meeting place.
Looking back, I can see that moment as a singular turning point in our relationship.
If it wasn’t the exact instant I fell in love with her, it was at least the
beginning of the falling-in-love process. I certainly realized right then that
she was my best friend in every sense. No friend of mine had ever had both
the insight and the solicitude to put so much
valued. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was, of course, the woman I would
I bring this up now because Mrs. Happy recently spent about ten minutes writing
a poem she considers "amateurish," but I think of as sweet and memorable:
He sat upon the bench alone
Waiting for his friend in the cold
Little did he know back then
What love story would unfold.
Minutes passed with no sign of her
"She cares not," he said, "for me."
His heart sank down beneath his chest
His body stood to flee.
Forlorn and weak, he walked alone
The path he’d trodden before
Until he heard that precious voice
And his heart began to soar.
And so he knew by her running steps
The intentions of her heart
He loved her then and knew at once
That they could never part.
Their love grew strong for many years
And vows they both have kept
And with the promise of new life revealed
They embraced and then they wept.
The child unborn and name unknown
They prepare their hearts and minds
For the little one who will change their lives
With blessings of many kinds.
I guess it won’t be winning any awards or be published in The
New Yorker any time soon, but I love it because she wrote it, and because
she’s the one who cared enough to run.
P.S.—If you’d like to see another imperfect but powerful piece
of art my wife made, check out the
watercolor she painted back when we were