In college, as we were a Men’s Glee Club, we often sang exchange concerts with women’s choirs. In the spring of 1991, while relaxing on the porch of a Worcester fraternity house after a concert with the Wells College Choir, I watched a girl break her arm by accidentally flinging herself forward off the top rail. We had been competing to see who could lean back farther. I won. Jennifer left to return to Upstate New York the next day with a cast on her wrist after spending most of the previous night in a Worcester hospital.
Sobered up and feeling somewhat badly over this event, when the Glee Club went to Wells for a concert the following autumn, my roommate Ted and I stopped by to see how Jennifer was doing. Obviously she had recovered by then, but it was a good excuse to talk to a girl. Engineers look for these things. She invited us into her room and introduced us to her roommate Leah, who was also singing that year.
We hit it off instantly, becoming good friends. Over the next year, we continued to hang out with each other at the exchange concerts, and in New York City for our annual concert at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In autumn of 1992, Leah told us she was going to France to study for a semester, and wouldn’t see us until the next fall. We fell completely out of touch.
In autumn of 1993, I was President of the Glee Club. That year, in addition to our yearly trip to Wells for the concert, the Choir also invited us to the Fall Formal Dance. We were geeky engineers, and had little to no interest in going. But we also purported ourselves to be gentlemen, so we politely accepted and packed our jackets and ties.
We arrived at Wells tired after the six-hour drive, and realized to our dismay that we immediately had to get dressed up in our monkey suits for a reception. Our small acapella group sang a couple songs and we mingled, sipping our punch, hoping there was a liquor store close by. Added to the festivities that evening was a television crew circulating through the crowd shooting footage for a new Wells College promotional video. My roommates and I were about to leave when Ted said, “Hey, I wonder if Leah is back from France.”
I replied, “I don’t know, but maybe we’ll see her later. Let’s go.”
Then my world turned upside down.
Leah and her friends were descending the main staircase, under the glowing lights of the TV crew. My vision actually turned blurry around the edges. I was dreaming. I saw only her. She was beautiful. I watched as she came down the stairs and walked over to me to smile and say hello.
I knew right then that I was completely in love with her.
I didn’t talk to anyone else for the rest of the night.
We didn’t start dating then, which was probably for the best. Leah graduated the next spring, and moved to Massachusetts for her first job, and I lived out my college days in typical male hedonistic fashion. We actually started dating earnestly over a year after that night, when I got slovenly drunk and, before passing out on her bed, told her I wanted to coach a little league team with her. We might not have been fairy-tale love at first site, but when I saw her on that staircase, I knew we were meant for each other.
Leah and I have been together for 10 years, and I wouldn’t change any of it. I am the luckiest man in the world. I married the woman of my dreams.
Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart. I love you.