I was in John Blair's History of English Drama at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia, when I discovered I was sitting next to the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen. This is no hyperbole but a verifiable fact. Look up the word "angel" in any good dictionary and examine the illustration. Slim, long blond hair, blue eyes, the works. I knew it would be impolite to gawk at her, although that is what I most wanted to do. I certainly didn't have the nerve to speak to her.
Then came the day my friend Charles "Drip" Waldrip was to do a presentation on a play called 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. (I do not make this title up - like everything else in this blog, it is 100% fact.) He'd asked me to interrupt the beginning of his presentation - note this: he asked me - like an old Johnny Carson bit when Ed McMahon would interrupt and Carson would come back with something like, "Not so fast, Tuna Breath." So Drip gets up to do his bit, and I go into my spiel, and I'm really riffing and going on perhaps a tad longer than planned, so Nancy - who was not in on our little plan - seizes the Riverside Shakespeare, hardbound and eight inches thick, and wallops me over the head with a "Shut up!"
This brought a halt to the proceedings, and after it was made clear to her I was not being boorish but was actually a planned part of the presentation, she was apologetic, and the ice between us was broken.
Some time later I ran into her on the steps of the college library and we fell into conversation. It was the first real conversation we'd had, and I tell you, I was masterful. You'd have been so impressed. Charming, erudite, glib. It also helped I was wearing my favorite pants. They were corduroy, made with four red-and-blue panels so from the front one leg was blue and the other red, and from the back, the opposite legs were red and blue. This was the late '70's and such garments were not considered bizarre, although I have always possessed a unique fashion sense. We parted, and I congratulated myself for making such a good impression, but then I looked down and discovered the whole time my pants - the fancy red and blue corduroys - had been unzipped. I consoled myself that in the full light of my charm, she had probably not noticed.
Then came the day I asked her out for the first time. My technique, suavity itself, I pass on for use by future generations. I waited for the whole class to arrive and told several classmates I intended to ask her out. (I may not have mentioned, but she and I sat in the front.) When she arrived, I said in a clear, steady voice, loud enough for everyone to hear, "Speaking of movies, would you go out to see Fast Break with Gabe Kaplan?" (No one had been speaking of movies, the abrupt non sequitur was the very essence of my pickup line.) Nancy found twenty pairs of eyes staring in expectation at her as she framed an answer. She really had no choice.
After we'd dated a while and were officially boy- and girlfriend, I asked her about the first conversation we'd had in front of the library and if she remembered it. "Vividly," she said. "Your fly was down."
This July makes 31 years we've been married. We still have the Riverside Shakespeare.