Rosie and Kentucky wanted to attend a concert in the University Center with some other friends. They invited me along, and I was happy to attend. Any excuse to walk around campus without shoes before the weather got cold again was welcome to me.
Usually walking around without shoes had only positive consequences. I feel surer of my movements, self, and life in general without shoes on a warm day. This day, however, I experienced one of the negative consequences of not wearing shoes when the pile of textbooks I was carrying back from the bookstore slipped from my hands, and the heaviest in the bunch landed, corner down, on my big toe in such a way that made losing my toenail inevitable.
I limped a little as I headed towards the concert, but I continued on my merry, shoe-less way regardless.
Rosie and I didn't waste any time getting down to our usual swing dancing and then squeezing closer to the front of the audience as if we were the falling blocks in Tetris. I was so involved in our inching forward that a tap on my shoulder from behind startled me.
I was confused when I turned to see a short-haired boy who I didn't recognize. Tall with sandy blonde hair and soft blue eyes... I searched my data banks for any boy by that description who I might know. I thought of a few, but none who would likely be here and anyway none of them were this boy. I narrowed my eyes thoughtfully, trying desperately to stick him with a name.
He grinned sheepishly, "You don't remember me, do you?"
"I'm afraid I must have forgotten..." I confessed.
"My name is Joseph. We met last year in the snow..."
"Oh oh oooooooooh! I remember you! You cut your hair! I didn't even recognize you!"
"Yeah, I did cut it..." He blushed and looked down, which caused him to notice my toe. "Oh! What happened?!", he exclaimed with his eyebrows going into a position that indicated concern. He got down on his knees and took my foot in his hands to examine my injury.
Hopping on my other foot to maintain balance, I explained that I dropped a book on myself but I was fine. He touched the edges around the bruising gingerly and then placed my foot back on the floor with the greatest of care, stood up and said that he hoped it healed quickly.
The next morning, all bleary eyed in History class, I noticed him from across the room and waved. It was nice to see a friendly face in a class again.
At the end of the class, Joseph caught up with me as I started back towards my dorm. We chatted almost all the way there, before he said goodbye and headed in the opposite direction. Hum, I noted to myself, it was out of his way to walk me back here.
After that day, he began routinely walking me back. Eventually walking me back became prefaced by a trip to Einstein's where he would buy me a bagel and coffee and we would lazily talk over all manner of things. At first I thought it was a little annoying because my goal after an 8am class was to go straight back to bed. I even wore my pj's to class as a reminder not to fully wake up.
Joseph would run up behind me on the way out the building and I would think to myself, Not again! I want sleeeeeep!
But it wasn't long before I began to realize that breakfast and conversation in the morning instead of a nap was making me feel healthier and more motivated. It was kind of lovely.
One evening in the library, I peeked over my laptop to see Joseph leisurely leafing through the pages of a textbook. His pants had sharpie graffiti on them that secretly made me smile to myself. He noticed me and waved. I motioned for him to come on over, so he picked up his things and sat down on the floor next to the chair I was in.
As we talked about my adventures abroad, he quietly doodled a funky red robot on my forearm and sighed that he would love to experience culture shock someday.
I asked him if he'd ever been contra dancing. "Contra-wha?", he scratched his head. I invited him along and he said he would love to try it out.
Plans were made. I would see him next Thursday, at the bell tower.