I turned and looked in the direction in which Pam indicated. I saw no one. By then, the young man had wound his way through the dancers and approached me. Immediately, I recognized my home church’s new organist, Bob Frei. We greeted each other with an acquaintance smile.
No hello. No how are you? How do you like CMU? None of that! His pickup line: “You will never guess who is getting married!”
“I have no idea.” I replied with a very quizzical expression.
“Bruce Frei, my younger brother, your friend and classmate is getting married.”
I thought to myself, "this is the craziest opening introduction I have ever faced!" I decided to play along.
“What?! You mean Bruce, that little pest?” as I gestured to a height much shorter than myself. “Who would marry HIM? You have to be joking! He’s such a little pest. Besides that, he’s only 18 years old.”
Bob laughed. I assumed the joke was over. Not quite. “Bruce is marrying a classmate of mine, Betty.” Bob continued with the story. By then, I did admit the story was growing more unbelievable by the minute. “It’s true. Really it is. I am not joking.”
“Pesky little Bruce? She must be INSANE! Stop making up such an outlandish story.” I remarked rather loudly over the rock beat of the band filling the room. “Besides she is two years older than he is.”
“I know you think this is a contrived story, but believe me it is very true. My parents are upset, especially my mother.” Bob tried to smooth over the conversation. During our dialogue the band continued to play, couples danced around us, and we received a number of stares.
Then, Bob asked me to dance while we further discussed the situation. I remained very skeptical about this “so called” match-up. After a few more dances and a break by the band, Bob invited me to enjoy a Coke and snack in the food commons across the hall. I accepted the offer and let Pam know where I was going. She too had been dancing and joined us with her partner. The four of us sipped our Cokes and talked for over an hour. Pam then used our sign language of leaving for the rest room. I followed her, told her that I recognized Bob as my home church organist and the brother of my pesky classmate and friend, Bruce. I assured Pam that I felt safe. She then shared her plan of thanking the guy for the Coke and would return to the dance floor with our other roommates, Gail and Mary.
Bob and I remained at the commons sipping our sodas and talking. (Yes, he even let me have an opportunity to converse!) Time must have flown because we were both surprised when the manager informed us that it was almost midnight, and the Commons was closing. Since it was so late, Bob offered me a ride back to my dorm, Herrig Hall.
“Thanks for the nice conversation, updates on Bruce, and the Coke,” I remarked as I closed the Chevy’s door.
“Yah, see you around.” He replied.
About two weeks later:
Ring, ring, bling, ring, ring, “Nila, phone call is for you. It’s not the same guy you have been seeing.” Mary announced, “Be quick. I am expecting a call myself.”
Surprised, puzzled, and wondering who would be calling, I thought to myself, “It must be one of the football players who I had been tutoring that needed some academic assistance.”
“Hi, Nila.” The cheery voice greeted me. His voice sounded familiar, but I had some difficulty placing its owner. After a pause, the caller identified himself. “It’s me. Bob Frei. From St. Matthew’s. Bruce’s older brother.”
My first response was immediate. “Please tell me your brother has decided he’s too young to marry.”
Bob snickered, “Well, no. He and Betty are being married at the end of November. That’s about a month. My real reason for calling is to ask if you would go to a movie with me.”
Flattered, I agreed to see Bob on Friday night. We enjoyed our time together, but both had commitments of classes and work. In the next few weeks, we saw each other only a couple of times for a short “Coke date”.
One weekend I needed to locate a ride home to attend a celebration. I checked the ride board and noticed that Bob had posted open seats to Bridgeport. I caught the ride with 2 other passengers. All four of us laughed all the way home. Same with the return trip. However, I was the last person to be dropped off at Herrig Hall. Bob assisted me with my suitcase and the bag of goodies that my mother sent. I paid Bob the $5 fee for the rides and offered him a packet of homemade chocolate chip cookies. He then asked me out for Friday evening.
Again, we enjoyed our dinner, movie, and time together. Yet, once more, work and classes kept us busy.
In mid-November I became extremely ill with the Asian Flu. I remember my mother picking me up at CMU. For two weeks, I barely knew where I was and slept most of the time. On a Saturday afternoon my mother woke me and told me that I had a visitor. I assumed my friends from high school had stopped. My hair was matted and greasy, my pajamas and robe were winkled beyond belief, heavy black circles ringed my eyes, and my lips were cracked. What a miserable sight!
“YIKES!!!! Oh, no!” Laura and Bridget were not at my house! My visitor was Bob. I had used all of my strength just to reach the living room recliner. I was stuck. Bob didn’t seem too outwardly concerned about my appearance. I relaxed in the large recliner while he updated me about Bruce’s wedding.
“Your roommates are very concerned about you,” he told me as I headed back to the bedroom.
When I did return to Central, Bob and I began talking at length over the phone. We dated, but not exclusively. However, by Christmas break we had started seeing each other regularly.
“Would you consider attending my Aunt Lorraine’s Christmas Eve family party with me? It’s more fun with a friend.” Bob asked.
Christmas Eve after the party, on our drive to my house, stars twinkled, fresh snow glowed in the moonlight, and carols played on the radio. That was the night, I believe, we both fell in love. From that moment forward, we became an inseparable couple.
Funny, it all started with the line, “You will never guess who is getting married!”