[At the close of Part II, I had just arrived on campus as a brand new freshman and had discovered that Art Dyer was also there. I was hoping to bump into him soon…]
Soon turned out to be the very next day.
I was in the foyer of the gymnasium complex when an upperclassman spotted him and pointed me in his direction.
[Quite fitting, in retrospect, that our second encounter would also be in a gymnasium.]
He was surrounded by a cluster of coeds, so I kept a discreet distance. Once they cleared out, I approached.
Three and a half years can make a big difference in a girl’s level of confidence. I had:
- Left the Stick Girl profile behind
- Gotten my first job
- Gotten a high school diploma
- Flown the coop
- Headed west, seeking adventures in higher education
And along the way I had also shed my belief about being terminally uncool. With The Encounter refreshed in my memory, I made my move.
“Art Dyer?” He turned his head. This time I extended a dry hand.
“Hi. My name is Linda Burns. Remember me?”
He seemed to be rifling through dusty memory files, so I thought I’d help out a little and fill in some blanks.
“We met in 1967 at that basketball tournament in Columbia.”
“Oh yeah, I remember that day… It was St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield, right?”
“Uh huh. And after the games, Desiree introduced me to you and your three friends.”
“Oh, I remember Desiree…,” he confessed.
Well, of course he remembered Desiree. Everybody remembered Desiree.
He quickly added, “But I don’t think I remember meeting you. But I wish I did.”
Hmmm. Three and a half years ago he had pretty near put me in cardiac arrest, yet now he couldn’t even remember meeting me? This would mean he didn’t remember what he said, either.
I promise I did not set out to gain the upper hand, but the way things were shaping up, I couldn’t resist going with it.
“Well, you should remember…” I continued.
“You asked me to marry you.”
[Tag, you’re it! Now who’s the deer-caught-in-headlights?]
The expression on his face was priceless. I know I shouldn’t have enjoyed his discomfort so much. But then, he only remembered Desiree.
He looked a tad nervous. “And what did you say?”
“I said, Sure, next time I’m in town.”
This time around, the previously “uncool” quip elicited a broad smile. Somehow, it didn’t matter so much that he couldn’t remember The Encounter – we were developing some rapport. And I found the explanation of his outrageous line rather entertaining: he said he figured he’d have to pop the question to lots of Girls before he’d find one that would actually say yes. A variation on the Princess and the Frog theme, I suppose. His self-effacing humor was winsome, revealing his former bravado to be squid ink, used when feeling awkward around Girls.
We exchanged a few more details about ourselves before ending the conversation. As I walked away, I felt like my efforts to locate and connect with someone familiar had panned out splendidly. I made a mental note to find some way to spend more time with this guy.
I had only been back in my dorm for about a half hour, when the phone rang. I was sitting at my desk when a roommate shouted down the hall, “Linda! It’s for you!”
I was stunned. A call for me?! Who could it possibly be? I don’t know anybody yet — it’s only my fourth day on campus.
I sprinted to the phone.
“Linda speaking.” (Yes, I really talked like that back in the day.)
“O Linda, Linda, will you marry me?”
This cracked me up, and I shot back, one more time, “Sure, next time I’m in town!” Then this slightly cocky, but warm and engaging Art Dyer proceeded to invite me to dinner that evening. (Apparently, he’d made the same mental note I had.) I said yes.
We dated for the next three years and in June 1972, I said yes again. Big Time. In the presence of a minister, our families and about 200 guests. The former roommate was best man (yes, the one who scolded me). And of course, Desiree was on hand, too, celebrating her handiwork.
Fast forward to 2014. That guy and I now live in Columbia, Missouri – just walking distance from the Armory that still stands at the corner of Ash and 7th, where we first met.
Sometimes I wonder…
- What if Desiree and I hadn’t hitched a ride to the basketball tournament?
- What if she’d never made those introductions?
- What if he’d never grabbed my attention with his outrageous proposal and The Encounter had never happened?
Maybe, maybe not. But I said yes.
The red and black letter jacket is still in the cedar chest. And the dash of swagger, the self-effacing humor – they’re still reeling me in. And that guy who can still rock a drum set, still rocks my heart.
I said YES.