As Fate Would Have It (A Story of Love Damn Near Missed)

Once upon a time, a lovely couple my wife and I know—let’s call them Brian and Kathy because, you know, that’s who they are—met under the most delightful circumstances, circumstances that might have never happened at all but for a barrage of fateful moments.

Moment #1: Let’s Call It ‘The Point of Contact’

Brian, a serious, studious business major at the university, was the manager of the cafeteria one particular day. With longish but neat, dark brown hair, glasses, and a bushy mustache of the kind in style at that time, Brian cut a managerial but approachable figure. That particular day, of all the dozens of days Brian had served as manager, was to be his last there forever. He would never again step foot in that cafeteria, manager or not.

He happened to be standing, on that particular day, near the entrance to the cafeteria, gazing absentmindedly at the line of students coming through the doors. Normally students needed to show their student ID to the person manning the register to prove they were valid, enrolled students. Very strict were the people at the register, normally. But today wasn’t normal, really. It was the very last day the cafeteria would be open; most students had already left for home.

From his vantage point Brian had a clear view of any student coming through the doors. That spot wasn’t a typical one for him. He usually wandered the cafeteria and kitchen area, checking this and that, answering questions, and making sure the entire operation flowed smoothly. He didn’t stay long at that particular spot on that particular day either, just a very few moments. For the rest of that day, and for the rest of his life, he would never return to that spot.

Moment #2: Let’s Call It ‘The Bike Ride’

Kathy, a petite, bouncy, talented voice major with wavy, shoulder-length brown hair and bright, brown eyes, was wearing overalls that day, with a white tee shirt and a pair of sandals. She had just moved off campus, so she wasn’t supposed to be eating in the cafeteria anymore.

She was exhausted from moving. She was completely broke, didn’t even have change in her purse. Her hair was a mess, she had no makeup on, and she was hungry, so very, very hungry.

She thought, If I can get into the cafeteria without having to pay, I can eat and then tuck some food for later inside the bib of my overalls. So she hopped on her bicycle and rode to campus, about three miles away. She prayed, first, that no one would she knew would see her looking like such a wreck and, then, most of all, that the cafeteria people wouldn’t give her any trouble.

Kathy parked the bike outside the cafeteria doors and cautiously headed inside, head down, arms in pockets, like a convict on the run. She arrived just in time to notice the manager—Brian? Was that his name?—standing on the other side of the registers. Oh, great.

Moment #3: Let’s Call It ‘The Feeling’

Brian decided that it was time to check on the kitchen. That was the precise second when he spotted a pretty, brown-haired coed walking in. She had her head down but he could still make out her features. Hmmm.

The girl walked by him and headed toward the food stations. Brian turned to a colleague, who had just wandered next to him, and said, “See that girl? I’m going to ask her out.”

“You?” his coworker asked. “You’ve never done anything like that, Brian. No, I don’t think you’ll do anything with that girl.”

But there he went, making a beeline for the girl with the brown hair. Without knowing why but knowing absolutely that he must, Brian swept up behind the girl and tapped her shoulder.

Moment #4: Let’s Call It ‘Busted!’

Oh, no, thought the girl. He’s going to ask for my ID. Now what?

The girl turned and looked up at the manager, someone she had seen in the cafeteria many times. He said, “Hi. I’m Brian, and I was wondering if you would like to go out sometime.”

Wait, what? He’s asking me out? Hallelujah, I’m okay! I can eat!

“Uh, yeah, okay,” the girl stammered. “I guess so.”

“Great,” said Brian, “what’s your number?”

There were no cell phones in those days, so the girl grabbed a nearby napkin, wrote her number as fast as she could, and gave it to Brian. As Brian looked down at the napkin, the girl dashed away.

Moment #5: Let’s Call It ‘The Singer’

As soon as she walked away, Brian’s stomach dropped. He realized he hadn’t asked her name. Now what?

He knew that if he couldn’t discover the girl’s name, he would never call her, ever. He just wouldn’t. He would just rip up the napkin and toss it in the trash, and that would be that. No, he had to get her name. He turned to the nearest food counter and asked the girl behind it, “Trish, do you know that girl’s name?”

As fate would have it, that particular girl on that particular day happened to be a voice major. Not a biology major. Not an English major. Not even a business major. No, Trish was a voice major, the same major as the girl.

“I think her name is Kathy,” answered Trish. And it was.

Moment #6: Let’s Call It ‘The Call’

A couple of days later Kathy was sitting in her new apartment, watching the telephone technician finish installing her phone line. Seconds after he told her, “Okay, you’re all set,” the phone rang while still in his hand.

Kathy figured it was the phone company testing the line, but then she heard the guy say, “Hello? Yes, it is. Yeah, sure. Ma’am, it’s for you.”

Are you kidding me? Kathy was dumbfounded. How could anyone be calling her? She hadn’t given anyone her number … oh, wait. Yes, she had given the new number to the guy in the cafeteria. Brian, was it?

Sure enough, it was Brian, asking her to dinner. They talked, she said yes, and a few days later Kathy and Brian went on their first date. That was 33 years ago, and they’ve been together every day since.

Today, whenever Brian and Kathy tell the story of how they met, they ponder all the what-ifs. What if Brian hadn’t been standing at the entrance at that particular time on that particular day? What if traffic lights had delayed Kathy’s bike ride even 30 seconds? What if Brian hadn’t acted on that sudden, irresistible, completely foreign impulse to ask someone he had never spoken to out on a date? What if Trish hadn’t been a voice major and hadn’t known the name of that girl? What if Brian had placed that phone call before the technician had installed the new phone line instead of after? Would he have ever called back?

Luckily for them, and us, all the stars aligned and these two wonderful people found each other.

Just in time.

P.S. Brian attended a college reunion a couple of years ago and happened to come upon that colleague who had told Brian that he wouldn’t “do anything with that girl.” The man asked Brian, “Whatever happened to her?”

“I married her,” Brian said. “I married her.”

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