Valentine's Day pro tip: Try not to snore before dinner

I've always been a romantic. (cough)

Ah, romance. It's the all and everything, the meaning of life and all that.

I remember it. I remember it well.

Well sort of.

It's been more than 30 years now since I met the woman who would become my permanent valentine. And I didn't see it coming. Well,  I guess I did see ...  her.

I was editorial page editor at the Crimson White, the student newspaper at the University of Alabama, and this young lady had been working as a reporter for the news desk across the room. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't spotted her already, but she had pink bows in her hair and Greek letters emblazoned across her 20-year-old aura. She was not, I figured, my type.

Then one day, as I pounded out some overwrought chunk of student "journalism," I glanced up to see her - all 4-foot-10 of her - heading straight for me. She climbed on my desk - it really was a climb -- and sat there swinging her legs.

I did not, for a moment, know what to say. Turned out I didn't have to say a thing.

"I'm Alecia," she said. "You know, from over there."

And that was all the punctuation she'd need for a while.

"So whatcha writing about?" she asked, but didn't wait for an answer. "Are your classes good mine are good except for English lit which is kind of hard and I'm double-majoring in journalism and English so I can't get out of it and I don't really want to anyway because I like the lit except its hard and boring sometimes ..."

I gasped for breath even if she didn't have to. She smiled, and batted her eyes, and I guess I did, too. Smiled, that is. I don't bat my eyes.

"Um, my professor is making us go see a play tonight!" she said. "We have to watch Richard III."

Back in the day...John Archibald | 

And I fell for it. With all the sincerity of any pseudo-intellectual college boy.

"That's a great play," I said, making it all up because Shakespeare works on me just like NyQuil .

"Oh do you think so?" Alecia said. "You should go with me!"

So of course I said "Sure." I was unattached and she was cute - if a little aggressive. I went to Morgan Hall that evening at the appointed time.

And there was my date, Alecia. And there was her lit class. But there were no actors and no stage. There was no bus to take us to the theater. There was, in the middle of this vast room, only a 19-inch black-and-white TV rolled in on a tall metal rack.

And from it squeaked ... Shakespeare. A rose, I suppose, by some other damn name.

Tiny figures gestured from the tiny screen, and I could only presume one of them was Richard. I wedged myself into a tiny desk, and glanced at tiny Alecia across the aisle. She smiled, as if nothing was amiss. I nodded toward the screen, with a look that was meant to say "Ah, Richard III. And I've heard this is a splendid performance."

And for a moment I began to wonder about the winter of my discontent.

Until, fighting Shakespearian narcolepsy, I closed my eyes.

And suddenly the room began to shake. No, the room was shaking me. No. It was Alecia.

"John! Wake up!" she said for the first time. "Wake up! You're snoring!"

Now that's a first date. But then, I've always been a romantic.

May your Valentine's Day be every bit as memorable.

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