It was another 35-degree January
afternoon, the doldrum of every law student
's existence--the week that fall semester grades are posted. Our first grade had just gone online. They weren't posted publicly, but you could tell who got what. The winners smiled and laughed hesitantly, waiting for their turn to fail; the losers wandered about looking tired and confused. I wandered, in my own tired and confused way, across the street to the subway
, blending into a cluster of similarly tired and confused people.
There was one girl who I'd been eyeing since the first day of classes. She was gorgeous, smart, single, with a pretty voice and a big smile, and therefore completely out of my league. As I passed through the turnstile, I saw her wrapped in a black scarf and wooly overcoat, looking as if she were freezing to death in the heated subway tunnel.
"Are you all right?" I asked her.
"I'm sick," she said. "I'm on three different antibiotics and nothing's helping. Maybe I just need to go home and go to sleep."
"Maybe." I wanted to hold her right there and then--screw the social norms and screw the virus. Her eyes seemed to be shivering behind her scarf.
We got on the train together. She sat down; I stood by the door. A few minutes later, I reached my stop and said goodbye. The sky was ghostly white on the walk home, the air cold and damp, the sidewalk vaguely muddy beneath my feet.
I went to work unpacking the rest of the books and papers I brought from Florida. Between stacks of Japanese textbooks, I found a set of Dale Carnegie books, my father's souvenirs from a training workshop two decades before. Below the Dale Carnegie books, an unopened package of origami paper, still carrying a price tag from Loft in Osaka, where I had bought it five years before.
My mind took over my hands. I opened the package, thumbed through the colors, and pulled out a little square of lavender paper. Two minutes later, I had a tiny paper crane in my hands. I slipped it into my bag.
The next day, I found her at the coffee shop downstairs, ordering a cup of hot tea.
"Hey," I said, "do you feel any better today?"
Her face was already answering that question for me, but she obliged me with a verbal response as well. "Not really."
I reached into my bag and gave her the little pink crane. "Take this. It'll make you better."
She took the crane, turned it in her hands. "What is it?"
"It's a crane," I said. "In Japan, they say that cranes can do all sorts of things."
She smiled--a prettier smile than I had seen yet--still turning the crane in her hands. "Thoughtful," I heard her say softly. Then she looked up at me. "Thank you..."
"I just thought you might..." What did I think she might? "Well, you know."
She smiled and thanked me again, then went off down the hallway.
Later that afternoon, I sat in the library, engrossed in another constitutional law case. My highlighter stopped, and I looked up. She was standing across from me, still smiling.
"Hey," she said, "I think it worked!"
After that, I never studied alone in the library again.