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Finding Le Coeur
A Tale of Love and Regret
By Don Carlson
It seemed that the only meaningful question on a Friday was, ‘Do you find a party or do you put gas in the
old Chrysler and go home to mom and dad?’ This college campus had little else to offer. Clarke hated
Fridays. Seven weeks into his first year, and he loved every aspect of college life except for this.
University of Wisconsin Eau Claire had made its way on to some stupid list of great party schools in a
magazine likely to be found at the grocery store check out. Whoopee Ding.
His roommate Duke, a washedup high school baseball pitcher, had found a third option to fill his free time.
A sophomore girl with an apartment across campus had made room between her sheets for Duke to move
into for a portion of each weekend. While Clarke didn’t dislike his roommate, it was a break to not have to
listen to him rattle on endlessly about the Green Bay Packers. Few things in this world are more obnoxious
than a diehard Packer fan.
The dorm had felt like an anthill earlier that afternoon. More than a few students had packed their cars full
of dirty laundry to haul back to mom. After supper at the dining hall, Clarke parked in the TV lounge with
a couple of physics majors to watch a rerun of Hogan’s Heroes, followed by a parade of mindless sitcoms.
He mused about how there had to be something more meaningful than this crap.
Going for a run would have been a good idea had he started sooner. Now, it was getting dark. He always
liked the idea of running. But when it came time to hit the road by himself, it was never as pleasurable as it
was when he ran with a couple of other guys on his floor. Maybe it was because he was built a little more
like a plow horse than a thoroughbred. Hiking in the woods with a backpack was more his style. That is
the way he really would have enjoyed spending his summer, but much of the past few months were
consumed working out in the sun on a paving crew to save up some money for school.
Since running alone didn’t prove to be the most stimulating option, Clarke considered the fact that there
was one last beer parked in the fridge back in the room. That would taste good, but the Resident Assistant
would get in a knot if Clarke got caught bringing it back to the TV lounge. The Dorm Director had made it
sound like having alcohol was a big nono, but in reality they just dumped it out if they caught you with it.
It was almost time that he could go to bed, but if Clarke fell asleep now, a steady stream of partiers would
wake him up every ten minutes for the next couple of hours. Knocking on several doors to see who might
still be around, he didn’t get any response from the rooms that usually welcomed him. Maybe a long walk
would provide a good chance to enjoy the crisp evening fall air of westcentral Wisconsin.
It really was a beautiful time of year. Though it wasn’t so obvious at night, the leaves were near their peak
color. As Clarke headed down the walkway through the central part of campus, there wasn’t anyone other
than a young couple holding hands, seemingly headed to a romantic destination. A brief pang of jealousy
rose up in Clarke’s chest. He pondered how his walk might be a good bit more enjoyable with a feminine
hand to hold.
There had been a girl in Clarke’s life just a few months ago. Ellen had come from a large family, all of
whom had been generally decent to him. She was a year younger, and got seriously depressed when his
graduation approached. His thoughts were more often turned toward college, and less toward her.
Apparently, her dreams were filled with a wedding and babies, so there was an abundance of tears and
angst over the whole business of breaking up. This was way too much drama for Clarke. By the time fall
came, it was a welcome relief to pack up for school and hit the road.
After walking to the north end of campus, Clarke turned to cross the bridge. It spanned the Chippewa River
at a point where it was only fifty yards wide. The campus had been built on the wooded banks of the
southeast side, just downstream from a small park. It truly was gorgeous. The part of the park that lay on
the other side of the river was filled with oak trees hanging onto their rustred leaves, providing a quiet
place to watch the lights of the campus shimmer off of the water.
Clarke swept away a small pile of leaves that had accumulated on an old park bench, with the hope of
taking in the scene. The air had turned cooler than he had anticipated, so he decided that only a few
minutes of solitude would be possible before he had to swing back toward the dorm.
To Clarke, life felt like it had been one big contradiction. It seemed that he fit in everywhere … but
nowhere. In high school, football and baseball had been the sports that he participated in, but he rarely got
to pick his butt up off the bench. That didn’t exactly put him in with the real jocks. Taking calculus and
physics had him in classes with all of the bright kids, though he really didn’t care all that much about
working hard or getting good grades. There were a couple of friends who were rebels or rowdies, but
booze or drugs were of no interest, so he didn’t want to go down that road. Much of the way through high
school he had a fair number of female friends, but until Ellen had come along, he had been scared to death
of asking a girl out on a date. Given the choice between asking a girl out and facing a firing squad, he
would prefer the firing squad. What was the worst that the firing squad could do? A girl could make life
really miserable. As he sat watching the river go by, he found himself longing for just one clear direction
in his life … one thing of which he could be certain.
Sitting quietly with his thoughts, Clarke heard someone rustling through the fallen leaves a little way down
the river. He sat as still as possible, hoping that maybe he wouldn’t be seen … or bothered. It became
clear that it was a young woman, partly because of the way she walked, and partly because of the feminine
voice mumbling to herself. She also seemed to be crying. Not more than a few feet away, the figure
stopped in the shadows, realizing that she was being watched. Rather than turn and walk away, she just
stood still, trying to gather her composure.
“Are you okay?” Clarke asked, not sure how intrusive he should be.
“Ya … ya … I’ll be fine. I just need … to ….” Her voice trailed off without the conclusion she was
“Would you like to sit for a while?” Clarke thought that he had caught a pretty good whiff of beer and
cigarette smoke coming from this person silhouetted among the trees.
“Listen … this was really stupid of me to wander into this strange park late at night … all alone. I’ve
endured enough trouble for one day.” After a prolonged silence she asked, “I realize this is a insanely
stupid question, but are you … okay? I mean, are you going to attack me … or do something … or …?”
“Well, I suppose if I were going to attack you, I would have done it already. But this park bench might be
as safe a place as you will find close by. Otherwise, you should know that this generally isn’t the safest
park in the world for a woman to be by herself late at night.”
The shadow didn’t move for a long moment as she pondered the possibilities set before her. Finally, as she
took the last few steps that were required to arrive at the bench, Clarke got the strong impression that she
was drunk … maybe very drunk. Since he had come to college, he had enjoyed a few beers with his friends
now and then, but it never seemed interesting to be around people who were drunk. From the lights that
shimmered across the river he could tell that she was a fairly attractive girl, though rather disheveled under
“I left my ‘knight in shining armor’ suit at home, but is there anything I can do to help?”
The distressed young woman looked at Clarke like he had said something incomprehensible. She took a
long minute to process his question. “Holy crap … I just escaped one pile of heartaches … and have
nowhere to go.”
“I could walk you back to your apartment … or dorm, if you like?”
“Damn … if it were that easy. That would be one unbelievably long walk.”
It would have been easiest to start asking questions about her situation, but Clarke concluded that it might
just be safest to just keep his mouth shut, and let her disclose whatever she might wish.
“Soo … what is your name, Mr. Knight without his Shining Armor?”
“Clarke. Sorry … but I will remember the shining armor next time. How about you, Miss Damsel in
“Hannah … and yes … I am in distress … truly deep doo doo. I suppose I could share the whole stupid
story. Then you can whisk me up on your great white horse, and take me away ... or maybe shoot me and
dump my body in the river.” She looked out at the river just a few feet in front of them, “You wouldn’t
have far to drag my body.”
Hannah began with a deep breath, “You see, a couple of months ago, I started dating this guy I worked with
at a YMCA camp during the summer. I thought his armor was shining too, but now I find out that it has a
good bit of tarnish. Anyway, we went out a several times at the end of the summer, and I got all caught up
in hanging out with a real jock … something that NEVER happened to me in high school …a hockey
player, no less.”
“When August came, I started college at St. Olaf … a nice, quiet Lutheran school on a hill. Good girls go
to school there, right? I’ve loved it there … vocal music major … probably elementary education minor …
who knows. Then the Jerk … also known as Aaron, invites me up here for a weekend of fun. Pathetic me
…I had fallen for this bad boy. I was ready to give up the whole virginity crap for him … got on the pill
Clarke found this amazing. A girl was actually spilling her guts. This had never happened to him before.
Perhaps it was the booze that had broken her tongue loose. He patiently waited to hear the rest of the story.
“So today after classes were done, I caught a ride with a friend here to Eau Claire. Naturally, after I got
here, the party started. There were several friends of Mr. Hockey, and a girlfriend of one of the guys. I had
enjoyed a few parties down at St. Olaf, but nothing like this. THIS was serious drinking. I have a feeling
there might have been a pill in there somewhere too. Let’s just say, I am so unbelievably wasted that I
don’t know … I don’t know which planet I’ve arrived on.”
Just looking at her eyes, Clarke could tell that Hannah was not exaggerating. “So the party got a little
“Wild? I wish it were just wild. After a few hours of their kind of wild, the girlfriend … her name was
Cherry … or Carol … or whatever. Anyway, she told me that she had overheard someone saying that my
dear boyfriend was looking forward to sharing more than his booze with his hockey buddies. I guess that
meant they were hoping to pass me around. Even my poor, scrambled brain told me that this wasn’t a good
idea. I slipped out the back door of their apartment building and started walking. I must have walked six
or eight blocks before I got to this park. I have no clue how to get back, even if I wanted to. I fell down at
least twice walking in the dark, skinning my elbow and twisting my wrist. I probably look like
deathwarmedover. So there you have it … one serious damsel in distress.”
With that, the last word fell out of her mouth and silence returned. Hannah sat there quietly for a couple of
minutes until a deep, frightened sob broke the silence. She buried her face in her hands. Clarke had the
urge to put his arm around her to comfort her, but she probably wasn’t in the mood to trust a man … any
man. So he just sat with her as she cried. He couldn’t help but notice that it was continuing to get cooler
“Not to be too obvious, but it sounds like you need a place to sleep this off … someplace safe.” Clarke
didn’t have a clue what would be possible … or even open at this hour of the night. He thought that calling
the police might be an option, but that would probably mean that Hannah would get in some amount of
trouble. He wasn’t sure she really deserved more of that. “You could come back to my dorm. There’s
probably someone on the girl’s floor with a spare bed.”
“I’m supposed to trust you?” She looked at Clarke through her glassy eyes. “You aren’t going to haul me
up to your room and rip my clothes off?”
“I’m not trying to talk you into anything. It’s up to you.”
Hannah stared at Clarke, trying her best to look through the fog, working to figure out if she could trust this
guy that she just met. After a minute she frowned and mused, “I guess there are no great options. Be good
to me … please?” She grabbed his arm and squeezed it extra hard, hoping that he would know how serious
she was … and how frightened.
Helping Hannah back on her feet was not so easy. Her world was spinning around a little more randomly
than was helpful. Walking across the uneven ground in the park provided plenty of challenges. At one
point she very nearly went down, almost pulling Clarke down with her, but he got things generally headed
back in the right direction. After they got up onto the bridge, it went better. There was little risk of her
flopping over the railing, but he looked down at the cold water and thought about how she wouldn’t last a
few seconds if she fell in. It seemed like every few years there was a drunken college student who made
that mistake, and didn’t fare so well. He kept her on the inside part of the walkway.
Hiking back across to the north side of the campus was somewhat less challenging. Hannah still held on
tight to his arm. Clarke wondered if it was just to keep her balance, or if it provided some small amount of
comfort. As they walked, she became more talkative, going back and forth between life back at St. Olaf
and what an idiot she had been to trust Mr. Hockey. More than a few times she repeated elements of the
story that she had first shared down in the park, adding a different slant with each telling.
“Okay … we’re getting close to my dorm. You need to act as sober as possible. We don’t need anyone
suspicious about what we are doing. If nothing else works out, I will get you a blanket and a pillow, and
you can sleep in the TV lounge on the girl’s floor.”
Hannah didn’t say a word as they crossed through the entry of the dorm. The guy at the front desk took a
second to appraise the situation, giving Clarke a smirk at the thought of his good fortune. As they got in
the elevator, heading for the fifth floor, Hannah winced, “Is there any chance I could find a bathroom? I
gotta pee in a big away.”
Clarke unlocked the door to his room and steered Hannah toward the door to the bath. Each pair of dorm
rooms shared a bathroom in between, so first he took a quick glance to see if a neighbor might be using it.
He was pretty certain that those guys had both gone away for the weekend, but checked to make sure.
With Hannah shuffling around in the bathroom, Clarke listened to make sure there weren’t any crashes or
screams. The shuffling fell to silence after a moment. He concluded he was taking care of business
without additional drama.
“Hannah? I’m going to go check with some female friends to see what is possible. I’ll be back in a few
minutes. Will you be okay?”
“Yaa … ya …….ya, I think so. I just wish the spinning would stop.”
There followed another minute of silence, so Clarke headed down to the girl’s floor, hoping for a small
portion of luck. At the first door he got no response. Down the hall lived another girl who had dated a
friend of his for a while. With a tap on the door, he heard some voices. Slowly, the door opened a tiny bit.
“Clarke … what are you doing? It must be 2 o’clock.”
“There is a girl who is in serious need of a place to sleep tonight. Any chance … ?”
“Aaaah … I already have some … company, so … maybe some other time?” The girl looked over her
shoulder and smiled coyly. The door closed without another word.
This wasn’t working out so well. Clarke wasn’t much in the mood to go knocking on any more doors at
this hour. The idea about having Hannah sleep in the girl’s TV lounge seemed more reasonable by the
minute. By the time he got back up to his room, there were unhappy sounds coming out of the bathroom.
Apparently, Hannah’s stomach wanted to get rid of all contents, real or imagined. Every other word out of
her mouth was a plea for God to be done with it all … interspersed with a few other words not usually
associated with God.
Clarke leaned back in Duke’s moderately comfortable recliner, ready to wait out this poor girl’s agony.
Hannah really seemed to be a sweet girl. She surely didn’t deserve this kind of evening. Dozing between
episodes of the dry heaves, he was a little surprised when he heard the shower turn on.
Clarke walked over to the bathroom door, “Are you okay?” All he could hear over the noise of the shower
was Hannah sobbing. This had to involve some sort of mess. Vomit was not one of his favorite things. All
he could do was wait to see what had gotten in the way of her catharsis.
After the shower finally got shut down, a humiliated voice came from behind the bathroom door, “Clarke?”
“Hey … Hannah … are you feeling a little better?”
“I guess so. But I have a … problem. I got puke in my hair and on my clothes … and a few other places
too. I tried to rinse everything off … but now I’m … wet.”
“If I found a sweat suit, would you want to change into it? I could run the dirty stuff down to the laundry.
Would that be okay?”
“Yaa … I guess.”
“I will get a garbage bag. Put everything in it that needs to get washed, and hand it out. Then I can be back
in a few minutes.”
He tapped on the door to hand in the sweat suit, “It’s going to be too large, but there’s a draw string in the
waist, so you should be able to make it work.” A minute later, the bag was handed back out with the
unsavory contents. Grabbing a hand full of quarters and some laundry soap, he made his way down to the
basement of the dorm.
As Clarke loaded the clothes into the washer, he found keys and a driver’s license in the front pocket of the
jeans. Then there were her panties and a bra. He guessed that they were nicer than the average college girl
would normally wear, smiling to think that he would know anything about what college girls wear
underneath it all. His mood turned sour when it occurred to him that Hannah had probably put them on
hoping to do something special with a guy that she cared about. The Turd. He deserved to have his butt
kicked … or worse.
Climbing back up the stairs, Clarke realized how tired he was getting. It would be wonderful if the worst
part of this odyssey was over. Going back to the room, he was relieved to see Hannah stretched out on his
bed … sleeping. There was a spare blanket in the closet, so he laid it over her as carefully as he could,
trying to not wake her. Even though her hair was wet and scrambled, she looked a lot more at peace than
Clarke had seen before … almost angelic. Pulling out a sleeping bag to put over himself in the recliner, he
turned out the lights and watched Hannah sleep for a while, before closing his own eyes … at last.
“Where am I?” A face peered over the top edge of the blanket and under a tangle of hair. There was no
shortage of caution in Hannah’s voice. Allowing a few seconds for the fog to clear, “You’re … Clarke …
“Hey … I’m glad you remember that much," he said with a grin. “Do you recall much about what
happened last night?” Clarke really wasn’t feeling all that spry either. The recliner hadn’t been as
comfortable as he would have preferred. But he was mildly amused about having a hung over girl waking
up in his bed.
“How could I have been so stupid? How could I have misjudged that jerk so badly?” Hannah’s face was
twisted into a considerable frown. “What did he do to me? These aren’t my clothes.”
Clarke walked her through the basic details of the story. When he got to the part about puking in the
bathroom, Hannah pulled the blanket up over face and started to groan. This was all more humiliating than
she could handle.
“Would a cup of coffee or aspirin help at all? I can heat water in the microwave and make instant. It isn’t
great coffee, but it gets me through my 8 o’clock Electronics class. Or there may be a tea bag around here
“Yaa … I will take you up on the coffee and aspirin. Not that my stomach feels all that great … but it will
help … I hope,” Hannah said, not ready to come out from under the blanket.
“I will set you up, then I need to get down to the laundry room to move your clothes to the dryer.” Clarke
came back with the hot water, and stirred in the coffee. As Hannah sat up in bed to chase the aspirin with
the hot coffee, she noticed he was smiling.
“What are you grinning about?” pretending to be annoyed.
“I’m sorry, but you do look pretty trashed. You don’t want to look in a mirror.”
“Aah … I’m beyond caring. I just want the swelling in my head to go down.”
Clarke slipped out into the hallway with more quarters, hoping that no one was being impatient about
getting clothes into the washing machine. Most students at this institution of higher learning were probably
By the time Clarke got back to the room, Hannah was dozing again. Returning to the recliner with a
textbook that he was suppose to be working on, he pretended to read. Even in her state of disarray, it was
heart warming to think she was slowly recovering from that insane experience … which could have been
drastically worse. He shivered at the thought of what her situation would be right at this moment had she
stayed at the party. Not a good thought.
This went on for another fortyfive minutes or so until Hannah’s eyes cracked open again. With a grin she
asked, “Were you watching me sleep?”
“Sorry … Economics 101 really is riveting reading, but I just had to check every now and then to see when
you might be ready to hear about all of the fun stuff that I’m learning.” Her grin broadened into a smile.
“Our load of laundry is likely done drying by now. If you wanted to take a more thorough shower this
time, I can run and get it. You’re welcome to any shampoo or whatever. I think I may even have one of
those freebie toothbrushes that the dentist hands out. Will find it when I get back ….”
It only took a minute to fold the clothes, but he paused with the lacy bra. ‘How do you fold a bra?’ he
thought to himself. He warmed at the thought of how a special woman would someday wear a bra like that
for him. Hannah? … no … it was a pleasant thought, but he didn’t see how that would ever happen. She
seemed a little out of his league.
Shortly after Clarke had settled back into the recliner, he heard the shower turn off. He let some time pass
before asking, “You ready for your clothes? I can hand them in.” The door cracked, and an arm reached
out with an open hand. He hooked a shopping bag full of clothes on the fingers. He flushed to think what
was attached to the other end of that arm. Maybe going back to the economics book would help him get his
head reattached. Returning to the recliner, he found his place in the book.
The blow dryer hummed for a while, then there was fumbling around. Before long the door opened, and
out came a regular college girl. Hannah was petite and slender. She had long, thick, sandy colored hair,
with just a little natural wave to it. Her thin, gentle smile and soft blue eyes could melt butter. He couldn’t
help but think that she looked to be the classic St. Olaf freshman.
“You look better … much better.”
“Hmmm … I almost feel human again. I really could use that toothbrush. It tastes like an army marched
through my mouth last night.” Hannah unwrapped the new toothbrush that Clarke gave her, and returned to
the bathroom for one last effort.
“Could I interest you in brunch? There is a decent café just a few blocks away.”
Poking her head out of the bathroom, “Haven’t I intruded on your life enough already? Though, some real
coffee would be nice.”
“I was hoping that the conversation might be a bit more coherent than the one we had down by the river last
Hannah winced at that thought of what that must have been like. Sadly, she could remember only bits and
pieces. “I’m not particularly hungry, but I bet you are. Some food would be nice … but I’m buying. I owe
you big time.”
“Well … I guess I would let you buy, but these are the only artifacts you possess,” holding up the keys and
drivers license. “I think I can swing it.”
During their walk to the café, Hannah needed to process the whole mess with Aaron. She was having a
hard time fathoming how she could have been so blind. Was she that desperate that she jumped at the
chance to be with this sweettalking hockey player without really getting to know him? Where had she
gone wrong? Over lunch, the conversation evolved to talking more about themselves.
“I come from a perfectly boring uppermiddle class family in suburban Minneapolis,” Hannah offered.
“While we aren’t rich, I’ve never had to worry about money. My mom and dad … mom especially, have
always pushed me to be their perfect little angel. ‘A’s in high school … well mostly. Went to the right
church … associated with the right families. Now I’m going to the ‘right’ college. Don’t get me wrong, I
love St. Olaf. Maybe because it’s not quite as prim and proper as my mother thinks it is. She was hoping it
would be the next best thing to a convent.”
“One little brother, Allen … who is generally a pain in the butt. He keeps my mom relentlessly plucking
gray hairs. I’ve never told him, but with all of his shenanigans, I’m thankful that it takes some of the
pressure off me.”
After a lull in the conversation, Hannah got tears in her eyes, “I don’t quite know how to thank you. With
all of the stuff that went on last night, I was in a pretty vulnerable situation. Some boys might have … you
know … taken advantage of me. You’re a saint for putting up with … with what you did … laundry and
Blushing, Clarke tried to find some way to respond. Hannah gave his hand a gentle squeeze, letting him
know that he didn’t have to respond. It just made him blush all the more. This was the kind of attention
that he’d never gotten from a girl before … especially one as classy as she was.
Lunch, a pot of coffee and a couple of hours slipped by without a break in their easy chatter. It almost felt
like Clarke broke a spell when he asked, “Do you have any ideas about what you’re going to do with the
rest of your weekend?”
A frown returned to Hannah’s face that Clarke hadn’t seen in a while. “I suppose I need to figure out how
to get back to St. Olaf … probably, the sooner, the better. This whole business still has my head whirling.
Maybe if I can get back to my dorm, get a good night’s sleep and return to some sort of routine, I can put
this all behind me.”
“I need to go to the hockey hall of fame, and get my suitcase and purse. I suppose there must be a bus
station that will head me back toward Northfield.”
Clarke was saddened at the thought of Hannah’s departure. “Why don’t you let me get my car, and we can
collect your stuff, then figure things out from there?”
It took a while to find the apartment complex, but eventually Hannah recognized Aaron’s car. When she
knocked on the door, one of Aaron’s roommates opened the door without saying a word. “I need to get my
stuff.” The roommate stepped down the hallway, grabbed her things, handed them to her and closed the
door without any sign of thought. It was hard to tell if he might have been embarrassed at being part of last
night’s plan, or if he was still just terribly hung over. Whichever the case, Hannah and Clarke were quite
relieved that there was no serious drama involved.
Back in the car, Clarke offered, “I have some homework that I need a reason to avoid doing. If you would
be willing to put your bus money in my gas tank, I would enjoy giving you a ride back to Northfield.”
Hannah had tears in her eyes. “I already owe you a whole lot more than bus money.”
“Don’t worry about it. Now I will have something to put on my ‘Knight in Shining Armor’ resume.
Besides, it’s been really … nice to get to know you.”
The trip down through the Twin Cities and south to Northfield was pretty uneventful, largely because
Hannah slept most of the way. As Clarke turned the corner to go up the hill that brought them on to the St.
Olaf campus, he was struck by how beautiful it was. Just from appearance, he could see how Hannah
would love it there.
Pulling up in front of her dorm, Clarke got out and walked around to say goodbye. He had hoped for a nice
hug, but Hannah squeezed him a harder than he expected. He would spend many occasions wondering
what that might have meant.
“Thank you.” There was a parade of other things that she really wanted to say, but nothing else came out.
With a tear running down her cheek, she hugged him again and shoved a piece of paper into his hand.
As Clarke drove back down the hill leaving the campus, he glanced at the scrap of paper. It was Hannah’s
The Fall of 1981
More than a few years had gone by since they had met on that fateful night down by the river. There had
been opportunities for hopes and expectations to rise and fall. Through it all, they had maintained a
wonderful friendship. Now Clarke was feeling the squeeze. He had accomplished so many things to send
his life in a given direction, but there was one thing that simply was not fitting into place, and time was
running out. He was trying to muster some courage, but it was far less than he knew he needed. To act
now would make such a mess of things for so very many people. Like many times before, Clarke wanted
to call Hannah, but this time he simply didn’t know what he would say. There was a universe of feelings
that were immensely difficult to put into words.
Looking back over the past seven years, Hannah had been bedrock for him. After they had met back in
college, they had pretty regularly kept in touch. For the first several years, there was rarely a week that
they didn’t talk on the phone. They even ‘dated’ a few times, but timing always seemed to get in the way.
Freshman year, he had gone over to St. Olaf for the big Christmas concert that she was singing in, but
meeting her parents turned out to be weird. They naturally had a high opinion of their daughter, and felt
that it would be only right for her to aspire to date someone who was looking to be a doctor or lawyer …
maybe a pastor. An engineering student from a state school just wasn’t quite what they had in mind. It
wasn’t like they were rude or anything, but reading the subtle cues, they weren’t welcoming him with open
arms. He found out later that Hannah been forced to endure a substantial lecture regarding their
expectations for her choice of husband.
A year later Clarke and Hannah had decided to meet at an Eric Clapton concert in the Twin Cities, but both
came with several friends, so it amounted to little more than a few minutes chatting at the concession stand
in a noisy hallway.
Clarke would occasionally stop in Northfield on his way home to see his parents. Hannah would pass
through Eau Claire on her way skiing in the winter, or headed to a friend’s cabin up in northern Wisconsin.
Coffee and laughter were always abundant, but they never found a way to put into words how much they
treasured the relationship. Neither of them found a way to bring up the subject.
Then Hannah started dating Brad, a chemistry major at St. Olaf. While Clarke had suffered more than a
few pangs of jealousy, they both continued to enjoy their weekly chats on the telephone. Hannah confided
a surprising number of the details of her new relationship to Clarke, trying to get him to share his
perspective as a man. She really liked the idea of Brad being the love of her life, but they simply weren’t
doing that well at being friends. The conversations she had with Brad were great, but oddly, it never took
very long for them to run out of things to say to each other. Whereas when she talked to Clarke, their
desire to avoid insanely high phone bills were the only thing that got them to hang up. It was wonderfully
easy to be friends.