Henry Flores was walking down the hallway at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio when he noticed that the last office in the hallway’s door was open.
“I just kind of looked inside to see who was in there, and I saw a flash of ankle, and I saw this blond hair, and I went smack-dab into the wall,” says Flores, who is now a professor of political science and dean of the graduate school at St. Mary’s.
It was the mid-1980s and Gwendolyn Diaz, who had just joined the university faculty, was sitting in the office.
“Well, the very next day, about the same time, I was walking down the hallway again, saw the same door open, I looked inside, and I walked into the wall again in the same identical place. I went running back to my office, and I closed the door, and I said, ‘You idiot!’ ” he recalls during a conversation with Diaz at StoryCorps in San Antonio. “All of a sudden I hear this knock on my door, and I open it, and it’s you! And you just kind of stare at me and say, ‘You got a cigarette?’ “
Diaz, who is currently director of the graduate English literature and language program at St. Mary’s, was curious about all this wall bumping.
“The first time that you bumped into the wall, I thought, ‘Hmm, that guy’s a little uncoordinated.’ But the second time I thought you’d taken notice of the new girl in the hallway,” she says.
Flores gave her the cigarette.
“She kind of stared at me and turned around, walked away and didn’t say a thing. I said to myself, ‘What do I do to … meet this beautiful woman?’ I thought about it for a second, and I said, ‘An ashtray!’ “
Flores cleaned all three of the ashtrays in his office before heading back down to Diaz’s office.
“I remember when you came with the three ashtrays and you gave me one to pick, I thought, ‘Hmm, maybe there was something to that bumping into the walls,’ ” says Diaz.
The couple started dating, and during a night out dancing, Flores asked permission to kiss Diaz.
“We weren’t terribly young, and I told you something like, ‘You shouldn’t have to ask.’ You looked at me straight in the eye with a serious look, and you said, ‘I have to warn you, I’m very intense,’ ” Diaz says. “And I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking, ‘He doesn’t know what intense is yet.’
“And … it’s not always perfect, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo.