Excerpt: 'Living History'

We both had wanted to see a Mark Rothko exhibit at the Yale Art Gallery but, because of a labor dispute, some of the university's buildings, including the museum, were closed. As Bill and I walked by, he decided he could get us in if we offered to pick up the litter that had accumulated in the gallery's courtyard. Watching him talk our way in was the first time I saw his persuasiveness in action. We had the entire museum to ourselves. We wandered through the galleries talking about Rothko and twentieth-century art. I admit to being surprised at his interest in and knowledge of subjects that seemed, at first, unusual for a Viking from Arkansas. We ended up in the museum's courtyard, where I sat in the large lap of Henry Moore's sculpture Draped Seated Woman while we talked until dark. I invited Bill to the party my roommate, Kwan Kwan Tan, and I were throwing in our dorm room that night to celebrate the end of classes. Kwan Kwan, an ethnic Chinese who had come from Burma to Yale to pursue graduate legal studies, was a delightful living companion and a graceful performer of Burmese dance. She and her husband, Bill Wang, another student, remain friends. Bill came to our party but hardly said a word. Since I didn't know him that well, I thought he must be shy, perhaps not very socially adept or just uncomfortable. I didn't have much hope for us as a couple. Besides, I had a boyfriend at the time, and we had weekend plans out of town. When I came back to Yale late Sunday, Bill called and heard me coughing and hacking from the bad cold I had picked up. "You sound terrible," he said. About thirty minutes later, he knocked on my door, bearing chicken soup and orange juice. He came in, and he started talking. He could converse about anything — from African politics to country and western music. I asked him why he had been so quiet at my party.

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