She would wait for my philosophy class to end, when I'd see her statuesque figure hovering in the hall. Dr. Parejko watched for her, too, and one morning made a crack about McGrath's "better half" being late. Students laughed.
Wednesday before midterms, the book sat closed on her lap.
"What's next for you, David?"
"Shouldn't we review vocabulary?"
"Ten years from now, what do you see?"
She searched for her Winstons while I described my likely career path. She lit one up as I finished. "Practical plans, sure. But what do you wonder about?"
I started in with my curiosity about other dimensions in life, like the collective consciousness in nature hinted at by Jack London. I segued to D.H. Lawrence and heightened human encounter. I paused, but my worry about boring her was consumed in those firefly eyes as she tilted forward, a wayward strand of hair across her cheek.
It grew late, her book still unopened.
"Can we study after work?" she asked.
"Isn't tonight Telly's?"
"I won't miss much. There's a reason they blast the music."
Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I slaved in Jewel's basement, wearing cowhide gloves to smash empty boxes and stuff the cardboard flats into the baler.
Like a ghost, Marianne suddenly appeared behind me, tears in her eyes. But then I realized it was the snowflakes, all in her hair, glinting on her face and shoulders.
The pink hem of her cashier's uniform extended below her gray wool coat. She seemed nervous, vulnerable.
I felt something melt inside, and she could have asked me anything: Fly to China? Run barefoot in the snow? I would have obeyed unquestioningly.
"David, on days we don't have tutoring, do you miss us as badly as I do?"
Though I would not tell her I loved her till Christmas, I knew it in that moment.
I held her but did not yet kiss her. Careful not to mess things up, to insinuate myself too soon. For that would happen slowly, with gradual intensity and continuously escalating joy over the next four decades.
We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on Aug. 5. Contrary to what I previously thought, I'd still not gotten a date on my own; for Marianne confessed she had never actually needed help with her German.
David McGrath is emeritus English professor, College of DuPage, and author of "The Territory," a story collection. Marianne taught fourth grade for 23 years. They have three grown children: Mike, Jackie and Janet. He can be reached at email@example.com.