Professor Hits A Wall And Falls In Love

Feb 16, 2012
Originally published on February 17, 2012 7:34 am

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.

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We hear from StoryCorps on Fridays. For this project people have been sitting in a recording booth and interviewing loved ones. Gwendolyn Diaz came with her husband, Henry Flores. They met in the mid-80s. She had just started teaching at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. He was already a professor there, and the new faculty member caught his eye.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HENRY FLORES: I was walking down the hallway and I noticed the last office in the hallway's door was open.

GWENDOLYN DIAZ: And I was sitting in my office and I noticed this man walking by.

FLORES: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORES: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORES: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DIAZ: I was curious. 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.

FLORES: I gave her a cigarette and 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORES: So I cleaned all the ash trays in my office. There's three of them.

DIAZ: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORES: We started going out after that, and we went out dancing. I asked permission to kiss you.

DIAZ: And 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. And I didn't say anything, but I was thinking, he doesn't know what intense is yet.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DIAZ: And after, what, 17, 18 years, it's not always perfect, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Gwendolyn Diaz and her husband Henry Flores at StoryCorps in San Antonio. Their conversation will be archived in the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. Read about their story in the new book: "All There is: Love Stories From StoryCorps."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.