Forty years earlier, I was a sophomore student in Kolkata, India, when Dick Johnson, my father’s new colleague from New York, moved into the apartment next door. With him came his wife Esther and daughter, Catherine Isabella. Cathy could not bear the burden of her polysyllabic name and promptly reduced it to a short, spiffy Cathy. It fitted her better, for she was lively, brisk and direct. Meeting me for the first time, she smiled shyly, but then quickly took my hand and said, “I’ll be your friend.”
I left town when I graduated, and Cathy went about the same time to a boarding school far away. A few years later the Johnsons returned to the US.
Forty years later I moved to Washington with a UN job, and, in a remarkable coincidence, had lunch with a colleague who had known the Johnsons when they were alive and living in New York. He found Cathy’s address for me: married and divorced, she now lived with her daughter in Maryland and worked as a teacher.
As Cathy came forward and kissed me, I whispered the words I had always wanted to tell her but never dared to articulate, “You look beautiful!”