Our story begins with my high school Spanish teacher, who perpetuated a style of teaching that most students found grueling and abominable. Many an idle lunchtime was spend arguing over ways to deal with her, when one student (me) was heard to suggest:

"Why don't we just make a thousand paper cranes?"

A little background: Japanese legend would suggest that any poor soul who folds one thousand origami cranes would have a wish granted to him by the gods. This is exhibited in the book Sadako And The Thousand Paper Cranes, in which a girl who became afflicted with leukemia following the U.S. bombing of Japan tried to cure herself by following the legend.

Anyway, the suggestion quickly met with ridicule from those around me, but I persevered. Later that day, I walked to the school library and checked out a book on origami. By the end of the block, I had five cranes (each made out of the worksheets she'd given us that day), individually numbered.

My so-called friends expressed doubt that I would ever finish such a project. I became the focus of a lot of betting as people gambled as to when and if I would finish.

Weeks passed. All of my free time (and class time) was spent folding cranes -- out of Altoids wrappers, my homework, paperback books -- anything in sight. Soon enough, I had reached:

500 paper cranes! Wait... crud.

More weeks passed. Bets expired. Doubt reigned supreme. I continued my vigil quietly, hanging the cranes from my ceiling as I went. The quest had continued nearly two months. But one day in History class, one of my classmates noticed me folding a very large piece of paper.

"What's that?" she asked naively.

"Oh, it's a paper crane to wish away my Spanish teacher. I've made a thousand once I finish this one."

"Wow!", she said, altogether too loudly. "You made a thousand origami swans?"

Before I could correct her, those who had heard of my exploits were rushing across the room. I finished the thousandth crane moments later, about six inches across each way, and safety pinned it to my shirt, writing a triumphant "1000" across the top.

My Spanish teacher didn't even ask what it was for... sadly, she's still there. The hopes of a generation were dashed.

The moral of the story? Don't buy into ancient Japanese legend. I've learned from all this, as well -- now I trade old lamps for new on the street.

Post-script: Another unfortunate consequence of this adventure is that hanging the cranes from the ceiling is a mind-boggling task indeed, and about 750 still sit in a big, distinctly un-Japanese origami pile in the corner of my room.

It was another 35-degree January afternoon, the doldrum of every law student's existence--the week that fall semester grades are posted. Our first grade had just gone online. They weren't posted publicly, but you could tell who got what. The winners smiled and laughed hesitantly, waiting for their turn to fail; the losers wandered about looking tired and confused. I wandered, in my own tired and confused way, across the street to the subway, blending into a cluster of similarly tired and confused people.

There was one girl who I'd been eyeing since the first day of classes. She was gorgeous, smart, single, with a pretty voice and a big smile, and therefore completely out of my league. As I passed through the turnstile, I saw her wrapped in a black scarf and wooly overcoat, looking as if she were freezing to death in the heated subway tunnel.

"Are you all right?" I asked her.

"I'm sick," she said. "I'm on three different antibiotics and nothing's helping. Maybe I just need to go home and go to sleep."

"Maybe." I wanted to hold her right there and then--screw the social norms and screw the virus. Her eyes seemed to be shivering behind her scarf.

We got on the train together. She sat down; I stood by the door. A few minutes later, I reached my stop and said goodbye. The sky was ghostly white on the walk home, the air cold and damp, the sidewalk vaguely muddy beneath my feet.

I went to work unpacking the rest of the books and papers I brought from Florida. Between stacks of Japanese textbooks, I found a set of Dale Carnegie books, my father's souvenirs from a training workshop two decades before. Below the Dale Carnegie books, an unopened package of origami paper, still carrying a price tag from Loft in Osaka, where I had bought it five years before.

My mind took over my hands. I opened the package, thumbed through the colors, and pulled out a little square of lavender paper. Two minutes later, I had a tiny paper crane in my hands. I slipped it into my bag.

The next day, I found her at the coffee shop downstairs, ordering a cup of hot tea.

"Hey," I said, "do you feel any better today?"

Her face was already answering that question for me, but she obliged me with a verbal response as well. "Not really."

I reached into my bag and gave her the little pink crane. "Take this. It'll make you better."

She took the crane, turned it in her hands. "What is it?"

"It's a crane," I said. "In Japan, they say that cranes can do all sorts of things."

She smiled--a prettier smile than I had seen yet--still turning the crane in her hands. "Thoughtful," I heard her say softly. Then she looked up at me. "Thank you..."

"I just thought you might..." What did I think she might? "Well, you know."

She smiled and thanked me again, then went off down the hallway.

Later that afternoon, I sat in the library, engrossed in another constitutional law case. My highlighter stopped, and I looked up. She was standing across from me, still smiling.

"Hey," she said, "I think it worked!"

After that, I never studied alone in the library again.

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