GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
OK, so I have a friend, and for the purposes of this confession, I'm going to change his name to Rafiq (ph) - his name is not Rafiq. Now, when I first met Paul - Rafiq at university, I marveled because he was maybe the single most goofiest-looking individual I'd ever seen up close.
And it wasn't just his big ears and bug eyes and weirdly balanced head bone, it was his sense of style. This brother, he casually paired together a pith helmet with some high-rider gym shorts, maybe throw in a Michael Jackson "Thriller" jacket on his way out of the door. And we're going to organic chemistry class - right? - not Comic-Con.
And I don't know when I started forgetting what he looked like, but I did forget because his appearance wasn't the most important thing about him. And for real, this wacky flamboyance wasn't even the eighth- or ninth-most important thing about him because he had this big, old heart. Maybe I'm moping 'cause some girly's not feeling me the way I'm feeling her, and I get a note telling me to keep my head up from Rafiq. And it wasn't just me. He would show love to everybody like a child might, only he was a grown man. Instead, he'd listen to people's problem - big, open smiles, way-too-loud laughs. It was ridiculous.
One day, he signed us up to hold babies at the hospital 'cause he thought that would be a good idea. Fool, what you signing me up for? Well, I showed up. Yeah, it was a pretty good idea. And when we went out, the ladies, they dug him - this goofy-looking dude. And the more he learned about himself, he decided he liked guys, and they liked him, too. Who's your friend? He's so handsome. Rafiq is a lot of things; handsome is not one of them. We ended up living together, graduated university, and I moved away. We didn't get to hang out enough, you know? But he was still in my heart.
And one day, I go to his hometown where he lives. And I'm at a coffee shop with a friend, and I am excited. I tell her, I cannot wait for you to meet Rafiq. And in the meantime, I'm kind of people watching. Look, look, look, look, look, look - that one's got that big hair, and that dude's doing a "Monty Python" walk. And then she says, whoa, check out this guy. And, of course, there he is, Rafiq. And I am so happy. But for a moment, I try to see him through her eyes - walking through downtown in a wizard cape, cowboy boots and a Superman shirt. And I'm like, listen, you are not going to believe this - I know this - but that dude, that dude right there, is the coolest dude in the world. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.