Question at the Well


Robb Broughton ’08 and Katharine Phlegar ’08 recently became engaged. What follows is Robb’s account of that event.

Awake. 7:30 a.m. No, too early. It’s Saturday. Can’t push too early or she’ll know. 7:40 a.m. Time never moves this slow when I’m asleep. The room is really bright. It’s March, sunrise getting earlier. Maybe that will get her up. 8 a.m. It has got to be 8 a.m. One hour to get up down clean packed food coffee ring.  Two hours on the road, that’s 11 a.m. I-85 means traffic. Which means 11:30 a.m. Parents at noon.  Sharp. They’re never late, but they know and they’ll understand late. She doesn’t, though, so she won’t.  Not yet. So, can’t keep the parents waiting. Can’t do it after lunch either. They know, and Dave’s poker face is terrible. Beside, that ring is going to burn a hole in my pocket. 11:30 a.m. So it’s got to be 8 a.m.

8 a.m. Alarm. Quite unnecessary. God, she’s beautiful in the morning sun. Fair soft smooth wonderful beautiful sleepy smiling. Been like that for as long as I remember. I remember one morning in Winston, I swear a halo over her head. Not this time though. Light’s wrong. Beautiful anyway though. Got to go. 8:15 a.m. 45 minutes to go. Got to go.

Showered dressed packed bags in the car, hers and mine. Soon enough anyway. Ring in coat pocket, zipped. Box was too big. Jeweler’s bag instead. Can’t be uncovered in the pocket, too much lint. Can’t let her see it for the first time with lint. Check. It’s there. Check. It’s still there. Coat on my back. In the car, that’s suspicious. I never wear a coat in the car. Better say it’s cold outside, I’m cold, it is cold. Now she’s got a coat. Dammit, should have seen that coming. Heavy parka isn’t the sexiest thing to say “I do” in.  Deal with it later. 9:05 a.m. Got to go.

No food in the kitchen. Stupid. Bachelor. Not much longer though. Got to stop. 9:10 a.m. Got to go.

Bagels. Quick close on the way. Line though. Cinnamon raisin everything honey walnut cream cheese. I taught her that. No coffee. Jumpy enough. Let her pay, that’s fine. I paid for the ring and that’s worth a bagel at least, I guess. Check. It’s there. Check. It’s still there, and better than hers and hers and hers. She doesn’t know though. Should have paid because she doesn’t know. Doesn’t matter now. 9:30 a.m. Got to go.

On the road. Again. A decade on the road, really. On the road and on the floor. North South East West. I graduated and got a degree when I should have gotten a sleeping bag. Mostly for her, but others too.  Probably know I-95 better than my own neighborhood these days. Wait. I-85. This is I-85. On the way to Davidson, anyway. I know that. Not much longer on the road though. It’ll work out. Dad said so. It’ll work out. Mom said so. It’ll work out. Grandmom laughed. It’ll work out. Hasn’t yet. It’ll work out.

One-hundred and fifty radio stations beamed from space and nothing to listen to. Deep tracks from George Thorogood aren’t exactly setting the mood. ‘Katharine, my love, will you marry me? Yes, my love, I will but first I want one bourbon one scotch one beer.’ GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD. Try broadcast radio. An old friend. Late nights, empty roads, strangers’ voices. Lots of them. Check. It’s there. Check. It’s still there. Dammit I’m nervous. Dammit she’s so damn pretty with that light on her hair. Dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit. I hope hope hope hope hope. 11 a.m. Time’s good. We’re close.

11:20 a.m. Parked. Summit Coffee. Another old friend. Sunny day is good. Coat is hot, and she still has hers oh well she can take it off for the photos. Glad it’s a sunny day. Rain would have ruined everything.  It’ll work out. It’ll work out. 11:30 a.m.

Coffee quick. She got that one too—that’s two I owe her. Want to sit can’t sit maybe tomorrow afterwards. Got to go now. Time for one sugar not two. Quit being stupid there’s always time for two.  Got to go. Twenty minutes to laugh cry love kiss hug watch it shine in the sun. And remember. Twenty is enough. Maybe twenty-five. We’ll be late but not too bad. 11:35 a.m. Got to get to the Well.

The Well. Middle of Davidson’s campus. Picturesque idyllic serene perfect place. Norman Rockwell stuff. No she hates him. Marc Chagall stuff. There’s a legend about the Well and I asked her if she knew it once years ago and she said no. She lied. We kissed and I asked and she lied. It was dark then, and warm, and years ago. But we kissed and I asked and she lied. She knew. And I knew too. Must be something to it. I hope hope hope hope hope.

She wants to walk cannot walk got to sit cannot do this on the fly. Sit down. She did too God bless her.  She sat too. Right side left side my right is her left make the little L with your hand don’t let her see you. Forget it sit down settle down calm down. Breathe. Hand doesn’t matter. Gotta get the finger right though. The one next to the pinky. Check. It’s there. Check. It’s still there. Out of the jeweler’s bag into the pocket. Lint be damned.

Conversation has got to be right. The moment. That’s what they remember, right? The moment. The story matters, I’m going to tell this story the rest of my life. We will. Our life. I hope hope hope hope hope.

Basketball team nice but no. Wrong. Keep going. Cute family on the quad. Getting there. Whatever happened to those people from college? Way off. Memories. Close. Her and me. Closer. Unzip the pocket. In this town. Closer. Hand into pocket. On this campus. Closer. Hand out of pocket. In this place.  That’s it. It’s time. Ten years already. It’s time. Fifty or sixty more. I hope hope hope hope hope. It’s time. It’s time. Ask her.

“Hey Katharine…”Robb Broughton


About Author

Robb Broughton

Robb holds a history degree from Davidson College and a juris doctorate from Wake Forest University. Katharine Phlegar holds a studio arts degree from Davidson College and a master’s degree from The George Washington University. She is a nationally board certified art therapist and currently works with the North Carolina nonprofit Arts for Life, while Robb litigates on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Justice. Read more about their uniquely Davidsonian courtship—including evading the albino skunk and Easter during the 2008 NCAA tournament—at

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