Saturday, May 16, 2020

a peek into my mind and heart

How different would my life have been had I had the courage to chase after the girl I was head-over-heels for in high school? She was co-captain of the cross-country team, and she ended up being one of two salutatorians in 1987, the year we all graduated. She had large, brown eyes, dark and kinky hair (she was half-Greek), a gorgeous, heart-melting smile, and muscular calves that made me realize there's more to a woman's body than tits and ass. I can't tell you how many times I fantasized about just sitting with her by a warm fire—her on the couch, me on the floor—just massaging those calves.

I don't know whether she ever realized how much I liked her. She had a track-buddy friend named Steve, and I mentioned to him that I'd be interested in taking her out to the prom, but I never followed through, even after Steve relayed to me that, were I to ask her, she would definitely say yes. But maybe she did have some inkling about how I felt: the night we all graduated, I was doing my usual introvert thing, hanging around by myself, leaning against one of our school's cool brick walls and radiating my usual benign aloofness. My 1980s-era contact lenses, covered in nasty, dotted protein deposits thanks to a general lack of care, chose that very evening to become too painful to wear, so I tossed them in a nearby trash can and spent the rest of the evening in a literal blur. (Yes: I didn't even see my own graduation. Not clearly, anyway.) As I leaned against the wall, aloof and alone, I held my graduation-ceremony program close to my face to try and read it. Someone quietly walked up to me and took a wall-leaning position right next to me. She said nothing, but I knew it was her.

So we stood together in companionable silence for a bit. I can't remember who talked first. I can't remember what we might have said to each other in the hour before the graduation ceremony was to begin. I do remember being supremely happy, though. Of all the people she could have stood next to, she'd chosen to stand by me. So we talked a bit, and she hung with me a bit, and then it was time for all of us to hit the ceremony. I can't remember whether she gave one of the salutatory speeches; we also had two valedictorians that year, so it's possible that all four young ladies spoke.

Come to think of it, because I was a class senator my senior year, I had to engage in certain senior-class activities, like painting our banner (the seniors lost the banner contest, and all the other competitions, big-time that year). The banner-painting happened at her house: her family was rich; they lived in a rich neighborhood filled with McMansions, and her house had a huge basement where we could roll out a giant banner and paint it. We had maybe three or four painting sessions at her house; I met her parents. And at almost all of those sessions, I'd somehow contrive to be the last one to leave. So, yeah: maybe she knew. And maybe that's why she quietly came up to me and leaned against the wall next to me on graduation night.

We actually kept in contact during college and a little bit after. She went to the US Air Force Academy; I had seriously considered going too, but that would've only been to chase after her, and I realized such a decision was silly. I ended my campaign to enter USAFA after I'd gotten the first of two congressional signatures required for admission, and I went to Georgetown instead. I graduated from undergrad in 1991; in 1993, I found out that she had graduated from USAFA as a second lieutenant and was stationed in Osan, Korea. During the 1992-94 period, I was in the middle of two years in hell, teaching high-school French and English to ungrateful, overprivileged students at a private Catholic high school in Arlington, Virginia; in the summer between those two academic years—in 1993—I took a trip to South Korea to reconnect with relatives and try to practice my garbage-level Korean skills. It was while I was there that I went down to Osan to meet her.

She was still beautiful, still smart, still kind. Thanks to her, those are the three qualities I always look for in a woman. No bitches, no superficial idiots, no drama queens, no desperate whores or other sundry trash. We saw a movie together on base: "In the Line of Fire," with Clint Eastwood. We had dinner. It was almost like a date (and I think I blabbered way too much), except for the fact that she'd said, right up front when we first met in Osan, that she had a fiancé named Keith (I actually met him briefly). It was a weird day; she showed me her on-base lodgings, and I ended up spending the night there before going back to Seoul in the morning. She spent the night in her fiancé's place; part of my brain grumbled with jealousy about that. Another part was happy for her, though. Her fiancé seemed to be a trim, handsome guy—officer material. They struck me as a good match.

One weird thing happened the night I spent in her housing: she inadvertently revealed a less-than-savory aspect of her character. At one point, she opened up a closet that was very tall and very wide, but not that deep. In it were purses—floor to ceiling, nothing but purses. With a combination of pride and sheepishness when she saw my astonished face, she told me that "the shopping was good" in Korea, so she'd been going a bit nuts with the purse thing. I didn't say anything to her, but in my head, I experienced my first strongly negative reaction around her: she was a crass materialist. Maybe it was because she came from a rich family. Maybe she was making up for lost time after experiencing the austerity of a military academy. I'm not a monk when it comes to my own possessions, but all I have are books. Okay—I have some clothes, a bit of utilitarian furniture, and other household items, but everything I own—even now, in 2020—can fit on the back of a small Korean flatbed truck and still not fill that space entirely. Her closet, jammed with purses in 1993... well, that was a sight, and I recall being somewhat crestfallen. I suppose you could say that she proved to be only human after all, per the lyrics of the Level 42 song "Something About You."

We may have corresponded once or twice after that 1993 meet-up in Osan, but we lost touch. When I was on LinkedIn, I looked her up and discovered she was a professor of Russian Studies at some university in Kansas, so I guess she got a Ph.D. I'd heard, in the intervening years, that she'd gotten divorced, but someone that lovely doesn't stay alone forever; she doubtless found someone else. Maybe she's got kids. She's almost a year older than I am, so she'd be about 51 now. I wonder whether she's still into long-distance running. She was always muscular, never really slender, per se; I have to wonder whether time has been kind to her.

Anyway, yeah: in my head, that Level 42 song—which came out while I was in high school—is forever associated with her. Whenever it plays, my mind travels back to the 1980s, when I and the world seemed to be simpler, more innocent. I still wonder about her occasionally, and I do still miss her lovely, brown eyes and her warm, dimpled smile. Some ladies since that time have captivated me for the same reason, and I find myself wondering whether those later ladies were attractive to me simply because they were echoes of her.


Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Beautiful . . .

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, Jeff. Guess I'm in a pensive mood tonight.

John Mac said...

Did you happen to hear that song or did something else trigger your memory of her? It was nice to hear your story about her and it's pretty amazing that those feelings still exist after all these years.

I often (probably too often) look back on the crossroads of my life and play the "what if" game. I'm thinking about what would have happened had you actually attended the Air Force Academy. Things still might not have worked out with her, but maybe you'd have been done a military career. Hell, you'd be retired now, drawing that lifetime pension, and living in, oh, I don't know, Wyoming.

Anyway, maybe you two are living happily ever after in a parallel universe somewhere. Thanks for sharing this heartwarming story.

Daniel said...

Beautiful story. Reach out and see how she's doing now?

Kevin Kim said...


It's certainly interesting to ponder an alternate-universe scenario. As for what prompted the post: the song just popped into my head. I hunted down the video on YouTube, started thinking about the 80s, and here we are.


I just peeked at her LinkedIn. She's apparently teaching at USAFA as an adjunct prof. She only has a Master's, not a Ph.D., and she's using her original surname. Hmmm. As for getting in touch... if I were still on LinkedIn, I might think about it, but at this point, it's probably better to leave the past in the past.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Kevin said: "at this point, it's probably better to leave the past in the past."

Jeff replies:"No. At this point, it's best to re-acquaint and see if there's a chance for happiness."

John Mac said...

Enjoyed reading this again. Ah, the "what ifs" of life...