|This is not her but pretty close.|
The deep lined face of the old Chinese man across from me on the bus. His leathery skin and dour demeanor. The sadness of those eyes. The sorrow and heaviness in his countenance. The desperate quiet of his posture. On the verge of shrinking within himself and perhaps hoping too.
I carried my glories around in pants pockets. The real mingled there with the imaginary. It could be difficult to distinguish what I had done from what I wanted to have done. I was at the mercy of the next thing to come out of my mouth.
I was 30 and she only 19. Her name was Kristina and she was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever laid eyes on. She had long luscious blonde hair cascading down from her head and I wanted to swim in it. If only I could stop getting lost in her deep blue eyes. Kristina had been on the swim team in high school. She’d swam competitively enough to have a lean fat free body but had not been good enough to become muscular. That is to say she had what most men — and believe me I was most men — would consider a perfectly proportioned body.
Kristina was young, innocent, and not just virginal but a virgin. She practiced a form of christianity that I never understood but learned preached sexual abstinence before marriage. I was a seasoned lover by this time and in fact had a permanent girlfriend who I hoped to (and eventually did) make my future wife. But at the time she lived hundreds of miles away.
I met Kristina at a large gathering of Bay Area Finns. Like me she was American born of Finnish ancestry. I wouldn't have approached it were not for the fact that I was fortified with enough liquor to be courageous but not so much that I slurred my words. She was taken by my wit and charm as many women were. Plus she was too innocent to see through me.
One question that immediately arises is: what did I hope to achieve in a relationship with this sweet kid? I was really only attracted to her because of her physical appearance and perhaps to a very pretty voice and I suppose to that overwhelming purity. But I had no end game. This was a relationship that had nowhere to go. Yet I pursed this dead end avidly and felt love sick to the very pit of my stomach.
Kristina and I had a few dates spread out over the course of several months. It was difficult to get together owing to conflicting schedules and the fact that I required a lot of my free time for drinking, drugs and carousing. Smitten or not.
Dates with Kristina were of course chaste affairs with barely any hand holding and not a hint of a kiss. I flattered and regaled and she was just aw shucks cute. Actually she was stunning. Kristina had not the slightest pretense. She was good and pure and to tell the truth a deathly boring individual whose sole allure beyond physical beauty was that she was totally enamored of me. Me! This beautiful girl thought the world of me — though not nearly enough to consider tossing religious convictions to the wind for a roll in the hay. For all our dates I remained stone cold sober which for me then was the ultimate sacrifice.
Matters finally settled themselves when I invited to her the company Christmas bash. It was a big meal in a fancy hotel and there was an open bar that damn it all I wouldn’t be able to take full advantage of.
I proudly squired Kristina to the soiree. Eyes everywhere turned to peep this devastating blonde on my arm. I strutted about like a peacock. We settled into our table and awaited the coming feast. There were bottles of wine at each table just to taunt me. Then the miracle. Kristina asked me “shall we be a little naughty and have some wine?” My heart soared. I said I thought that it would be all right. We had a glass. Actually I had two. What harm could it do? But the bottle was done and that was that and I’d have to carry on the rest of the evening with only a slight buzz that would soon fade.
Soon the dancing commenced but before we took to the floor I needed to visit the little boy’s room. My walk there took me by the open bar. Resistance was futile. I’d been down this road before. No stopping at one. I ordered a double brandy which I took down in a couple of swallows on the way to pee. On the way back I stopped for another double brandy.
Back to Kristina now feeling a proper glow, we had a dance. Then another. Then Kristina had to powder her nose and I took the opportunity her absence provided to zip over to the bar and order a couple more of those double brandies. I was now drunk.
We danced some more. Then I explained to my date that I had to go schmooze for a bit with a senior co worker. Of course the babe in the woods bought this bogus line and I went over to the bar and schmoozed with some more double brandies.
The rest of the evening was a blur. I remember walking around the city and going to the top floor of a building where there was a bar with a magnificent view of the city. I doubtless had a drink there. I also recall Kristina dropping me off (yes, she drove) and that I futilely tried to kiss her goodnight. She fended me off with an arm as I recall.
The next morning I woke up with the inevitable hangover worsened by the terrible fears of what I might have said and done in those hours I didn’t remember and how Kristina was feeling about me after having to ward off my attempted kiss. This was true torture. Sure I'd had morning afters before and plenty of them and I'd dealt with that awful feeling of missing hours and speculating on what I had said and done. But this was the worst yet because I'm sure I must have ruined my chances with Kristina. (what those chances were I couldn't have told you.)
I waited a day before calling her. It took all the nerve I could muster to dial the phone. I was ready to offer the most heartfelt apology of a lifetime and any excuses I could muster. Somehow it didn't strike me until well after the call and well after it was all over with Kristina how cheerful she was during that phone call, who glad she was to hear from me how she positively rhapsodized about our evening together. I heard the words but they didn't register. I was not satisfied. I had to get some idea of what I had said and done. Kristina was too good and pure to be sullied by my drunken actions or words (never mind that she said she'd found me and the evening perfectly wonderful). I had to know. I can't exactly tell you why from the vantage of all these years later but I had to bloody well know what had happened.
A few days later I called trying to get more details. Kristina seemed perplexed. Because she was not forthcoming with any tales of a man gone wild I made up a canard, a terrible one. I said that I was under doctor's orders not to drink hard liquor due to a medical issue and that the doctor now insisted that I learn of my actions that evening so that I could report them to him. Kristina seemed most uncomfortable with all this. She was clearly finding my questions disquieting. All the poor girl could do was assure me that nothing bad had happened. I was relieved but Kristina barely spoke above a whisper.
When I called Kristina again a few days later, now confident that all was well, she informed that me she was now "seeing someone." I didn't believe her because it seemed obvious I'd scared her off but I did believe her because it seemed inevitable that she would find someone or someone would find her. To tell you the truth though my dominant feeling was one of relief. To have such a massive crush on someone with whom I had zero future had been a crushing burden. It seemed like I'd been pursuing something with Kristina because she was a beautiful woman who liked me and what able bodied cad does not pursue such an opportunity? I know, one who realizes its a waste of time.
A few years later I was married and a father and sober. I was at the grocery store with wife and baby one afternoon. I looked up an aisle and saw Kristina. She had gained a considerable amount. It was neither here nor there to me.