|I'm sorry, Kerstin.|
Fall 1989. I was introduced to Kiki (Her name was Kerstin, but she went by Kiki) by friends. Kiki was an exchange student from Unna, Germany. A beatiful girl with sandy blond hair and a smile that would knock your socks off. As cheesy as it is, we fell in love very quickly and spent a lot of time together. Her command of the English language was remarkable and we could converse normally with only the occasional pause to sort out some slang she had never heard before. We went on dates, went to school dances, held hands, watched movies, made out... the things teenagers do (or at least did when I was a teenager). Christmas eve 1989, Kiki's parents had scraped together enough cash to fly to the US and see their daughter. They didn't speak a lick of English, yet they were here. Kiki and I made plans for that night. I was going to go to her host family's house meet her parents and hang out for a little while. Keep in mind, this was before the world wide web, so other than phone calls and letters, Kiki had no way to connect with her parents. No email, no IM, no skype... You get the idea. Anyway, I was at my grandparent's house and then had to announce my departure. Something I had never had to do before on Christmas. I headed over to Kiki's place and almost wrapped my Dad's truck around a telephone pole due to ice and inexperience (strangely enough, that spin-out happened just six blocks from my current home). Still, I arrived safely, met her parents and chit-chatted as much as possible given the language barrier. Kiki then took me into her room, sat me down and handed me a little box that she had wrapped with much care. I opened the box and saw the silver chain with the silver "K" she had always had around her neck. It was strange that I hadn't noticed she wasn't wearing the necklace at the time. But, she had given it to me as a token of our relationship. It was a heavy moment that I didn't fully appreciate at the time. About a month later I had asked her to accompany me to the annual awards banquet for the fife and drum corps I had been a member of for many years. It was a way for me to reciprocate the devotion she had shown to me on that Christmas eve. I arrived at her place to pick her up and she answered the door in pajamas. I hadn't communicated our plans clear enough, she didn't understand or simply got the date wrong... Some innocent mistake. I saw it as her not taking me seriously enough. Something that had happened to me rather often in my youth (I was definitely NOT in the "in" crowd). Like an ass, I stormed off. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Not long after, March as I recall, Kiki's friends were throwing her a going away party just before it came time for her to return to Germany. I did not plan on going, but a former friend somehow dragged me to the place. I refused to go inside. Eventually, my former friend came back out and we left. That was it. I found out later that Kiki had started crying when she found out I was outside and had refused to come in and see her. She left this country on an unhappy note because I was a complete asshole. The two most bitter enemies of any person, pride and selfishness, had gotten in the way of something that was beautiful. I had allowed those two enemies to enter my life and destroy something that was very precious. Love. Like the clueless youth I was, I shoved that night into a corner and tried to bury it. The guilt, however, has remained to this day. Starting Christmas eve 1990, I started driving by the place she stayed while in this country, this city, in my heart. Not to be nostalgic, but to remind myself of what a horrible person I had been, and can be. I loved that girl. When it came time for her to leave I had no idea how to deal with that situation. My simpleton mind found an excuse and used it. Wrong! I wanted her to stay. I think she wanted to stay, but also wanted to go home. I can't hold that against her. Maybe things would have worked out. Maybe I could have gone to Germany to visit her. Maybe she could have come back here. Unfortunately because of my mistakes, I'll never know. Making Kiki cry and hurting her is the wound, thinking of what could have been is the salt I pour into that wound every Christmas eve. This year is no exception to the rule. Twenty three years after the fact and I'm still beating myself up. I'm sure she's long forgotten about that asshole in Wisconsin, but me having been the cause of her pain, I can't let it go. Beating myself up every Christmas eve is my punishment. Merry(?) Christmas.