July 23rd, 1999. Durham, North Carolina – one of the hottest days since I had been at the American Dance Festival. Appropriate. As quickly as it had come, it had ended. I would soon be thrown back into what was painfully familiar to me. The only difference being that I now refused to accept it as actually being “my life.” What a difference one month can make! In four weeks a 12-year old boy could perfect his grande jete entournant, a Texan could enjoy a bowl of New England Clam Chowder, and a sheltered girl from Baltimore could fall in love.
Many would disagree over whether or not I was actually in love. Perhaps it was extreme infatuation, but my lack of any sort of romantic experience hindered my ability to properly analyze and evaluate those feelings. All I knew for sure was that when I saw him everything else faded away, nothing else mattered. When I was with him I felt like I was the queen of the world, when really, I was nothing more than a confused teenager. Perhaps, a confused teenager who became a little too attached to her temporary surroundings. And so came July 23rd – the day I had to say good-bye.
I remember walking into Trinity Cafe and seeing him sitting there, by himself. My Kerry. Carrot salad and strawberry French ice. Not only had he stolen my heart, but he was also responsible for triggering my addiction to Heaven’s sinful sugar water. “Oh my God,” he said, “You gotta try this! It’s a strawberry French ice.” He handed me his glass, I looked up at his face and smiled, “Kerry… you’ve got French ice on your nose!” That was week one, and over the next three weeks I became personally responsible for downing at least two of those damn ices every single day! Of course now I can’t even taste strawberries without getting tears in my eyes.
I remember the insane heat encompassing my entire body that final morning as I made a conscious decision to wear my long, baggy jeans. If this was going to be my last day with Kerry I was sure going to look good! The waistband of those jeans was large on me, so instead of actually coming around my waist, they fell down around my hips. One chilly night when Kerry and I were out at some random social event within the festival I wore those jeans with a silky blue shirt that falls just below my ribcage. With my shiny blue naval ring, along with the jeans and the shirt, I looked like a modern day genie. Kerry’s exact words were, “Damn girl! You look sexy! (In his funny little mock-Will Smith voice).” Of course this sounded strange coming from the 20-year old Asian, but it was the first time anyone had ever hinted at me having any sort of sex appeal. I knew I was obnoxiously cute and maybe even pretty, but sexy seemed a bit far out of my league. That last day in Durham I wore the jeans and the shoes but I decided not to wear the shirt again… I didn’t want to look too obvious! Instead I chose this other blue tank top, blue being my signature color, which made my waist look about 18 inches around and gave me some facade of a figure. He gave me the “nod of approval” as I walked into Trinity Cafe. I smiled, grabbed my last French ice from the snack workers (who knew my name and order by heart) and sat down with my fleeing fetish.
We talked for about an hour – about life, about love, and even about our ballet teacher’s ambiguous sexual orientation. Eventually, it was one o’clock – time for us to head our separate ways. I remember the tears welling up in my eyes as we stood up and got ready to leave the Cafe. Kerry and I had had the “crying conversation” on more than one occasion. His theory: “You cry, you cry, nothing’s wrong with crying! Crying is a celebration of feeling and the purest form of emotional release… God bless crying!” (A bit dramatic, perhaps!) I, however, was not as enthusiastic about crying. Tears were always something that I had seen middle school and high school girls use to attract attention. In my mind they lacked genuineness and I felt that using them would be a violation of personal honesty. Kerry saw my tears and smiled, “You know, Katy, you are allowed to cry.” I forced a smile and held them back. Maybe later.
We walked out of the Cafe door, down the stairs and onto a tremendously large lawn that divided Duke University’s east campus in half. This was it – I needed to go left, he needed to go right. I had been dreading this moment since I first laid eyes on Kerry, three weeks and five days prior. There were so many beautiful things that I could have said. I wanted to tell him everything. I wanted to tell him that he saved me from myself. I wanted to tell him about how he changed my life forever, I wanted to tell him that he made me a better person and that I loved him, but I just couldn’t. He went to hug me, and at that moment I just fell apart. I didn’t care that I was blatantly bawling in public or about what anyone else might have thought about me right then. All I knew was that was with Kerry and I didn’t want to ever let him go. I wanted that precious moment to last forever. I didn’t know when I’d ever see him again, and just the thought of that made me feel physically ill. But as all good things come to and end, so did this. His soft lips pressed once against my neck and once against my lips. His enchanting brown eyes looked into mine, and then he said words that I will never ever forget, “You have no idea how amazing you are. In the month that I’ve know you, you’ve opened my eyes and completely changed my view of the world.” He kissed me again and began to walk away, with one more beautiful phrase, “You are an angel, my dear.” It took all of my energy simply to force a smile and that moment and I started to back away from him. We kept eye contact until I came to a wall and had to turn the corner. Eventually it was physically impossible for me to proceed without losing eye contact with him. He smiled at me, and with a final glance I turned the corner and walked back towards the dorm. I knew that if I turned around I could still catch sight of him walking into the building, but for some reason, I just kept my head forward. That was the last time that I saw him.
For the next couple of weeks my only companions were despair and loneliness. I had to force myself to get out of bed in the morning, and most times I was too overcome with depression that I didn’t bother to eat. He haunted my every thought and all of my dreams for months, until one day the memories started to fade. I still think of him daily, and though I still do get to communicate with him, I always feel this empty pit in my stomach whenever my friends and I are talking about guys, or something to that extent. Kerry took with him a large portion of my heart and I don’t think that I can ever be the same again. He taught me to laugh, to cry and to believe in myself. He’s made me such a better person than I was before I met him and I practically owe him my life. Love is a powerful force, and I’m thoroughly convinced that I am in love. The pain of love is the emptiness that kills off the weak. But, ah! Such a delicious poison, it is. Unfortunately, his absence steals a portion of my ability to open myself to new people. I have this crazy idea in my mind that we’ll meet again and spend the rest of our lives together, like something right out of a fairy tale. Life, however, is not a fairy tale. We discover, through such experiences, that life is not about fitting into a plan or choosing the “road most traveled by.” Life is about passion and about following your heart. Everything happens for a reason, or so I’ve thought and been told countless times. Personal chemistry is a complicated thing to analyze, but it’s such a beautiful device that we as humans have the privilege of being able to experience first hand. Passion is an incredible power, a godly power. I live everyday in secret fury because my passion is often too far out of my grasp, yet is constantly flashing before me like lightning. Often, time’s foggy memories are electrocuted by these lightning bolts, and then they become crystal clear. Funny, how memories tend to act that way.