Kim was my high school sweetheart. I hadn’t seen her since 2005 at least. She is still as beautiful as ever.
In town for the holidays, Kim made time to spend an entire afternoon with me. I took her to a local Indian buffet, Taj. It’s a place my friends and I used to go to for half-business half-pleasure meetings full of naan and cheap imported beer.
When we sat down in our little booth, I ordered us a bottle of merlot. It would be the first time Kim and I popped corks together, though both of us are known to enjoy a glass of red (or gin) with supper. It felt like an appropriately out-of-place locale to start, and I had promised her we’d get drinks, so we made it happen.
Kim is a teacher these days, currently living and working in Mexico. Her teaching career truly began in Egypt, though. That’s where she says her passion for it was given the fuel to smolder.
Kim was actually in Egypt during the Arab Spring. She experienced the revolutions. She remembers the protests, the police, the tear gas. She recalls watching the sunset from a bridge and seeing the military and their tanks rolling in. She says that, when Mubarak stepped down, the whole city broke into celebration. She and her friends went down to the city center to check it out. It was one hell of a party.
Kim found a maternal figure while in Egypt – a woman with the same name as her sister, Katrina. And the woman shared a birthday with Kim’s mom as well. A familial and familiar friend in a foreign land. A sense of home a long way away from where she grew up.
In 2013, after 3 years, Kim left Egypt for a job in China. Kim loved Egypt and often wanted to go back. But, she says, it was easier to stay in China than to update her CV and go through round after round of interviewing. Kim said she eventually fell in love with Hong Kong, but hated most of the rest of China. She became a fan of rugby. She ended up staying for four years.
But, ultimately, she hated the school there and noted a distinct “Canadian bubble” of young teachers who partied their lives away within their clique. They didn’t care about teaching. They were in it for the fun and the easy access to booze and drugs. Kim came to appreciate the impermanence of it all. “You make friends because you have to. Out of necessity sometimes.”
Now in Mexico, Kim teaches a first grade class.
I often talk about Kim in conversation. She was my first love. My first “serious” relationship. I call her my “Catholic high school sweetheart.” We spent a lot of time doing events at and with her church. She taught me a lot about the Catholic faith. So you can imagine how stunned I was to learn she has abandoned Catholicism entirely. She says grew tired of religion. This all blew my mind. My entire recollection of her was shrouded in a sort of myth. She had mostly attended church for her mom. She admittedly liked singing. And she took a secret rosary on her travels that had been given to her by her uncle. But she no longer identifies as Catholic herself.
Kim and I drained our bottle of wine and reconnected.
She’s told me she’s become a minimalist. “When I die, no one’s gonna wanna sort through this shit,” she laughed.
Kim has a hazy view on monogamy. That’s something I’m hearing more and more about from millennials and Gen-Xers these days. It seems the world of long-term relationships may be dissipating as much as the world of lifetime careers.
Kim has a sharp memory. She remembered the make and model of my first car. It was a battered and bruised white 1995 Ford Taurus. A real lady-killer of a vehicle.
We recanted some of our adventures, like when we were tasked with distracting her dad before his surprise 40th birthday party. We took him to Attack of the Clones, of all movies. And I ran a stop sign on our way back to the house, nearly giving the poor man an infarction right before dozens of people would pop out and jolt his blood pressure once again.
Kim recalled me having been a “polarizing” person in high school. I figure that still holds true.
Hanging in the air was a lingering fragrance of that juvenile romance I remember. “You were the boy of my dreams,” Kim recalled. She smiled with her eyes when she said it. I melted, if only a little.
But, as many high school relationships do, ours eventually fizzled. I remember being scared of adulthood looming on the horizon as I was graduating and leaving so many of my friends back in high school. I took some of that out on Kim. I know it. It wasn’t fair to her. I was a kid, with limited frontal lobe development and not a lot of sense. I hope she can forgive me now for my foolishness then.
Kim told me of a troublesome child in one of her classes. He was afraid to talk about his struggles – his feelings. And when she thumped him on the head for misbehaving it led to a whole rigmarole with his parents and the school administration. And so Kim developed a more communicative relationship with the child once he could finally open up about his angst and frustration. Sometimes that’s all it takes to strengthen our relationships with others. Open dialog. Courageous conversation.
We talked about our adventures and eventually shifted locales to a bar up the street for more drinks. We spent a lot of time wading in the past, while Kim treated me to a custom drink she learned to make in Mexico. I’d missed her camaraderie. I’d missed her friendship. It was as if we hadn’t skipped a beat.