What is it about boys who treat girls badly that makes them utterly irresistible? This is a universal truth -- all girls are attracted to bad boys. And yes, we do know better. But we also all know that sometimes heart and head don't listen to each other. Sometimes you're willing to follow your heart when your head knows the heart is in for a good thrashing. But we do it anyway. Maybe it's the excitement of an unpredictable boy, or maybe it's the asinine belief that we can actually tame the wild man. Who knows? It's one of the great mysteries of life. The only hope for girls is that they will learn their lesson after dabbling with boys who treat them badly. Luckily, I did learn that lesson, but it took me three tries with the same guy to do it. You know as they say, third time's the charm. But the second time? More of the same.
I did my best to forget about Specialized, and as Spring blossomed into Summer, I concentrated on my forthcoming study abroad trip to Kiel, Germany at the end of the Summer of 2004. My decision to travel to Kiel was a brave move for me, because I would be traveling alone for the first time in my life to live for a month in a country whose language I technically spoke, but not very fluently. I had studied abroad in Berlin a couple years earlier, but I did that trip with a friend. Flying off to Kiel by myself was something that I might not have felt prepared to do if it weren't for my first experience with Specialized. After the heartache he caused, I needed a way to escape, so I felt like throwing all caution to the wind and branching out on my own adventure. That trip to Kiel turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.
By some registration accident, I was not assigned to live with a German family, as I had signed up to do. Instead, I was assigned to live on the top floor of one of two student housing buildings for the Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel -- the WAK (pronounced vey-ah-kah in German, but we all called it the Wack). So instead of being immersed in the German language through a German family, I had my own room and bathroom in a student dormitory full of American students who spoke a nice mix of German and English that we called "Denglisch" (because the word for "German" in German is "Deutsch"). This was a very fortuitous error, however, because the friendships I made with the other students on my floor were what made the trip so memorable. I'm still good friends with a couple of those people -- Arminka, the Bosnian who later advised me to go on a date with "Eye-an", and Johnny, a marine who was the only student on our trip not from Utah, but whom I still maintain a written correspondence with.
On the trip, I talked to these friends about the bad experience I had just had with Specialized, and Arminka told me that she could see my love was strong, and that because of that she thought Specialized and I would see each other again. I didn't think she was right at the time, but Arminka is very perceptive, it turns out. Or maybe just more experienced in love than I. Or perhaps just a lucky guesser.
But she was right.
A few weeks after I returned from Kiel, I received something I never expected to receive -- an apology from Specialized. When a boy mistreats you the way Specialized mistreated me, the one thing you want is an apology, but you never expect to get it. So when I saw the email with the subject line "an apology" in my inbox one Fall morning, I felt the familiar tightness in my throat associated with the heartache that I had just barely put behind me with the help of the great friendships I forged in Kiel.
I was genuinely touched that he cared enough to apologize, and so I kept the email. Even now, even though my experiences with Specialized would ultimately end on a very sour note, I still keep a copy of that email. Maybe it's because I saw in that email a touch of what I had seen in Specialized months before when we first met. Maybe it's because an apology like that takes a lot of guts, when it would have been much easier to just forget the whole thing. Maybe it's because I liked the poetic nature of the apology. But for whatever reason, I kept it. Here's what it said:
Subject: an apology
Date: Sun, 26 Sep 2004 21:00:07 -0600
i went to church today for the first time in 8 months i saw
your roommates and i started thinking anyway a lot of shit
happened when i went to california it was not a fun time
anyway i wrote this the other week when death cab was in town
an apology for dreaming of you.
and i am eleven, as you are thirteen.
compose your own to focus into certainty.
i see you everywhere, and i see everything
but i'm sick of this
so i suppose i'll stop running.
am i whole?
or infinitely lost?
my watch tells me we're moving
but only through thin ice.
and when it comes to contact,
i feel nothing at all
i am the only important entity
in this fascist hall.
so perhaps if i center myself
around this bit of string
these groping murmuring movements
will begin to mean something.
but as far as i know
as far as i know you
lost is the only word that comes to mind
This email was an invitation to open the doors of communication again. But reconnecting was a slow process, and there was a lot of space between emails. Maybe one day I'd send an email asking Specialized what the name of that transvestite comedian was that we once watched together on DVD. (Indeed, I have Specialized to thank for my discovery of Eddie Izzard. That alone might have been worth the heartache!) Maybe a few weeks later he'd send a similar mundane greeting.
And then one day, once again assuming the role of the initiator in the exchange, I sent him an email letting him know I'd be at the Salt Lake Roasting Company on a certain day at a certain time, and that if he wanted to meet up, he'd know where to find me. I sat alone at my upstairs table with my latte and my book for a good hour or two, and was just thinking about leaving when I glanced up from my book and saw Specialized's familiar face appear on the stairway. It had been a long time since I had been under the spell of those eyes, but their steel gaze still mustered a bit of an internal swoon in me. Good thing I was sitting down.
We talked for two hours, mostly about music and movies -- interests we held very much in common, but also about what we had been up to. I told him about my Summer in Kiel, and he told me about his job working in a bike shop (hence the moniker "Specialized"). But I didn't ask him why he had left or what he had been doing in Southern California. I wasn't ready to open up those wounds. When we left the coffee shop, Specialized walked me to my car where we hugged and exchanged phone numbers. And that kicked off a short-lived fling which I consider part 2 of the relationship.
The funny thing is that Specialized later admitted to me, during our third attempt at a relationship, that he couldn't remember part 2. He knew we had hung out once or twice, but honestly couldn't remember anything else about the experiences we had during the next couple of months. That's because he had been wacked out on shrooms, beer, and marijuana most of the time, unbeknownst to me. I really was naive.
Be we got in deep enough, in my lucid memory, for me to rediscover my feelings for Specialized, which only set me up to be broken down again when he disappeared for the second time. That's right, he did it twice, and no, that wasn't enough for me to learn my lesson. Just in case you're wondering what could have possibly made me so dense, once again that sweet side of Specialized came out. He told me how much he had missed me and that he had felt really bad about leaving. I forgave him, and like any girl with hope, I focused on the positive parts of our interactions and ignored the parts where he disappointed me. You know as they say, love is blind.
Part 3 would show me that love is also stupid.
Next time: Episode 2: Specialized A-hole, Part 3