Posts Tagged ‘past’


“I believe in my teachers. I show respect for all who help me progress.” ~Stephen K. Hayes, How to Own the World

It is easy, sometimes, to forget the long and treacherous road that brought me to this point in time. The older I get, the more “successful” I become, the more I seem to credit my own merits and a faulty sense of self-satisfaction when I look back at the processes that brought me here. But it is a narrow-minded recollection. Too much self and too little credit is given to the relationships, environments, and mercies that have helped shape me over the years.

When I truly open my heart to a broader vision of the past, I realize I could only exist in this manner through:

  • The careful guidance of those willing and able to nurture my development.
  • Trial and error of making mistakes or accomplishments and learning from them.
  • Those who have presented themselves as rivals or challengers along my path.
  • Those whom I have wronged who have extended grace and compassion towards me.
  • Extending knowledge by teaching others.

All of these things are teachers in some form. Beyond a formal education, teachers will present themselves throughout life, sometimes unexpectedly. Every moment is an opportunity for learning. It is when I think I know it all, or feel I’ve excelled enough, or have forgotten where I’ve come from that I risk missing out on a more meaningful life.

Life has plenty to teach me. When the teacher presents itself, I will be open to seek the opportunity to learn. This is how I will honor those who have helped me progress.




“We’ll go wherever—you just pick the spot.”

It was Kaiser on the phone, trying to solidify plans for the double-date he’d been trying to set up for weeks. I hated being put in this position; made to decide how we were to entertain ourselves for the evening. This was not because I was at a loss for interesting things to do. I’d been living on Capitol Hill long enough to feed my need for new and exciting experiences and I wanted my expertise to show for tonight’s date. Hell—my apartment was downtown, smack in the center of Denver nightlife. My real reason for not wanting to be the decider of what-to-do was more out of a growing difference of interests between the Kaiser and I.

Over the years, I was learning that my suggestions, hip as they might’ve been, had become less-than-appealing to him. His idea of a good time usually involved standing around yuppie LoDo bars, trying to pick-up seemingly unattainable young vixens by what he called “staring into their souls.” This favorite pastime of his was nothing more than a cheap parlor trick, a way to fuel his ego. I had seen this technique work for him on more than one occasion and had been wowed by his bravado. But, the veil of Kaiser’s mystique, the more I had gotten to know him, was gradually being lifted to reveal a superficiality I had mistaken for depth. And if I left the monumental decision of planning the night’s events up to him, I would likely spend the evening immersed in regretful yawns. No, I didn’t like being the appointed party responsible for the success of us all having fun, nor did I trust Kaiser’s judgment, especially when it came to having a genuine good time.    

“How ‘bout we go for some karaoke–like we used to?” I suggested. “I know this great little dive downtown.” This was a neutral suggestion; my way of trying to bridge the divide that had been growing between us. Instead of focusing on the ways we were different, this was—at least by my reckoning—a simple solution that would put us on common ground.

“I don’t know, man. Karaoke—really?”

“Yeah, why not? We used to sing it all the time. I figured this could be a good date.”

“Alright…” His response was that petulant standard that I had gotten used to, his version of a compromise. “We can at least start there and see how it goes.”

“Yeah, ok,” I agreed.

“I guess that’ll work. Start there and then go to the Rolling Rock Brewery or something. I know there’ll be some hot chicks there.”

These sort of remarks were typical of Kaiser. His own long-time girlfriend, Sheri, was a real knockout; smart, refined, and loyal as hell to Kaiser. But he was the type of guy who always had his sights set on the horizon, a near-mythic creature who was part poet, part devil, part grinning peacock. For him, a simple life would never do. And that meant being on the perilous knife’s edge of temptation, always pushing boundaries and often exceeding them. This was apparent in his fashion choices—he wore expensive leather pants, displayed an array of facial jewelry—a different nose-ring for each day of the month. And his women—well, they were as varied as his hairstyles. Yes, Kaiser was living the good life, but in his opinion, the good life could always be made better by tossing in a bit of sweet complication.

“This girl I’m supposed to meet—the one you’re setting me up with. What’s her name again?”

“Kelli. She works with Sheri at the veterinary office, remember?”

“What time do you want to meet up?”

“Let’s say about—don’t wanna show up too early—seven or eight.”

“Make it seven so we can get on the karaoke list. The line fills up fast.”

“Sure, we’ll try. Oh—and we’re gonna meet at your place.”

“Not the bar?”

“It’ll be easier. Plus I want Kelli to see your place.”

“Oh, great.” This wasn’t the way I normally operated, especially upon meeting a girl for the first time. But, I supposed that my apartment was an ideal launching pad for the evening. “At least we can get a few drinks in before we leave.”

“Exactly. Are you excited?” This was something I had wondered myself. With all of the strange events that 2008 had brought so far, I was eager to move on from the scum and residue that was clinging onto me. As painful as it was, Angela Schroeder was still the standard by which I evaluated every new potential love interest. But I had already committed to the long, hard work of erasing her imprint on me, and a new girl might just be the right catalyst for change. Plus Kaiser’s hasty matchmaking attempts had left me little room to ponder these things enough to back out now.

“I can tell you’re excited,” was the answer I gave, trying not to sound ungrateful. What if, for once, Kaiser’s radar was dead on this time? After all, he was one of my oldest friends. Maybe he knew something I didn’t. Maybe this new girl, Kelli, would rise above all of my cynical expectations and turn out to be this amazing woman; someone so great, I couldn’t have imagined her myself. I thought I should at least give her and this double date a fair chance, if only as a show of waning loyalty to Kaiser.


Knock! Knock! Knock!

I had decided to start my own pre-drinking earlier in the afternoon and was glad for it. It helped pass the time during my hasty attempts at apartment cleaning. It also effectively took off most of my nervous edge while waiting for my visitors. My head was in that ideal zone, somewhere between cool reserve and swimmy geniality. I bit my lip and answered the door.

“Hey guys! Welcome to my humble commode.” I held the door wide-open as the threesome shuffled in. Kaiser was in the lead, dressed in his finest 80’s rocker leather pants, followed by the two ladies who were immersed in bubbly conversation. I closed the door behind them, trying to eye-up my dedicated match for the evening.

“You must be Kelli,” I said, introducing myself. She was short, brunette, and attractive in a cutesy sort of way. My first impression in a word: young. Since my dating years had begun, I had somehow managed to attract girls who were younger than me. Most guys I knew were thrilled and flattered if they could land a younger girl. But my experiences had proved to me that age differences only highlighted the inevitable acts of immaturity that the younger girls often displayed.

“Hi.” Her voice was soft, but carried a sultry edge that indicated we might be off to a good start.

Kaiser was beaming. His silver nose-ring twinkled in the candlelit living room of my apartment. No one was saying anything, which made this unusual encounter even more awkward. I decided to break the ice.

“Come on in. I’ve got some beers if you guys want to drink before we head out.”

“We brought something better,” Sheri said slyly.

Kelli reached into her purse and, like a rabbit being pulled from a magician’s hat, out came a big bottle of top-shelf tequila.

“All right then,” I said, grinning at the prospect of what this night may portend.

After we took our shots, we called a cab and left my apartment. As we made our way to the taxi, the ladies resumed their girl-talk, and I used the opportunity to mumble a question to Kaiser.

“How old is Kelli?”

His grin faltered a bit. “Well—she is young.”

“How young?”

“I’m not sure. Old enough to drink is old enough, right?” Now he turned solemn. “But I’ve learned not to judge a person by their age. I look at a person’s soul and Kelli’s an old soul. Plus Sheri says that Kelli’s pretty mature for her age.” Kaiser’s shit-eating grin returned. “I can tell she likes you.” He gave me a fleeting wink as we climbed into the cab.


“—you from, originally?”



Kelli murmured something that sounded like, “Seattle.”

Oh, OK,” I returned, still not quite sure what she had said. Most of our conversation had gone on like this once we arrived at the karaoke joint. The deafening music had ensured that very little useful information would be exchanged between us, so I decided to be agreeable by default. After barely getting one song in, we migrated to a slightly swankier nightclub in LoDo, where the assault on my eardrums continued.

The change in locales didn’t do much to improve on the conversation; neither did the assembly line of strong drinks. The fact is, I didn’t know much more about Kelli than when she first showed up at my apartment. I knew she was young. I knew she was cute. It was enough to have an enjoyable evening for the time being, but I couldn’t ignore the persistent signs of inconsistency that came through: Awkward body language, strange cultural references that illustrated the generational gap between us, shifty encouragements, both of us wanting—­­but not quite reaching a true connection.

I tried to get to know her a little better. What was the latest book she had read? What? She didn’t read for enjoyment? Music? She named bands I had never heard of. When I mentioned my favorite bands, judging by the glazed-over look on her face, Kelli didn’t know of them or wasn’t listening. She probably couldn’t hear me over the ear-bleeding club music. It seemed that there was an over-arching disparity—or lack of interest—towards the finer points of compatibility. These discouraging tidbits however, weren’t enough to crush my beer-fueled optimism. Soon, I found myself kissing her and the rest of the night was awash with loud music, dancing, and alcohol.


I woke up the next morning, hung over, Kelli under the covers with me. My first horrified thought was: Did we have sex last night? I wracked my brain for memories of the night, but the harder I tried to remember, the more my head hurt. I couldn’t remember getting home. Obviously something had to have happened—the way we were cozied up under the covers. But waking up to a strange woman in my place after just meeting her—wasn’t my style. Maybe I should pretend to go back to sleep.

“Morning,” she said stirring.


“What time is it?”

I got up to look at the clock in my kitchenette, taking the opportunity to snag my pants back on.

“It’s afternoon,” I said, hoping that I didn’t sound as disappointed as I felt. “Do you want some water?”

“Thanks,” she said after taking a drink. She held the covers above her bare breasts with her other arm.

“Did we—?” I began awkwardly.

“What, have sex?” She smiled, lips shiny with water. “I don’t think so. We came close, but you were too drunk, I think.”

“Oh.” I felt relieved for some reason. In the warm afternoon light she looked even younger than before. “Sorry.”

“Where’s your bathroom?”

I pointed in the direction of my studio. She left the bed, finding her bra on the way to the bathroom. I hated these uncomfortable morning-after sessions. I found it nearly impossible to muster the requisite charm needed to get rid of the person gracefully. There was usually some small-talk over breakfast—or better yet—a hasty, wordless departure because of prior obligations. I found it difficult to outright kick a girl out of my place; I was too much of a gentleman for that. But sometimes the morning-after could linger on ad nauseam. This is why one-night stands didn’t suit me. They usually amounted to two strangers sharing the most intimate of acts, only to realize that they didn’t like each other that much, or didn’t have the glue needed to hold something more substantial together.

The toilet flushed. I was grateful for the extra time to compose myself. Kelli emerged from my studio, fully dressed, which was a good sign towards making a departure.

“So—did you drive here?” I asked, trying to sound more conversational than urgent. Driving logistics made the morning after situations even more complicated because I didn’t have a car and therefore couldn’t neatly part ways by dropping the girl off somewhere. Kelli gave me a puzzled look, still smiling. She sat down on the couch next to me.

“No. Kaiser drove us down here last night.”

“Oh. So how—?”

“Kaiser said you’d help me call a cab in the morning. I can take it back to my work where I’m parked. You really don’t remember any of this, do you? What we talked about last night?” I blurted a single, humorless laugh while rubbing my head.

“I remember some things, but—wow! I don’t remember coming back here.”

“Kaiser and Sheri took off. He assured me I’d be in good hands, and…” She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “He was right.”

Oh boy, I thought, mentally sighing. This was just like Kaiser to dump a strange girl in my lap and leave me to handle her the morning after. I’m guessing that I probably hadn’t protested too much the night before in my drunken state; my place did pose as a somewhat ideal crash pad for the woefully inebriated. But Kaiser had a habit of leaving me in these precarious situations.

Mercifully, Kelli conducted this morning-after interlude with maturity. I felt a little silly and self-conscious about the whole thing, chalking it up to being caught off-guard. I drank way-too-much, and the missing time gaps had been a result. I resolved to lay off of the sauce for a while, so I could at least remember having forgettable sex with a stranger.

We made plans to go on another date—sometime. I could tell that she was more eager than I was. Before she climbed into the cab, we hugged and my body felt stand-offish, my laughter sounded a bit too haughty. I watched her go, glad to be alone again.

I was definitely at a point in my life where I was looking for someone more substantial than a strange bedfellow. It wasn’t fair to Kelli to presume that she wasn’t worthy of my time or attention. This first encounter with her showed me that there was an attraction, but was there more to this girl than met the eye?

I was at the Crossroads, standing before the entrance of this uncertain path. Should I start down this winding road, or remain in the center of potentiality? Was this girl it, or were there greater, yet unknown experiences to be had? So much of this initial encounter with Kelli felt like familiar ground, so much felt like I knew how it would end, and it would probably end badly. Was this premonition a reminder of how history tended to repeat itself? Was it wishful thinking? Or did the crossroads have more in store for me than I could have ever imagined?

End of p.2

To be continued…