Hilde, the holy grail
Hilde had been an alternate reality crush when I was at undergrad in Chicago. She was an exchange student from Hamburg – who, in my daydreams where I imagined myself a wealthy, successful adult – I thought maybe I had a chance with. She was out of my league, but we were friends nonetheless, with similar interests in literature classes, Paul Simon albums and coffee shops.
After graduating, we lost touch for quite a while. But a couple years back I received an email that said she wanted to be online “friends.” I threw my smartphone against the wall out of excitement. The screen shattered. For a year or so, we exchanged the occasional message, which turned into me planning an impromptu trip to visit her in London, where she was working as a TV producer for an art program.
She looked better than I remembered, as her online photos did her little justice. Zero signs of aging, more intense of a gaze. She had no idea that the trip was specifically to visit her. I’d told her I’d been planning a trip for a while, to catch some theater, visit some old friends, reclaim a little of my youth (which, technically speaking, was all true).
We met for lunch near her office the day after I’d arrived. She was 15 minutes late, giving me ample time to sweat every little detail. I went over a list of conversation topics in my head to the point where they were no longer interesting to me. I also had half a bottle of Beaujolais to myself. When I stood to greet her, I knocked over my glass of red wine, somehow getting it all over me and all over the white tablecloth. That, it turned out, was the high point of our date.
My conversation topics, mostly art related (LA’s art scene, what I was currently collecting, a couple new documentaries, etc…), were all immediately dismissed. “I simply cannot speak about art, it reminds me of work”. Hilde mostly wanted to gossip about people who I didn’t remember from college, who were either divorced and ruined or rich and happy. None were interesting. When I tried to broach the subject of my schoolboy infatuation with her, she immediately began talking about her ex-husband, who she also met in college. It was a mood killer, which only a second bottle of wine could revive.
“Well, Knox, it was absolutely wonderful catching up. Enjoy the rest of your trip. And do keep in touch.” And with that, she sauntered off to her office and I meandered to the nearest open pub.
When I woke up, I was on Hilde’s couch, in a nicely appointed living room, beneath a blanket, pantsless. Hilde was typing on her computer in the kitchen. The clock said it was 1:15am.
“Looks like somebody’s finally awake,” she said, not looking up from her laptop.
“Ughh. How did I get here?” I asked.
“The pub called me. I was the only person you said you knew in London, and you were apparently causing quite the scene. An angry, vomit-ey scene.”
“Did we sleep together?!?! Why aren’t I wearing any pants?”
“Because you shit yourself, Knox.”
And with that, all the reasons why Hilde was out of my league were, once again, crystal clear.
Photo Credit: Dejan, used via creative commons license
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