CHAPTER TWO: KARI

KARI

It was about six months before the entire debacle started. It was sometime after my 22nd birthday. I remember sitting at the local club with friends musing over how after your 21st birthday it’s a long nine year wait before there’s an event big enough to warrant family members all getting together and traveling interstate.

I mean, there was always Christmas, but Christmas happens every year. There’s nothing particularly unique about it. And that was when I came up with the first brilliant idea, that was without a doubt a precursor to this book.

I would hold “The Party For No Reason.” Now I know it doesn’t sound unique. Anyone can have a party at their house for no reason. People do it all the time. There’s nothing particularly exciting about it. It doesn’t exactly warrant relatives traveling from interstate.

But MY party wasn’t at a house, I’d hired the room at a club, I’d put a $2000 tab on the bar. I’d been to weddings where there wasn’t that big a bar tab. I designed and printed out official invitations, I posted them out.

I wanted to invite everyone I knew, everyone I was friends with, everyone I wanted to come. I’d booked a room at a club, I wanted as many friends there as possible.

In the midst of sending out invites to people I knew, I had what I thought was a rather funny idea. There was this extremely attractive girl called Kari whom I’d gone to high school with, and for whom, years earlier, I’d harboured a crush on. I’d seen her once, maybe twice, since finishing school. So it seemed like funny idea to send her an invite. I, in no way, expected to hear from her. We’d barely spoken since high school, and to be fair even IN high school we’d barely spoken.

So it was to my complete shock that I got a message on my phone from her, three days before the party, telling me she was coming.

—–

I suppose I should tell the Kari story from the start.

It all dated back to nine years earlier, standing in the Year Eight locker bay, with me making a smart arse comment to someone with the locker next to mine. I can’t remember what the smart arse comment was, but I remember turning to see a friend of the girl I was being a smart arse to smiling at me. The one smiling at me had a great smile. And she was attractive, there was no doubt about that. Red hair, freckles and braces.

That was how I met Kari.

We didn’t travel in the same groups though. She was in the popular group. I wasn’t.

That’s not to say she was mean or bitchy or anything, she was always a really nice girl. We barely spoke but when we did we always got along. We just didn’t have that much to do with each other.

The way the Canberra school system worked at the time, high school ended at Year Ten, then you went to another school for Years 11 & 12. I went to Lake Ginninderra College, and Kari went to Hawker College.

We met again, however, on a recruitment weekend for a youth group. I didn’t know anyone going on that weekend, in fact I was only going cause my parents made me. Good job by them, cause most of the friends I have today are from going on that weekend.

Kari was there. In fact she was the first person whom I’d recognised. I still don’t know if it was the openness of the weekend, or if it was just the first time we’d spoken that was longer than a couple of minutes between or during classes, but that weekend I fell for Kari.

And Kari had fallen for someone else.

It becomes normal when you fall for someone to view the world differently to everyone else. You analyse every thing they do or say towards you to look for some meaning that they feel the same way. You’ll use any excuse to get in contact with them.

You’ll also choose to believe the reality that suits you the best.

Case in point:

Kari and this guy, Gaston, were friends, and even though they acted closer than most friends I knew did, I refused to believe that they were more than “just friends”

In reality however, Kari and Gaston were not “just friends”. I didn’t want to believe it, so I chose not to.

Until the night of Anna’s farewell. Friends of mine had taken off from the farewell to see if they could find some way inside the enclosed football field at the end of the street Anna lived on. I had followed to watch, admittedly because I thought they weren’t going to be able to and that would be extremely amusing.

As we reached the enclosed football field, some of my friends darted off in one direction to see if they could find a way in, while the others darted off to find a place where they could watch the first group fail humorously.

I genuinely wasn’t paying attention to which direction either group was headed and was instead admiring the enclosed football field. The lights had been mistakenly left on and I could see why my friends were trying to get in. Professional football field, no one else around, and perfectly lit despite the fact that it was 11pm. If I wasn’t so certain my friends wouldn’t be able to get in I may have joined in them.

When I turned around and discovered I was alone, I headed off in one of the directions I’d assumed my friends had headed off in. My evil plan was to sneak up behind whatever group I found and scare the crap out of them.

As I was sneaking, it dawned on me that I hadn’t found them, though I was certain I could vaguely make out someone just a short distance away. As I got closer I had a better look at who I was sneaking up on.

What I came across was Kari and Gaston in a fiercely passionate embrace. Reality set in, and a feel of humiliation and blind stupidity spread over me.

She only had eyes for him. I’d been a fool.

The only thing that had saved them from noticing me was that I’d been trying to sneak up and scare my other friends. In retrospect, as I took off I may not have been as subtle but I’m pretty certain that since Gaston was busy sliding into second base neither of them would notice I was there.

I soon found the second group of friends, the ones who’d gone to find a good view to watch the first group, and discovered quickly that they too had stumbled across Kari and Gaston.

Don’t worry Liam, I’m sure she only has eyes for you,” one of them said sarcastically, in a joking way. Unfortunately for me everyone laughed. It immediately dawned on me that my feeling for Kari were blatantly obvious to everyone else, probably even Kari herself. I felt like the world’s biggest dumb arse.

My expression must’ve displayed this feeling because one of my friends stepped forward, being completely serious and asked if I was okay. On the verge of breaking down in tears, a sight no male EVER wants anyone else to see, I was about to respond when there was a shout of excitement from within the enclosed football field.

Everyone’s attention turned to see the first group had found a way in and were victoriously running up and down the seats surrounding the football field. I used this distraction to run off into the night without anyone noticing.

I returned to the party only when my friend Jodie, who had given me a lift there, had sent me a text to tell me she was leaving.

When I got home I went straight to my room and grabbed my journal. I’d written the last few entries as letters to Kari. Letters I would’ve shown her had we actually gotten together.

I ripped out every letter in the that stupid book. I then threw it as hard as I could against my bedroom wall. I tore up every letter until they were confetti and then beat the floor with my fists until I broke down crying.

I stayed in my room as much as possible for the next week.

And, in time, I got over Kari.

Five years later I was working for a law firm and was on my regular afternoon deliveries to the Supreme Court. Sitting there waiting in line I looked up and was surprised to see Kari walking towards me. She seemed just as surprised to see me.

We talked for a while as we waited. She had a job similar to mine at another law firm. She was studying law at university and thought this was a good way to get her foot in the door.

I personally believed that doing my job would put her off law completely but I didn’t tell her this.

I left a few minutes later thinking that we would bump into each other again as we now had similar jobs.

To my surprise we didn’t. Well, we did once, weeks later. This was surprise because everyone who had the same job as mine but for a different firm were constantly bumping into each other.

Six months later I got a new job, the job which I currently work in. This in turn lead to the Party For No Reason which brings us back to where we left off….

—-

The night of the party came. Plenty of people came and a good time was had by all. To be completely honest I was not surprised I never saw Kari that night. I just hadn’t believed she was coming in the first place, though it was a funny story to joke about with my friends Josh and Sangas.

A few days after the party Kari texted me to say she was sorry about not making to the party. She’d apparently been sick with a stomach bug and thus wasn’t able to come. I felt this fairly justified, as the last stomach bug I’d had landed me in bed with buckets surrounding it for three days.

I didn’t hear from Kari for a while, months later I got a message inviting me to her going away party. She was moving to Melbourne to “work/uni/party”.

The first thing I did upon receiving this text was to call Sangas and tell him about it. He was surprised that I’d received an invite, but I reasoned I’d invited her to my party it seemed only fair for me to get an invite to hers.

I was actually interested in going to that and to see her friends from high school (one of whom I’d actually become friends with later on) and to see how much everyone had changed. However, her party was at a cocktail bar and the invite implied you would be buying your own drinks. That was fair, I didn’t have a problem with that concept. The only problem I had was the fact that I didn’t have any money.

You would think that after so many years of this being an issue (as is the life of a person in share housing) I’d have come up with some sure sure fire way to come up with a solution in situations like this. Well, I had come up with a savings plan that left me with money if I needed it, but this generally took more planning than a couple of days.

In my head I came up with what seemed like a perfectly logical plan. I would show up to the party and blow the last of my money on five shots. That would been enough to get me drunk and open for the rest of the evening. Getting home would be a problem for drunken Liam to deal with. Or I could just fall asleep in the back of my car, in which case getting to the party would not be a problem.

This plan seemed sound enough, until I realised the afternoon before the party that I hadn’t accounted for petrol costs to get to work. Or eating costs for every day after the party.

The last forty dollars in my bank account now seemed non-existent.

I pulled out my phone to text Kari and tell her I wouldn’t be able to make it when an idea suddenly popped into my head: I would be in Melbourne in about three weeks time. (At this stage I’d had the book idea) I could meet her there! Friendly face, new city, it seemed like a great idea. To make things even better – I’d be able to meet up with one of my previous crushes. Perfect!

So I messaged Kari telling her this, leaving out the part about the book, and she seemed to be genuinely looking forward to meeting me up there.

That night, I related the entire Kari situation to Sangas who’d responded with: “Are you sure she hasn’t confused you with Liam Early?”

Liam Early was one of the most popular guys in school. He was attractive and smart. All the girls wanted to date him, some of the guys as well too I’m sure, even the ones in the grades above us. Years after high school I would find there was a large portion of girls two years older than us who were attracted to him. I know that happens plenty in adult lives, but in high school two years older is a major age gap.

Sangas was implying that because our first names were the same, Kari had mixed the two of us up. I was annoyed. There was a good possibility Sangas was right.

I could not think of a good way to test this theory, other than calling her up. I was almost certain once she noticed the difference in our voices, she would figure out which Liam she was talking to.

I did not want to do this. Not just because there was chance it could prove Sangas right, but because if it did turn out she actually wanted to meet up with the other Liam, the chances of her meeting up with me would drop significantly.

About a week later I was at work when my mobile rang. I pulled it out and checked to see who was calling.

The words Private Number looked back at me. I answered the phone.

Liam speaking,”

There was long pause, then.

Sorry, I was wondering if Liam was there, it’s Kari,” the familiar sounding voice on the other end said. I smiled.

Yeah, speaking.”

What? I was after Liam….”

That would be me,” I said playfully “That’s why I answered saying ‘Liam Speaking’”

There was an unsettling tone to her voice when she said

Sorry, I must have the numbers wrong in my phone or something.”

She then hung up. Her tone was unsettling because it was now dawning on me there was a very good chance Sangas was right.

I grabbed the phone and tried calling Kari. No answer.

I texted her.

Out of curiosity, which Liam were you after?”

Half an hour later she responded with:

What are you talking about?”

I recounted, in the briefest way possible, the phone conversation from earlier. Her response was:

Weird. Have a good day.”

She was being brief. She’d never been brief before. She’d always typed long messages.

When she thought you were Liam Early!

There was no solid proof it had been her. It had certainly sounded like her, and there was the fact she hadn’t answered when I tried to call her but she’d responded to my text almost immediately.

After debating about it for the rest of afternoon and I firmly decided that it must’ve been some other Kari who just happened to have my number and was looking for another Liam.

That made perfectly logical sense, right?

So I know what you are asking yourself….. “He said he was doing the girls in chronological order, why is he now interviewing a girl he didn’t have a crush on until he was 17?” True – I had intended to interview the girls in the order I had a crush on them, but with Kari in Melbourne I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and interview her while I was up there.

So there I was. Mere hours before I was due to fly to Melbourne. The meeting with the first girl I ever had a crush on had fallen through, but I still had hope. After all Kari had seemed fairly keen to meet up. I figured that was in the bag. All I had to do was call up and make firm arrangements for meeting her.

I picked up my phone, I called. The phone rang for a really long time before passing me on to Kari’s voice mail. The message sounded suspiciously like the voice that had mistakenly called my phone a week earlier.

Attempting to ignore the nagging doubt in my mind, I left a message asking Kari to call me and telling that I was going to be in Melbourne for the next four days.

I threw all of my stuff into bag and walked out the front door just as my sister Rachel arrived to give me a lift to the airport.

Rachel did not particularly think my idea for a book was a good idea. I had known this and decided not to let it bother me. I made a concerted effort to never mention it when she was around.

Figuring she might find it interesting, I quickly related the story of the first crush to her. Her response was completely open and honest, and did absolute wonders for the nagging doubt in the back of my mind.

You know, if I got a phone call from a guy saying ‘Hey, I used to have crush on you, want to meet up?’ I wouldn’t be meeting up with him, no matter what excuse he used.

She had a point. It was possible the two crushes I’d contacted so far believed the book was an excuse, a story I was using just to get them on a date.

I also thought this was be a bad time to remind her I’d had a huge crush on one of her friends when I was in high school and that I’d probably contact her when I got to that part of the book. (Oh indeed I did, but we’ll get to that later…)

Instead, I tactfully changed the subject.

One flight later I was in my brother’s car on the way to his house. Greg had similar thoughts to Rachel’s in regards to the book. Though he was more concerned that I was about put myself through a lot of self torture, which I then figured could potentially have been Rachel’s problems with the whole book idea. I made a mental note to ask her about that some time.

Slightly stunned at the growing dislike of the book idea from family members I chose not to bring it up in conversation much. Since it was the main topic on my mind though, this was seemingly a lost cause as it had a habit of occasionally popping up in conversation.

I spent the evening catching up with my brother, pausing only to check my phone twice to see if Kari had responded. When she still hadn’t the second time, I switched the phone to silent and abandoned it in the room I was staying in to push it out of my mind. I didn’t need the growing suspicion, that the meet up with Kari wasn’t going to go as planned, bothering me for the evening.

Greg’s wife Penny thought the book was a good idea, but it would be a better idea if I was a little older. It was when I was telling Penny about it that Greg explained that he wasn’t against the idea, he just didn’t like the thought of what I was putting myself through.

Happy with this honest and more positive response I showed him what I’d written so far, and his entire opinion changed, I guess you could say he was a lot more at peace after that.

This gave me an amazing amount of confidence. So much so that the next day when Kari texted saying that she was really busy and wouldn’t be able to meet up I took all in my stride. So what if she didn’t want to meet up? I could still write something about the failed journey here.

The following day I decided I didn’t have to lose by putting it all on the line. So I texted the following to Kari:

“Okay, this is going to sound really bizarre, but I’m actually writing a book about interviewing every girl I ever had a crush on. I’ve just interviewed the first girl I ever had a crush on, I’m out in Olinda today (outskirts of Melbourne) but I’ll be back in the city tomorrow and Wednesday. I was kinda hoping I could interview you while I’m up here. I know how odd that sounds and I’ll completely understand if you don’t want to, of if you’re too busy but I figure it couldn’t hurt to ask.”

See? How’s that for putting it all out there? Okay, so I made have made it sound like I actually met my first crush and interviewed her in person, but hey, I didn’t lie.

About an hour later Kari responded with:

“My mums here so pretty busy catching up. Can catch up sometime when I’m back in Canberra but not sure about being in book though.”

Luckily at this stage Rachel had given me perspective on where Kari was coming from. After all – I was the nut job who had contacted out of the blue because I used to have a crush on her.

I thought about how Greg’s opinion on the book had changed after reading it. I made the decision to show the book to Kari if she did happen to get into contact with me later.

And if she didn’t, that was okay too.

I did eventually hear from Kari again, much later, I did consider trying to contact Liam Early, and seeing if he could get an interview with Kari, but thought that would reflect badly on me.

Because obviously I had been sounding like a perfectly sane individual up until that point, hadn’t I?


Cross posted to emptyfortunecookie.com

The book can be purchased from this link. Chapters will continue to be posted Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

All events in this story are true, with the consent of being told from my perspective on the situation. (It being a memoir and all.) Names and minor identifying details were changed to protect some people’s identities.

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