September 11, 2007

After the Fall

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I would like to use the opportunity of this brief column to share my very personal, unfortunate experience in hope of dissuading the behavior that cut three lives short in one night.

It occurred this summer during my two months in Hong Kong. I was part of an international collegiate workshop whose design projects benefited an Asian hotel giant. Throughout the program we lived up to the cliché of working hard and partying harder: days were depleted in our windowless Kowloon studio and nights were spent on Hong Kong Island at the bars and clubs.

My attraction to “Aki” was immediate. Her English was imperfect, unlike the subtle curves of her body, but that made conversation all the more intriguing for me. More worldly, refined, and outgoing than her peers, she coolly assimilated to the wilder antics of the American and the French students. Her dormitory room, conveniently one floor below mine, made drunken coition convenient and regular. We were jejune and irresponsible, but as many in their early twenties feel – we thought we were infallible.

I did not immediately understand her drastic and sudden change of behavior. Aki awkwardly avoided me at university and no longer joined the group after hours. Thinking I had unknowingly done something trivial to aggravate her feminine sentiments, I thought it best not to accost her but to let her come to me. Two full weeks passed before I cowardly asked her best friend Linda to extricate the issue. She said that she had made plans to go out with Aki later in the week for that same reason, and that she would let me know what she discovered. Clearly I was not the only person aware of her debilitating emotional state.

Thursday morning around four, I was woken by a call. Linda was phoning from Aki’s mobile and said that Aki was terribly drunk and had to speak with me then. Twenty minutes later my world stopped. Through tears, Aki blurted that she was pregnant, that her family would disown her, that she would not get an abortion, and that the room – no matter how hard she tried – would not stop spinning.

I was stunned; it took a while for me to gain some semblance of composure. I told her that we would work through this problem and I did my best to calm her. There was so much I wanted to say, but I was too shocked and she too inebriated to achieve anything that night. I decided to take her to her room to let her pass out; everything would be dealt with better in the morning. The slow, sad walk down the hall felt eternal. My heart was all I could hear. And as we entered the stairwell, I did what any reasonable twenty-year-old in my position would do: I pushed her with all my strength.

I am going to hell, but because I am a liar. I am also gay so, if my eight years of Roman Catholic schooling were accurate, I will go to hell for that too. On the upside, I probably will not impregnate any Chinese women… At least not any time soon. My mother, though, upon hearing that my boyfriend and I were having some troubles said, a hint of hope in her voice,
“You know, if you are having all these troubles with men, maybe they just are not right for you. You should really try to date women. Really…”
Not wanting to explain the absurdity of her comment or attempt rational conversation, I left the room replying,
“Maybe if you hadn’t hugged me so much as a child I would. Maybe.”
I left her to her thoughts and the laundry. I went upstairs to arrange my leather shoes in a color coordinated fashion in the hallway outside my bedroom. I started with my black leather Italian ankle boots and ended with my light brown Cole Haan driving moccasins. The 23 other pairs of varying hues completed the lineup which I proudly photographed. And then I piled them all back into my closet.