Friday, September 18, 2009

Wisconsin Ruins a Relationship

Wisconsin Ruins a Relationship

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

When I was in high school, in 1984, I nearly had a girlfriend from Wisconsin. It's not that I ruined the relationship, or that there was something wrong with her. Rather, I wrecked lost her, thanks to a tree and a bloody nose. Personally, I blame Wisconsin.

That summer, my mom, my stepfather Tom, sister, and brother went to a camp and lodge somewhere deep in the heart of the Wisconsin wilderness. We were far enough away from civilization that I was actually allowed to walk through the lodge bar despite the alcohol laws, and into the back room where they had some video arcade games. Ideally, we weren't supposed to be there, but it was a slow week, and the odds of the excise police showing up were slim to none.

Each night we would hang out in the back room, and my sister and I would play video games, talking to any of the other kids who would hang out. On our last night, I met a girl my own age, who was on vacation with her family. We spent nearly an hour talking about school, family, and college plans, while our parents were in the bar, and my sister played Donkey Kong.

Finally, when it was time to go, I asked the girl if she would give me her address, so we could write to each other. My family had already left, so she wrote it out on a bar napkin, handed it to me, and urged me to write to her right away. Then she gave me a quick kiss, and walked off after her parents, back to their cabin.

Wow, she liked me! She wanted me to write to her, AND she kissed me. This was the best vacation ever. This was the closest thing I'd had to a girlfriend in a couple years, so I was really stoked. I was going to write my first of the letter as soon as I got back to the cabin.

It was dark, and I wasn't sure where I was, but I figured everyone was farther up the trail, so I ran to catch up. As I did, I saw some people moseying along, and I moved to pass them on the left.

There was a flash, a crash, and the S-word as I ran face first into an oak tree that was able to absorb a full body blow without flinching. I could feel my glasses cut the bridge of my nose, which started bleeding before I even hit the ground.

Instinctively, I covered my nose with the first thing that came to my mind: the napkin with this girl's address on it. I said another S-word, and yanked it off my nose. Tom just moseyed over and asked if I was okay. He had to do it, since my mother was choking back her concern, which sounded suspiciously like laughter. Tom helped me to my feet, and I handed my sister my glasses, my hat, and the napkin.

"You know, I was thinking," said Tom, "that surely you wouldn't run into that tree. I was sure you saw it, and would avoid it. But no, you ran smack into it." And he started laughing. Tom was not prone to loud laughter, but that may have been one of the few times I ever saw him laugh that hard.

"I couldn't see it. It was dark, I didn't even know that was you guys ahead of me," I said, dazed, wondering where I was. I'm nearly blind without my glasses, so I couldn't see a thing. Add the blunt force trauma to my face, and I was pretty out of it as they led me back to the cabin, blood streaming down my face.

Back in the cabin, I sat down on the couch as I held a wet paper towel to my nose. My sister handed me my stuff, and I could hear the disappointment in her voice. "I'm sorry, but you used the napkin to stop the blood, and now you can't even read it."

I looked at the napkin, and saw what she meant. It was ruined beyond readability. I could make out a few letters here and there, but I had soaked it up pretty good. The girl's address, her hometown, even her name, were all obliterated. I had no idea what her name was or how to reach her.

Since she had already gone back to her own cabin, I couldn't run back to the bar and ask for another copy. I couldn't knock on every door in the camp and ask if they had a 17-year-old daughter. I could only sit there and stare at the shredded, bloody napkin, and think about what might have been. And to wish I had been smart enough to give her my address as well.

Stupid Wisconsin.

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