Five months later, HIM’s “Killing Loneliness” still has power over me, taking me straight back to Korea.
In 2001, I went with other members of the Brookdale Community College forensics (speech and debate, not dead bodies) team to Prague for the 11th annual International Forensics Association tournament. In memory, it was an amazing time and holds many, dare I say for lack of a better word, magical moments in my mind.
I forgot my CDs. Seven days in Prague and no CDs. But, I’d somehow remembered my CD player. Brilliant. Kate Jones and another member of the team gave me free run of the CDs they’d brought. Still being considerably more of a music snob five years ago, I turned my nose up at most of it. But, I was desperate. I liked Bon Jovi (yes, I know, what kind of a musical snob openly expresses interest in Bon Jovi? But, there it is) and I’d taken a shine to a song by Matchbox 20, I can’t remember which. Plus, Orgy was the closest thing available that was remotely metal. They would be “the three.”
The three were played constantly for the next several days, serving as the backdrop soundtrack to my first international journey. Specifically, track five and “Mystery Train,” off Bon Jovi’s Crush album; track two, “Stiches,” I think, and track 10, off Orgy’s Candyass; and track two and several other tracks that have faded from current memory from Matchbox 20’s Yourself or Someone Like You, these were the soundtrack to my Czech Republic excursion, and they still, to this day, reward me with fond, fuzzy, nostalgia-tinged memories of that trip.
(Some of these still do today, 16 years later, FYI. -ed., 2017)
I vividly remember sitting in the hallway of the fifth floor of the Hilton Prague, 5am, crying my heavily intoxicated self sober over the assistant coach of the Suffolk Community College team. Or was it Suffolk University? Anyway, I’d taken a liking to her. She seemed fun. Still being a virgin at the time, with very little by way of “experience,” I can’t imagine how green I must have seemed to her and how, things I thought worked, must have been terribly awkward.
I was a pushy person. Still am when it comes to some things. That night, the aforementioned “crying night,” I’d gone out for drinks with her, Jodi was her name, and several of her team members. We were all drunk before we left the hotel, everyone on most of the 12-15 schools there for the tournament practically were, it seemed. Booze was very cheap, even in the hotel. So, we left, trolled through cobblestone streets, past other merrymakers looking for a good time, and off the beaten path to some pizza place, still open at 2am.
I couldn’t read Czech, so I just pointed to the first item on the menu, figuring it must be some kind of basic pizza. It was basic alright. No sauce. Or was sauce, but, no cheese? During this fine meal, while Jodi was in the bathroom, one of her team members started implying that she had a boyfriend back home, someone she was practically engaged to, and to, well, give it a rest.
Being, by this point, six to eight sheets to the wind, I didn’t take it well. I stamped and stomped, a moody little jerk, about 10 paces behind the rest as we made our way back to the hotel. They said goodnight, I said the same. Or, mumbled it is more like it. I made my way upstairs to my room. And only made it as far as that couch.
Later on, once I’d finally got to my room, I found out the others, who’d gone off to a nightclub were still awake, tending to one of the team members who’d been slipped a date rape drug and was presently bawling on the bed. At this point, still drunk, I proceeded into the now world famous (at least, in the Brookdale Community College forensics circle) dictation of my evening with Jodi and her team.
Yes, that was his name. Last I heard, they did get married and she’s had a child. Good for them.
I smile as I think back to this somewhat absurd and slightly sad tale. I was a wreck that night. The next day, when we all went on our day trip to Austria and ended up stuck in the country because one of our team members didn’t have a return visa back to the CR, I was also a wreck. Tired beyond measure, freaking the hell out because we were out of the Brookdale Bubble of security and on our own in a foreign country.
Afterward, I’d curse myself for not enjoying it as much as I should. But, now, all I have in terms of memories are fond ones. Even for the freak outs. Five years will do that.
Five months will, too. HIM’s “Killing Loneliness” still holds a power over me, taking me straight back to Korea. And, not the Korea where I was smoking two packs of Dunhill’s and Esse’s a day, or pining over a girl who’d moved on, or felt like the strangest stranger in the strangest land. It takes me back to standing outside of Oh Sung Sik English Club, looking over at the high school, setting up a concert for their students. It takes me back to running down the stairs of the school, listening to the school pound K-Pop and thinking, man, they sound like they’re having a great time and vicariously, having a good time myself in the process. It takes me back to singing at the Noraebang with Emily, my director, of going with her and her brother to their parents tombs in Gojae-do, her hometown. It takes me back to my last night, up all night, hanging out with Jason and Madeleine, drinking soju, eating cheap sushi and talking about what’s next. It takes me back to the last, great long walk with Estevez, up and down Hadaedong’s city blocks, talking about also what’s next?
What was next was, within a week of each other, both of us would be bound for other parts of the world. And during that time, my heart pounded double time, my hands always reached for cigarettes, my thoughts always found their way back to Raha, and questions as to whether or not I really did the right thing.
Five months later, HIM’s “Killing Loneliness” still holds power over me, taking me straight back to Korea. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.