Whatever happened to Catherine? So much drama in such a short time. I can only hope she's happy now. She's probably married. She probably has kids.
But 1999 was a different story. In 1999 she was a very different sort of girl. She wasn't as wild as some of course, but she was certainly flirting with danger.
I was in a club in Taichung, two weeks off the plane from Seattle. I was well on my way to drunk. At some point I looked over and saw her standing there in her white satin dress, her friend Vivian nearby.
As you might expect, we wound up talking. Phone numbers were exchanged, and we slowly got to know one another. I honestly can't remember if I slept with her that night. It's possible. I'd had a lot to drink.
And after? She called me or I called her, and then I suppose we were dating. I don't remember many of our dates. I have a fairly clear memory of following her around the Chungyo Department Store near the Taichung Train Station, and I remember meeting her at night markets, but the rest is rather vague.
What I remember best - or is it worst? - about her are the late night phone calls. I'd be sitting or lying down in my apartment after a day of kindergarten, probably listening to one of Bowie's Berlin albums, and the phone would ring.
I always knew how the conversation would go. She'd ask me what I was doing, to which I'd reply "Nothing." She'd tell me about her day at the school where she worked. She'd tell me that she loved me. She'd ask if I loved her. I'd day "Yes," meaning love in the most general sense possible.
Then it was time to talk about her parents, and how they'd never accept a foreigner as her boyfriend - maybe even as her husband - I was never entirely sure. She'd go on about this for a while, and usually the phone call would end with her crying into the phone and wishing me a good night.
Just imagine weeks of this behavior, and you can imagine how ready I was to break up with her after a month's time. I was 25, I was new to Taiwan, there were women everywhere, and I really wasn't in love with her, no matter how diplomatic I tried to be on the phone. Did I feel sorry for her? Yes, but feeling sorry for someone isn't the same as loving them.
I broke up with her just before a Halloween party two coworkers and I had in our shared apartment. I can remember feeling very good about the decision. I was surrounded by friends and full of liquor, and all seemed right with the world. I played Sound and Vision way too loud on our shared CD player. I started to notice how much more attractive one of the girls at the party was in comparison to Catherine, and this girl and I struck up an easy conversation.
As you might expect, Catherine showed up not long after. No one had invited her, even though her best friend was in attendance. She went straight into my room and began sulking. When I opened the door and saw her tear-stained face, I quickly retreated back to the living room. I'd already broken up with her. I didn't see any point in reliving it.
The door to my room remained closed until she emerged screaming. "Fuck you!" she shouted, "You don't love me! You never loved me!"
Everyone else in the room fell silent as I escorted her to the door. "I don't want to talk about this." I said, "You need to go."
I closed the apartment door behind her. I felt bad about it of course, but there was nothing else I could do. We really had said everything there was to say to one another. She loved me, I tried - and failed - to love her back, her parents didn't want her dating a foreigner, and that was it.
A few minutes later someone arriving late to the party said that she'd been drunk, and that she'd fallen down the stairs. I went downstairs to look but couldn't find her. A few minutes after that she tried to force her way back into the apartment, and by her second or third attempt other people at the party were helping me escort her out.
After Catherine had given up, the attractive girl I'd been talking to earlier told me that I'd handled myself well. I can only hope I did. The two of us wound up in my room after that party, where we continued to talk for a long time. A few months after that she was my wife, and I suppose that I have Catherine to thank for that.
In Catherine's defense she was very young. She'd just graduated from college, and it never seemed like she'd dated anyone seriously before. Perhaps the issue of love had never come up, and she didn't know how to handle those feelings in the context of her parents' disapproval. We all get our hearts broken at least once, and maybe I was her first.
Anyway, it was a long time ago. I'm sure she's much happier now. At least I hope so. I like to imagine her sitting next to her Taiwanese husband in a car, with their children chattering away in the back seat.
In this daydream they're on their way to her parents' house, where her husband will be received by her very traditional parents with open arms.