The Czech Girl Story
By Thomas Biehl
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Copyright 2016 Thomas Biehl
Like most young people, I thought the world owed me something. For what I had been through in life, I felt I deserved the perfect girlfriend. This idea made me into something of a hopeless romantic, and there was really ever only one way it was going to die, hard.
After my first year of college, I decided to take some time off and ended up working in the housekeeping department of a YMCA resort in Colorado for the summer. Hana, and her sister Tereza, didn’t show up until mid-July because college semesters in the Czech Republic run until the end of June. It started with innocent flirting and conversation when we were put on the same crew together. At some point, we each must have realized there was an attraction between us but decided not to get too close as Hana would be going home at the end of August.
One day, Hana, another girl, and I were tasked with cleaning the chapel together. When we took our lunch break, Hana started playing the piano. Any resolve I had not to fall for this girl melted right then and there. If there was any girl that fit into my adolescent picture of perfection, this was her; she was foreign, spoke five languages, had red hair, and played the piano. After that, we spent more time together inside and outside of work, all the while fooling ourselves into thinking we weren’t becoming attached to one another.
Right up until the day she was scheduled to leave, we considered ourselves mere close friends. I remember being shocked when my boss asked me if I was upset that my girlfriend was going home. I replied that I didn’t have a girlfriend, and apparently she and everyone else was under the impression that I did have one. One morning before I started work, Hana and I said our goodbyes, hugged, and exchanged emails. It wasn’t until we were parted that I realized how much I cared for her.
Hana and Tereza’s ride had been hours late, and they had decided to have lunch at the resort before setting out. While they were walking to the Commons, my crew and I were moving from one lodge to the next. When we saw one another, Hana and I ran to each other and embraced as if we were some couple in a cheesy romantic movie. Then, she left.
We spent the coming months emailing, writing letters, talking on the phone a handful of times, and video messaging once or twice. In those pieces of early correspondence, I admitted to Hana and to myself that I loved her. She, however, still remained guarded in her feelings. We did what couples do in long distance relationships and put the best version of ourselves possible down on paper and typed in emails. I had always wanted to go to Europe at the end of my year off from college and before long, it was decided that I would come visit her the following May.
By that time, I was working as a ski lift operator at Vail and had a night job in a T-shirt shop. I watched the travel websites closely and got a round trip ticket from O’Hare to Prague, a two week long stay, for $500. After much excitement and the now forthcoming feelings associated with my visit, it was decided that I should stay for longer. Between the fee for changing the tickets and the difference in price, I ended up paying another $500.
As the months wore on and my trip approached, our correspondence involved more and more feelings. I did some research and even considered moving to the Czech Republic if things went well in May. Finally, in the last letter I received from Hana before I left, she told me she loved me and that I was the only one she wanted to be with. I flew home and spent a week there before embarking halfway across the world.
My mom and her boyfriend spent three hours driving me to O’Hare. I waited another three hours to board my plane, because they had told me I needed to be there that early. The initial flight from Chicago to Milan, Italy took twelve hours. What was supposed to be an hour layover at the airport in Milan ended up being four hours; then, came a two hour flight from Milan to Prague. By the time I got off that last plane, I had been traveling for twenty four hours straight.
Eight months since the last time we had seen each other face to face, Hana and I hugged when I walked out of customs at the Prague airport and set foot in another country for the first time in my life. Living through a moment you have pictured in your head a thousand times proved to be a surreal experience. Still, as we sat down at the back of a bus headed to her home town of Přeštice, I knew something wasn’t right. I asked her if everything was okay, and she told me that she no longer knew how she felt about me.
Hana had been in a four year long relationship when the guy decided he wanted to see other people. A year later, he told her he was done seeing other people and he wanted to get back together. Hana had been considering just that, until she met me. Apparently, day before my visit this ex-boyfriend had gotten in touch with her, renewed his pursuits, and left her much confused.
Basically, all of the fights, emotions, and problems we should have had in an eight month long relationship happened in those three weeks. It was a rollercoaster ride of certainty and hesitation. We went from being just friends to being more to being in love and back on a daily basis. One day, Hana even brought me the closest I had even been to hitting a woman when she compared me to the descriptions I had given her of my father; I told her to walk away.
By the time I left, I felt more lost and confused then I had ever been in my life. It took me years to sort out what had happened in that faraway country, but when the dust settled, I realized that the trip did something for me that eventually was going to have to happen in one form or another. In order for me to have a realistic relationship, the idea that life owed me the perfect girlfriend had to be destroyed. The young idealistic person I had been was never going to give that up easily. The Czech girl and that trip helped to wash away the mistaken beliefs of my youth; have a healthy, productive relationship; and become the happy, whole individual I am today.