Readers' Submissions

Once In A Lifetime

  • Written by BKKSteve
  • March 10th, 2007
  • 15 min read


China Hotel Guide
• Golden Lake Guangdong Hotel
• Good View Sangem Hotel
• Resort Lotus Lake Sangem
• Windsor Park Hotel Dongguan


I’ve always tried to write about Thailand which is fun, but most of my experience in Asia comes from time spent in Japan and Korea and today I actually read the submission qualifications for the first time and I’m going to make the leap that “neighboring countries” includes both Japan and Korea. This opens up an entire treasure chest of material of such import that hasn’t been seen since the discovery of the dead sea scrolls. I kid you not. Today we’re going back in time to the year 1988 and a place called Torri Station located on the island of Okinawa in Japan. Anyone familiar with this base will immediately realize it’s where the Army’s 1st Special Forces Group is forward deployed and that as far as bases go it’s perhaps the perfect blend of small size and beauty equipped with the necessities of life like great gyms and even better clubs. That says a lot about our life back then, work hard and play harder. Twice a year we were granted an additional two weeks of R&R to compensate for being in such an “inconvenient” location which for the life of me I never understood. My time in Okinawa remains to this day as the best period in my life bar none. How can one even begin to describe how wonderful life can be when your in your 20’s, in the physical shape of a professional athlete, and living on a beautiful tropical island surrounded by the best scuba diving on this side of the world save for Truk Lagoon in Guam. More, Okinawa was a top resort destination for the hoards of young Japanese women who would fly in for a few days to a week of their own type of R&R so there was never a shortage of new friends. This submission starts on Okinawa.

I was due for R&R and my last 4-5 trips had been spent showing the ropes to those who wanted to visit Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, India, and other beautiful places. I won’t say why but I needed to decompress in a big way and I would have been terrible company so I decided to travel alone to South Korea and spend a few weeks in Seoul doing quiet things like checking out their tourist spots in the daytime and their nightclubs during the evening. Two weeks of shopping, browsing, and drinking went by quickly so I won’t bore you with the details. I found myself back at the airport waiting for a flight out and my mood hadn’t improved the entire time. Perhaps it was the negative anti-American protests and attitudes during the day and the mercenary bargirls at night, but I was in a terrible mood while waiting for the plane. Imagine my mood when it was announced the last flight out for the day was cancelled and I’d have to spend one more night. Just when my mood peaked at its worst I heard a female voice say “excuse me sir” and that was all I needed to hear to make the assumption that yet another working girl was going to give me the routine and not being in the mood I replied in fairly decent Korean in a most unfriendly manner. I didn’t even look up but when a few seconds of silence went by I decided to raise my eyes and when I did my heart skipped a beat.

Standing before me was an angel that I can best describe as being the twin of the model Sung-hi Lee. It didn’t take long for her shock to disappear and her anger to register and man did she cuss me out for being so rude. I behaved like the perfect ass and she was letting me know in how many ways. All I could do was smile and I kept smiling until she couldn’t keep up the act any longer and she started laughing and soon we were both laughing. I offered to carry her bag as we walked out of the terminal and during the walk I learned she’d stayed the night before at the Park Hotel where I’d stayed. Walking outside there was Mr. Park and his van, all smiles to see two of his customers who obviously needed a ride back to his hotel. It was a short ride back but during that time we didn’t say a word. Sitting next to each other so close something happened that I’d never felt before or since. I’d met lots of women in my life by then but none that made me feel like she did. It’s so hard to describe but I suppose my heart beat had increased, my pupils had dilated, and my pores increased in size making me sweat lightly. My breathing became more shallow and I felt like I was going to faint but I didn’t, all I could do was look into her eyes and see she was experiencing the same reaction. Mr. Park must have seen the same thing because arriving at his hotel he just handed us the one key and we grabbed our bags and headed to the room still silent.

Opening the door we dropped our bags inside and not even 30 minutes after meeting we were ripping our clothes off and making love in the way you only see in cheesy love scenes. We carried on for a few hours in mutual bliss time and again. Finally we slowed down and she started sobbing quietly and for the rest of the night I just held her and tried to sooth her. Finally falling asleep it wasn’t until morning that I woke and it was her who awakened me by demanding a repeat performance of the night before. Late into the morning we held each other and I realized that not only didn’t I know anything about her, but we didn’t even know each others names. My bladder finally got the better of me so I went to the bathroom to relieve myself and afterwards stepped into the shower. A few minutes later she steps into the shower with me and taking the soap starts to wash me from the top to bottom, pausing only once to look in my eyes and say “my name is Kwi-chu” which I quickly followed by introducing myself and then washing her. Wrapping ourselves in towels we went back to the bed and ordered breakfast from room service. We started talking and didn’t stop until later in the day.

She told me she was a teacher from an all girls school who had just graduated from the university and started her first job a few months ago. I knew from the night before that I was her first and she tried to let me know that without appearing naïve which was endearing but to ease her discomfort I stepped in and told as much about myself and my job that I could. Before evening we’d decided to stay in Seoul an extra few days and see the town together. This was different, even though we coupled enough to cause ourselves physical pain we also talked enough to wear out our tongues. We discovered how very different we were in so many ways, yet how much we had in common from religion to what we expected from life. It was strange, I know we walked kilometer after kilometer through the city for days, enough so my legs which were extremely well conditioned developed soreness.. yet I don’t remember where we went and what we did. An entire city of millions seemed to melt away leaving only her and I together to share what would have been the perfect start to the perfect romance story. The few days we’d delayed our departure drew to an end, but our interest in each other continued to grow. I never believed in it or thought it possible and to be frank I wasn’t smart enough to realize what was happening at the time, but this was a case of love at first sight and our destinies became intertwined. It would take me a long time to be aware of this.

This was the mid-80’s, before email, cheap phone cards, mobile phones, and fat paychecks. All we could think to do as we parted was scribble down mailing addresses on scraps of paper and exchange them as our courses led us our separate ways. Leaving the terminal in Naha I went to the long term parking and retrieved my Harley and headed up highway one to the barracks on base. The next week was very busy full of conditioning, running, jumping from planes onto the old Yomitan air strip, classroom time, range time, but at night when I lay in bed unable to sleep my thoughts were mine to wander. I tried but I couldn’t get her out of my mind as I remembered every sight, smell, and every bit of texture of her hair and body and the sound of her voice and look in her eyes. While out with friends at the club and bars they thought it rather amusing that I’d lost my interest in the women that used to occupy such a big part of my off-time and I found myself making excuses to go back to my room to remember and think. Taking a seat at my desk I pulled out a pen and paper and composed a letter which I put in an envelope and addressed being careful to copy exactly the Hangul script that was supposed to be her address. I didn’t even know if she’d get my letter asking her to come visit me on a certain date much less have the ability and means to take the time off work and come spend a few weeks with me. Still, three weeks later I took the car and headed for Naha and arrived two hours early right in front of the exit from immigration.

Finally the daily flight from Kimpo landed and for over 45 minutes I watched person after person come through the exit but no Kwi-chu. People stopped coming through the exit and ten minutes later when I was just about to give up the door swings open and there she is with the most perfect smile on her face. I couldn’t believe it, I wrote one letter asking her to appear and here she was! Taking her bag I headed for the car and during the drive home I explained to her that she’d be staying in my room in the barracks with me over the weekend and then during the week we’d check out some camping gear from recreational services and spend the next 5-7 days on a remote beach on the northern part of the island. Arriving at the barracks I quickly got her to my room unnoticed where I lived in an entire wing of rooms with only two other guys. Having so much space to ourselves was nice compared to the crowded conditions in the other wings but the rooms didn’t have private baths, but rather one big community bath per wing. During that weekend we made love, talked, ate, and I’d stand guard at the entrance to the bathroom so she could use the toilet and shower when needed. We were young and a hotel wasn’t necessary, we were happy to just be together. Monday morning we tied camping gear to the back of the bike and headed up north looking for that perfect spot and we found it.

The beaches on Okinawa are beautiful but this one was even more so with a fresh water river just a few feet deep emptying into the sea from a spring source a few clicks up the mountain. Setting up the tent close by we cooked on the beach, bathed naked in the river, swam in the ocean, and wrote a few more chapters of the perfect love story. On one of our day trips away from our campsite we pulled the bike up a few hundred yards from the water on the sand and putting down a towel to lay on a few hours went by before we noticed the tide was lapping at our feet and looking up we could see the bike about a foot underwater! Pulling on our clothes we ran for the bike and it took the both of us to push it up on dry sand so we could get it started and head back to our campsite.

Our trips to see each other continued over the next year and frankly I couldn’t see us having a future together. Nothing about us “fit”, we were citizens of different countries, had different career goals, and my time in Okinawa was coming to a close when Operation Desert Shield started and I had to suddenly leave with only enough time to drop a short letter in the mailbox. Desert Shield turned into Desert Storm and life changed me in some pretty severe ways. I’d managed to send off a few letters but never being in one place long I received none back in return. The few phone stations that I ran across were geared towards calls to the states and not South Korea, there was no internet email, nothing like the facilities they enjoy today. After a particularly bad experience and learning that I’d be returning to the states for at least a year I sent off a letter to her asking her to meet me in Los Angeles and I gave her a date I’d be there and a phone number. At the time I was completely ignorant about the need for visas and the such and that it would be difficult for her to be there and I knew the chances of her being there were next to zero anyway. She had a job and a life so why would a beautiful educated woman from a great family walk away from her life to be with me in another country? The amount of trust something like that would take would certainly be extraordinary. Yet, I started marking days off the calendar until I’d arrive and having already sent my Harley back to the states to my brothers house in L.A. I even went ahead and ordered a Jeep (with a phone call from the middle of the desert to the PX system in Japan) and a small trailer to tow it across the country with to my new duty station in Florida. I suppose I talked myself into believing that somehow she’d be there waiting for me. I suppose I was a fool.

Arriving back in L.A. the first few days were busy picking up my new Jeep from the dealership and it was exactly as I ordered it. Then my brother and I assembled the trailer and got the bike mounted and hooked up and I knew I’d have to leave for the trip across the states in just a few days. The day before I was due to leave the phone rang and it was her. She was in L.A. and wanted to know if I could come pick her up at an address in Korea Town. At the time I didn’t know it but her family had connections and money and her mother had accompanied her to L.A. and they were staying at a relative's home. When I got there the mother came outside and looked me in the eye and made me promise to take good care of her daughter. I promised and I did. The next day we set out on a fun adventure across the states which I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget a single moment with her.

Two years later we were married and two years after that my youngest son was born and we spent the better part of 14 years together, 10 of them married. Like any married couple we had our ups and downs but the intensity of or love and our physical attraction never waned. Circumstances dictated the event of our divorce and we now live apart sharing our son who has a ton of frequent flyer miles from flying back and forth to Thailand to stay with me when not in school.

Several years have gone by and we remain the best of friends. After the divorce and after we were both remarried we once talked. We agreed we should have never have got divorced because our love and relationship was truly a once in a lifetime event and we both acknowledged that even years later the same attraction and love that brought us together in less than 30 minutes.. was still present today and as strong as ever. This is a mistake we’ll both have to take responsibility for as we live our lives with our respective spouses knowing we can never have back what we foolishly lost.

Life happens and sometimes it happens so fast and with such intensity that you don’t pause to really think things through and decisions get made that you have to live with forever. We didn’t pause and ended up in bed together, we didn’t pause and ended up married for over ten years, and we didn’t pause when circumstances separated us. To say we lived a dream and perfect romance would be to cheapen what we had.. it was so much more than that. Everyone should be as blessed at least.. once in a lifetime…

Until next time..

Stickman's thoughts:

That's a weird story in that it elicits both happiness and sadness.