Friday, May 28, 2010

Yolanta in Leicester

When I was studying in London during the 1985-1986 school year, doing my second year of law school at Notre Dame, I briefly stayed at a hotel that happened to meet a very nice-looking Polish lady named Yolanta who I asked out. We went out a couple of times and I especially remember the evening when we went to see Gregory Hines, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Isabella Rossellini in White Nights. In the course of the film, there was a shot of Isabella Rossellini wearing a gold ring on the third finger of her right hand. I remember that was the custom in Eastern Europe. As I escorted Yolanta home to the family she was staying with, I noticed she had a ring on the third finger of her right hand. I asked her, “Have I been dating a married woman?” Yolanta studied the tops of her shoes for a moment and said, in a rather sad voice, “I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

We talked later and she told me that she had been in England for several months, working on her English (which was excellent.) Her husband and young son were back in Lodz. Back in 1986, the Polish government wasn’t taking any chances on their skilled workers defecting. She also mentioned that her friends told her she was crazy to leave her husband at home alone. I saw Yolanta a few more times, and things stayed G-rated. That is to say, the last time I saw her was in Leicester Square. She was about to catch her flight home out of Heathrow. I don’t know why this popped into my mind, but I said, “Let’s just kiss and say goodbye.”

I did not give her a peck on the cheek. I kissed her about the same way I would kiss Angelina Jolie if I had the chance. (And I doubt Angelina Jolie could be as fine a kisser as Yolanta turned out to be.) I hope my readers will kindly note that I do NOT make a habit of kissing married women.

That story has an interesting post script. I had given Yolanta my address. About a week after I got back to the States, I received a letter from Yolanta. She informed me that in the months she’d been in England, her husband had COMPLETELY jumped the fence and was having an affair with another woman. She sounded utterly distraught and mentioned that she was thinking of seeing a psychologist and, in a sentence that chilled my blood, said that she had contemplated suicide.

I did not have a phone number I could use to call Yolanta. Within the hour, I had sent a letter back to her via express mail informing her that whatever she was going through, her young son should never have to deal with his mother’s suicide. (A subject I know entirely too much about.) I told her that I was certain that her husband would come back to his senses and return to her and if, by some minute chance he didn’t, that men would line up around the block for a chance to be with such a fine lady as she.

A few weeks later, I received another letter from Yolanta. She informed me that her husband had seen the error of his ways, and they were back together. We corresponded occasionally for a number of years after that. I sometimes imagine that if her husband ever inquired about the letters she received from the USA, she certainly would be within her rights to say, “Yeah, that’s from the American who kissed me in Leicester Square. Do you have a PROBLEM with that, Romeo?”

Twenty-four years later, I still relish the memory of that one long, perfect kiss in Leicester Square.

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