Many years ago, Estonia opened the door to my passion for travel. It was a whirlwind of excitement as I took my first international flight to a country, culture, and language I never even knew existed just a few months before.
The year was 1995 and I was a wide-eyed, naive college kid on his way to Estonia with a group of college kids to help out a missionary overseas. Looking back, a lesson I learned on that trip remains true to this day. When I reach out to help others, I am the one who is changed the most.
The same could be said of my trip to Estonia – both times. It wasn’t just the culture, people, and the adventure and adrenaline of travel. As a naive college kid, I connected with people I never thought possible. Just a year after that second trip to Estonia, this happened – The Crush.
Check out all 6 parts of my short story – The Crush
So here I was back in Estonia for the first time in over a year. All of my friends were going to be there – Ilmar, Maria, Meelika, Dema, Helena, and yes – Lisa. Lisa was a beautiful girl with a sharp tongue and a sarcastic sense of humor. She was fun to talk to as well as look at – when you could actually keep her attention.
Despite her personality, I couldn’t help but have a crush on this beautiful twenty-year old Estonian princess. As I arrived at my friend Pete’s, I reunited with some of these old friends as we greeted in each other, chatted, and caught up on the time we had missed. Dema, the 18 year-old who knows five languages, is at college now. Ilmar is studying at seminary and recovering from the loss of his dad to cancer. Meelika is studying at Tartu University and Maria is on staff working with Eric.
Lisa? Oh, well she hadn’t gotten there yet. She was busy with something for her band, Greenleaf. Greenleaf is an Estonian band made up of college students with a keyboardist, guitarists, bakup singers, and of course, Lisa as the lead singer.
The first time I heard that sweet, soft voice it was like an angel from heaven. I fell in love with the voice then and the woman behind the voice later. The whole time I am talking with everyone, I can’t help but think about seeing Lisa again and how she is going to react to seeing me. The more I anticipate our reuniting, the more nervous I continue to get.
While catching up with Ilmar, I see her walk in. My conversation with Ilmar continues even though I have no clue what I am saying. My conversation is with Ilmar but my eyes focus on the beauty of Lisa. She hadn’t changed much from what I could see. She was as beautiful as ever.
As she made her way in, she greeted everyone but didn’t even seem to notice I was there. Yes, she definitely hadn’t changed much. That was nothing new for Lisa because even when I talked, her attention always seemed to be elsewhere. With each step towards me, my anxiety builds and my hands begin to sweat. What would she say? Did she even know about how I felt towards her? What if I just told her? Would she make some sarcastic comment and just crush me? My thoughts are racing.
“Hey Lisa, remember me?”
The response that I got was nothing like I ever expected. Lisa always seemed to respond to me with that “yeah, ok, whatever” attitude whether I just spoke to her five minutes ago or a year ago. But this time, she threw her arms around me and hugged me as a completely unexpected joy and excitement filled her beautiful face. She seemed really happy that I was there. To me, this wasn’t the short, fiery, blond-haired, green-eyed girl I had known on my last two visits here.
“Jeremy, it is so good to see you. I have really missed you and I would love to spend some time together catching up. I am so excited to see you and glad you are finally here! I don’t know what to say!”
Neither did I. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but it was definitely a nice surprise. In the back of my mind, I was a little suspicious and wondered if after I got settled, her attitude would go back to the way it used to be. In a strange way, I do like the sarcastic and unable-to-talk-to Lisa because she presented a challenge to getting to know her. Now, here was the opportunity and it didn’t seem real. I don’t know if I like it. Maybe I am just not used to it. But I still can’t dismiss her beauty and the crush I have had on her. I only wondered if I had the courage to tell her. However, fear tends to hinder my words and keep me from expressing my feelings. I knew if I told her, the old Lisa would come back, throw out some sarcastic comment, and all would be back to normal.
“I’ve got some free time before I have to go study so do you want to go lunch or something?”
“Sure,” I said. I was still in a state of shock, emotions of love, nervousness, and excitement swirling around inside.
Finding a place to eat in Tartu is not hard. It is not a big city but it sure is a beautiful one. It is a college town with cobblestone streets, huge, beautiful parks with trees and flowers, old Russian architecture, shops and restaurants, and evidence of a country that has a rich and deep history. The people of this town and country are fascinating as well. The country is not that big. There are only a little over one million people composed mostly of Estonians with a good number of Russians left over from the collapse of the Soviet Union. The weather here in the summer is beautiful with warm temperatures and sunshine late into the evenings.
As we headed to lunch, all the wonderful things about this country and my memories from being here come flooding back. No wonder I couldn’t wait to get back here, especially to see my friends and Lisa.
The Bistro was always one of my favorite places to eat when I was here. You could always eat a great meal for about three dollars and good food at that. The food here in Estonia is much like that back home but with a little of their own unique flavor and style. Sandwhiches, pizza, chicken, bread, and vegetables – all prepared in their own way. However, Estonia has its own unique foods as well.
Two foods that I really liked were the lamb and seljanka, a special tomato based soup with vegetables and something I had at almost every meal. So it was again as Lisa and I sat down to eat. With the way everything had gone since I had arrived, seljanka was the only thing from Estonia that still seemed the same. In my head, I am still in shock but nonetheless happy over the events that had led me here with Lisa.
“So what brings you back to Estonia? It’s been a while since you’ve been here.”
“I have wanted to come back for a while. I have wanted to see the country again and catch up with Pete and the rest of you guys.”
Now Pete was the reason we came here the first time. Pete works with a group here in Estonia working with students trying to minister to them. He has a team in both Tallinn and Tartu in which he meets with students and works with the colleges in those areas. It was July 1995 that our group first got the chance to help him out and talk to some people in the streets. Of course, that required the use of translators.
Even though some of the people could speak English, that is how I got to know Maria, Meelika, Helena, Dema, Ilmar, and Lisa. For me, I enjoy the country and the people so much, I decided to come back again in May of 1996. Both of those trips were so rewarding and exciting as I made some great friends and fell in love with the country – and Lisa. After not being back since May 1996, I somehow made it back to this wonderful country again.
“I’ve been so busy with school. You know that I am studying to go to law school so you can imagine how much time I have spent in the books. Of course, Greenleaf keeps me busy but we have had a lot of success and popularity over much of Estonia” said an exhausted and tired Lisa. I remembered hearing their bank Greenleaf and hearing her sing. She definitely had a voice to go along with beauty and brains.
“Lisa, you have one of the most beautiful voices I’ve heard. I still remember when you guys played when we were here the first time. On my birthday this past year, I watched our Estonian video tape from our trip and just fell in love with your voice all over again.”
Of course, her voice was not the only thing I was in love with but it seemed like a good compliment to start things off after not seeing each other for so long. We talked for about an hour recounting our stories of the past, what’s been going on in our lives during the last couple of years, and just getting to know each other better – something we had little time for in the past.
This fiery, sarcastic, intellectual beauty showed me her funny, genuine, and sensitive side opening my eyes to a side of Lisa I had never known before. Our time quickly flew by as my nerves calmed, my excitement turned to joy, and my heart grew fonder of the this Estonian woman I had always had a crush on. Our conversation began to wind down as we finished eating. Greenleaf had another practice this afternoon and Lisa had to head off and study beforehand. We quickly headed out the door back to Pete’s where I was staying.
“I had so much fun with you today. We’ve never gotten to talk before and I got to see a different side of you. Do you want to get together tonight after your practice? I’m going to hang out with Pete and Dema this afternoon so do you want to come by later?”
“Huh….what? Oh yeah, sorry. Sure whatever.” Our band has really got me excited and we may have some big things happening. I’ll try and stop by afterwards and maybe we can get something to eat. Not sure if our time together was ‘fun’ but it was good seeing you. I’ve got something to tell you later but I have got to go now.”
“Have fun studying!”
“Oh yeah, I am jumping for joy and can’t wait to hit the books!”
Despite our afternoon together, seems the old sarcastic Lisa came back. Seemed like she never even heard anything I said to her. With her sarcastic comments about studying, I wasn’t quite sure whether or not her comment about our afternoon not being “fun” was said in sarcasm or with sincerity. After a good day, or at least it was to me, this didn’t seem like the best ending to our time together. Her comments over our “fun” and thinking about what she had to tell me wreaked havoc with my emotions the rest of the day.
Although the rest of my day with Pete and Dema went well, most of my focus was spent worrying about whether Lisa would show up and what in the world it was that she had to tell me. Probably had something to do with some news about the band or maybe even that she wasn’t going to be able to spend more time with me or that she was dating someone or…I don’t know. Whatever it was, I didn’t think it was good. After all, Lisa saying anything nice to me or telling me something I was excited to hear was rare.
Maybe our “fun” time this afternoon was just a great opportunity for her to share her burdens and all that was going on. With her being so busy, she just needed someone to talk to. As far as I know, Lisa could have had just about anyone there to talk to and it wouldn’t have mattered if it was me. She just needed someone to listen. Was the sarcasm just the old Lisa coming back? Did she even hear what I was doing today or even hear me ask her to stop by later?
Maybe the time has come to just forget about her and my crush and just enjoy the rest of my time here with all my other friends. After all, I remember how much I enjoyed this country and how much fun I can have here. I guess the emotions of the day were just putting all sorts of thoughts into my head. Time to move on.
Pete, Dema, and I spent the rest of the day just hanging out, grabbing a bite to eat, catching up, and just walking around Tartu. I tried to enjoy my day and put any thoughts of Lisa and any hopes of her coming by behind me. After eating at another of my favorite restaurants, Ruutli, we headed back to Pete’s.
After settling down, I finally got a chance to sit down and talk with Pete. Pete told me how he decided to stay in Estonia for a few more years and how the rest of the year went with my friend Eric here and the rest of the teams. Things had gone well and the team was excited about relationships they had built with guys like Alexander.
As Pete reminisced about the last couple of years, I couldn’t help but think back to a when I was here. During my first visit, I truly fell in love with the country and the people. I spent a lot of time with Ilmar trying to learn some words and get a grasp on the language. I would spend some free time and the hours we had on the bus learning numbers, words, and phrases practicing my Estonian with Pete as he was learning the language as well. My friend Eric showed the same enthusiasm and love for the country I did.
One evening, Pete sat Eric and I down and talked about how he had watched us and how we had so much passion and excitement and just loved it here. He offered both of us the opportunity to work with him the next year in Estonia. A few months after our trip, Pete came to see us again. With school and everything else I had going on, I told Pete I couldn’t go. However, Eric spent the next year working with Pete in Estonia.
As Pete was sharing about his year, I thought about the opportunity I could have had to be here and how I could have been a part of all these stories. However, so much had happened in my life over the last year. Things changed forever right after I left Estonia. I too had so much to share with Pete, Dema, and the others but being back here only brought back a wave of emotions.
As Dema began to share about his first year at school, there was a knock at the door. Lisa?! My heart was racing as my excitement and anticipation grew. I was only hoping that I was wrong about Lisa. I only hoped I had exaggerated all that was said and that she had really decided to come back and was excited to see me and talk to me again.
At the sound of the voice, I turned to see Maria, Meelika, Ilmar, and Helena walk in the door. My heart sank. I knew if Helena was here Greenleaf had to be finished with their practice. To me that could only mean one thing – Lisa wasn’t coming. Despite my disappointment, I put a smile on my face and greeted all my friends who had just come in. I was a little upset that my feelings for Lisa and my disappointment in her not showing affected my attitude towards my friends who had come to see me. So I put Lisa out of my mind and tried to enjoy my time with my friends.
“Tere, Tere! It’s good to see you guys again,” I said with now genuine excitement.
We all grabbed a snack and some drink as everyone filed in. Small talk, laughter, and loud conversations filled the room as we settled in like old friends once again. After things settled down, each person began to share some things on their heart and about what had been going on in their lives. As I sat there listening to others talk, I wondered if this was the time to talk about all the big events in my life that had happened since I had last left Estonia. While I was eager to share, I was too nervous to open up yet. So I sat there and listened figuring I would wait a little longer before opening up.
“LISA!! When did you get here?”
“I walked in while everyone was talking. I went home and changed after practice and then I came over. Do you mind if we go upstairs and talk? I wanted to share something with you.”
“Sure, no problem, “ I said as we made our way upstairs.
Here I was now thinking the worst. She didn’t want to see me or be around me. The band had gotten a big deal (not that that was bad). She wanted to tell me about her boyfriend. At that moment, my mind and heart began racing and I wish I hadn’t come back here, seen her, or met her. Maybe she was telling me she was getting married or – I don’t know. Whatever it is, why was she telling me? Needless to say the words that followed left me speechless, motionless, and frozen in silence.
“Jeremy – this is hard for me to say. I know that I have been very sarcastic and bitter towards you and treated you badly at times. Seems I never listened to you when you were talking or even acknowledged a compliment from you. I’ve regretted my actions and I thought I would never be able to say I’m sorry.
But when you came back here, I knew I had a second chance to tell you how sorry I am and how I regretted the way I have acted. But there’s more to it than that. There was always a reason why I acted the way I did. I never knew how to deal with my feelings and tell you, well, you see – I think I love you.”
Before those words had even settled, she leaned forward and kissed me. I am not sure how good it was or what is was like. My whole body was in shock including my lips. I was happy, excited, scared, and nervous. What was I to say to her? Where do I go from here? Do I tell her about me? How do I react? Should I react? My mind was racing and a thousand thoughts were going through my head. With no one thought making any more sense than another. So I told her – but not everything.
“Lisa, I have had a crush on you since I first laid eyes on you. You are beautiful and smart. When I first heard that voice of yours, I knew then how much I liked you. I always wanted to get to know you better and today I got to see a side of you that I never knew. I only fell in love with you more. It’s hard for me to believe you have felt the same towards me. But-“ She cut me off.
“I just want to spend these next few days with you before you leave. If you are as wonderful as I truly think you are, I really believe I could fall in love with you.”
I went to bed that night hadly being able to believe everything that had happened in just my first day back here. In the midst of all the excitement, seeing my friends, and the emotions with Lisa, I never even told anyone about my experiences and all that had happened to me since I left Estonia. I knew I had to talk to someone about Lisa and how I may be falling for her.
Lisa stole my heart the first time I was here and now she was in love with me. I want to spend the next few days with her and just see what happens. But yet I don’t know where to go from there! What am I thinking?! With all that had happened, I didn’t know what to do with all the emotions and thoughts going on inside of me.
“Pete, can I talk to you? With all that has been going on I never got to share with any of you what has happened to me since I last left Estonia.”
“Sure. But mind me asking what you and Lisa were talking about?”
“Have a seat, Pete.”
As I shared with Pete, I started with what the events that happened when I left Estonia the first time. I led him through the events of that year, my Christmas break, the following summer, and the dramatic, evenful year that followed. I spoke of everything leading up to my arrival here. I then told him about Lisa and the events at the Bistro.
I confessed to him the crush I’ve always had on her. Then I told him about our conversation this evening and how Lisa felt the same about me. I talked of how she finally opened up to me and showed me the side of her I had always wanted to see and how wonderful our afternoon had been. Then I talked about how things ended before she went to study only to come back last night, tell me she was sorry for the things she said and how she had acted, and then confessed her love for me. Even after sharing these events and the times with Lisa, I felt relieved I had shared. But none of this cleared up anything for me.
“Man, what a year! I never knew all this other stuff, all that happened, and this stuff with Lisa. I definitely didn’t know she felt that way about you. I don’t know what to tell you but just to be honest with yourself and your feelings. Only you know what you should do and I know you will make the right decision.”
“Thanks for listening, Pete. I am going to think things over and get some sleep. I’ve got to meet Lisa in the morning for our day together.”
My emotions, my thoughts, this hectic day, seeing old friends, seeing one relationship transform from friendship to something more, and this long day of travel put me fast to sleep. Lying in bed, I couldn’t stay awake. Leaving tomorrow for another day and my adventures in Estonia.
I awoke refreshed and renewed after a good night’s sleep, despite a little jet lag and a sunrise around 5 am. Yesterday seemed like a dream with all that happened. However, realizing I had to meet Lisa in a couple of hours, I slowly got out of bed and headed for the shower.
While the water washed over me, every moment of the preceding day was played back in my head bringing with it a wave of mixed emotions. Despite the mix of emotions and the dreamy and tired state in which I seemed to get ready, I was very excited to see Lisa again. Maybe I could really fall in love with her, realize she is the one for me, and then we could decide to live in Estonia or even back in the States.
“Jeremy, are you ready to go yet? I can’t wait to get our day together started!”
“One moment, Lisa. Be right down!”
“Tere! You look very beautiful today!”
“Tere and thanks! Now let’s go!”
As we headed out the door, I could only think how beautiful Lisa looked and what a wonderful day we were going to have. As we headed into town, we stopped off at a little cafe to grab a bite to eat. We hadn’t said much since we left Pete’s, both of us seeming to be in our own little world.
“So Lisa, how come you’re not studying today or doing something with the band?”
“We have a short summer break for school and the band is taking the day off. I love singing and all but I do need a break every once in a while. After all, it is such a beautiful day and I just want to spend it with you. I figured we could go down by the water and spend some time in the park. Also, we could go by Tartu University and I could show you around. I know you’ve been there before but I can show you more and give you some history and show you where some of my classes are. Afterwards, I figured we could eat at a restaurant that most people here don’t know about.
So tell me, what has been going on?”
Not exactly a question I was ready to answer yet. Not fully anyways. I just didn’t feel like it was time to open up to her yet. I just wanted to enjoy our time together and see if Lisa and I were meant to be and what could possibly happen with us. Because of our situations, I had my doubts whether anything could really come of this. But I wanted to just enjoy my time with her while I was there.
“School pretty much. I will graduate in December and I can’t wait to get out. I’m looking to see whether I want to enter the business world or explore other options with my life. Other than that, just hanging out with friends and roommates.”
After breaking our silence and overcoming the obvious nervousness, we sat and just talked about music and school and any other thing that came to mind. We finished our breakfast and headed down to the beach. We took a long walk just laughing, sharing, and talking. So engrossed in each other and our conversation, we seemed like the only two people in Tartu that day as time just flew by.
After a couple of hours, we headed over to the park near the school to just sit and relax. The more I was getting to know Lisa the more I seemed to be falling in love with her. Reaching the park, we both collapsed on the grass, just staring at the sky, enjoying our time, and daydreaming about our futures.
Lying there thinking about us, whether we had the same expectations in a relationship, and a possible life together I ask, “Lisa, what do you want to do with your life? Are you career minded or do you want to just use your life to serve others and enjoy being married and raising a family?”
“Right now I’m just studying for law school and playing with Greenleaf. Lately, I’ve been wondering whether law school and a career is really what I want. I enjoy Greenleaf and have a passion to use my gift in music and singing to serve others. I have thought about giving up school and committing full time to the band traveling all over Estonia and playing. I haven’t talked with the others to see how far they want to go with the band. Just seems that I really don’t have as much of a clear direction for my life as I once had. What about you?”
“Well, I am not sure. I have thought about the ‘9 to 5’ job but not sure if that is what I want. I have thought about traveling or living in another country and serving other people there possibly working overseas. On the other hand, I have always wanted to sing and be a musician. Granted, that is more fantasy than reality. I can play the guitar a little and I enjoy singing but whether others enjoy hearing me is another story. With college finishing up in December, seems I am re-thinking my life and what I really want to do with it.”
“Why not consider working in Estonia and maybe we can find a place for you in Greenleaf?”
“I’ve thought about coming to Estonia before and Greenleaf would sound like a lot of fun. However, I just don’t know. You may or may not know that Eric was not the only one Pete talked to about coming here for a year. But with school and everything else going on, there was no way I could do it. Now I have the opportunity but I just don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I do know that one day I want to live somewhere else and see new countries and places. However, I just don’t know if Estonia is where I want to be right now despite how much I love this country.”
“Maybe there will be another reason for you to come back here.”
As I laid there in the grass listening to those words, I knew what she meant. Maybe I could come back for her. For every moment spent with her, my heart seemed to grow fonder and my love stronger and more real. I knew it was the happiest I have been since last summer. Maybe Lisa and I were not as different as I thought we were and maybe she could be the reason I came back.
“Why don’t we head over to the school, grab a bite to eat, and let me show you around?”
As we headed towards the university, we began to open up a little more about our interests, hobbies, and families. In listening to Lisa, I found out there was a little more to this beautiful Estonian woman than just law school, Greenleaf, and being a translator.
Lisa was an only child from a middle class family. In Estonia, even middle class people were looked upon as rich especially during a time when the country was just beginning to awake from the reigns of communist rule. As a result of Estonia’s liberation, her parents struggled, like most other people, as they went from having plenty to working for everything they have.
Lisa’s dad became a professor at Tartu University while her mom continued as a school teacher. As for Lisa, she had always been a good student but growing up, she enjoyed spending time outdoors with nature in the park and at the beach. She loved to sing in the park, relax, watch other people, and just stare at the sky. Lisa also loved to read and discover things about life, history, and the world around her. The more I learned about her, the more I got insight into the quiet, serious, and peaceful side of Lisa.
While touring the university, we decided to cut our tour short and go grab something to eat. We did not want to eat too late since everyone was getting together tonight and going out to eat at the Pussirohu Kelder, or the Gunpowder Cellar.
The restaurant that Lisa took me to was definitely one I had never seen before. From the looks of it, many others didn’t kow about it either. We sat down and proceeded to have a nice lunch together, just chatting, laughing, and eating. By this point in the day, I had fallen head over heels for Lisa and I was beginning to see that she felt the same way. In my wildest dreams, I never saw this happening. But after getting to know each other, finding out after all this time we both liked each other, and sharing so much in common, seems my crush became something a little stronger.
As we headed back to Pete’s, I stopped her, looked into her eyes, and kissed her. Not a simple kiss on the lips but a long passionate kiss. Her face seemed to glow and she beamed with a look of joy and love as we finally sealed our commitment and feelings for each other.
“Lisa, I love you. I don’t know what is going to happen from here but I want you to know that you have truly captured my heart and seem to be everything I have been looking for.”
“Jeremy, know that I love you too.”
We walked back to Pete’s hand in hand. No words were exchanged on the walk back. Only an occasional glance and smile as each of us seemed to be wrapped up in the love we were feeling for each other.
Amazing to me how wonderful this day has been. I got to know and love this twenty year old Estonian beauty I had a crush on a couple of years ago. She walked me to the door and gave me a kiss. As she headed home to relax and get ready for dinner with our friends that evening, I headed upstairs to get some rest and think things over before dinner.
Dinner came sooner than I had wanted. Maybe my jet lag affected me more than I thought or I was enjoying my nap a bit too much. I slept for over three hours and never heard a sound. Waking just in time, everyone began arriving downstairs around 6:30 as they anticipated a lovely meal at the Gunpowder Cellar.
I wasn’t really all that hungry but it didn’t really matter – Lisa and I were going to be together. Guess the two of us being “together” was pretty obvious as the others noticed we have become a little more than just friends. We both begin to share our story from the beginning starting with my first visit to Estonia and my crush on Lisa.
As our story unfolded, everyone seemed surprised and excited as no one realized how we had felt towards each other for all this time. Everyone seemed so excited and happy for us – except Pete. He didn’t say much or even smile. All he did was just look at me.
After dinner, we all headed back to Pete’s and just enjoyed a night of talking, hanging out, and playing games. Lisa and I just seemed to enjoy each other’s company throughout the night. Around midnight, things began to wind down and so everyone started heading home. I kissed Lisa good night and walked her to the door.
“I had a wonderful day today,” she said as she smiled at me with a little twinkle in her eyes.
“Me too. It is so hard to believe all that has happened yet I can’t contain my excitement.”
“I’ll be by early in the morning and I’ll show you some new places and we can just enjoy our day together. Jeremy – I love you.”
“Lisa, I….love you too.”
I closed the door and headed up the stairs. As I said good night to Pete, he looked at me with a serious and concerned look. But he returned with a “good night” of his own and went to bed.
As I laid in bed, all I could think about was Lisa and our possible future together. I knew I would have to make a decision about whether I would come back to Estonia. I examined my heart, pondered our future and our relationship, and thought about this love we seemed to have for each other.
In the middle of my thoughts, I shot up in bed and realized why Pete had looked at me with disdain on his face and showed no excitement for Lisa and me. For a brief time, I had forgotten about my last year and all that I had told Pete. Things had happened so fast with Lisa. Maybe I was still a bit tired but living off the adrenaline of being back here. There was now something I had to really think about – Lisa, our relationship, and finally telling her how things have really been since I left here. With these thoughts and burdens weighing heavily upon me, my eyes grew heavy as I drifted off to sleep.
Lisa arrived early in the morning and decided to join me for breakfast. So started the second of four straight days together. We covered every inch of Tartu – the parks, markets, and historic sites. We actually took some time and went out of town to visit Tallinn and Parnu so we could take in the capital, the beaches, and lots of little shops.
Every day just seemed to go by so quickly as we spent time laughing, talking, sharing, kissing, and holding hands. Our love for each other grew day by day as we spent more and more time together. As the week drew to a close, I felt like I knew almost everything about her. However, the end of our week also meant the time was coming for me to head back home. On my final full day there, Lisa invited me over to her home to meet her parents and spend our last few hours together.
On the night before the big dinner with Lisa and her parents, I reflected back on our week and all the wonderful time we had spent together falling in love. My emotions were overwhelming as I thought about her and our relationship and what the future was to hold. What was I going to do? My thoughts of our last day together turned from loving, hopeful, and sad to fear and anxiety. This was going to be my last day and I had things to think about and decisions to make.
As much as I loved Lisa, a part of me was holding back since there was a part of me I had not shared. I wasn’t even sure of that part of me mattered anymore. However, I was scared, even more scared than I was sad. All of my thoughts on life and the emotions of this week left me pondering my own life, my decisions, and my future.
I woke the next morning knowing the dilemma I had to face today. Because I had only had a few more hours to spend with Lisa, I decided I wasn’t going to share all the things on my heart and would just try to enjoy our last day together. I know this may be the last time I see her or talk to her. With the other decisions I have to make about my life, it may be a while before I make it back here again.
After a long night of tossing, turning, and thinking, I realized that my life had changed for the best and as much as I loved Lisa, I just didn’t think things would work out. Having made this decision only made the thoughts of my last day with Lisa that much tougher.
“Jeremy, are you ready?”
“On my way down, Lisa. I’m a little nervous about meeting your parents. I hope I don’t embarrass myself.”
“You’ll be fine. They’re going to serve us lunch, we’ll chat for a while, and then we can head back here or go and do something together. So don’t worry, things will be great.”
As we made our way towards her house, we had a nice conversation although I was a little quieter than usual. I am not even sure I said a word. Lisa was so busy chatting away, probably trying to hide her own anxiety about me meeting her parents.
As we got closer, all sorts of thoughts floated around in my head. I wondered if her parents thought she was weird for liking this American guy she hardly knew. I wondered how sad Lisa was or if she had thought about me leaving. I wondered how much she truly loved me and wondered what her parents would think of me. Needless to say, we both were a bit nervous and full of emotions as we walked inside.
“Tere! Ma nimi an Jeremy,” I said with a nervous, American accent.
“It’s ok, Jeremy” Lisa said as her parents chuckled. “They know English. After all, they are both teachers.”
Despite my embarrassment, I introduced myself to Lisa’s parents – in english – as we all exchanged greeting and hugs. We made our way to the kitchen, getting acquainted, talking, as her mom prepared the dinner. As I nervously imagined, much of the conversation was directed towards me wondering where I was from, what I did, and all kinds of questions about school, life, and interests.
Lisa shared how we met and how we somehow managed to fall in love despite our best efforts to avoid our feelings my first couple of trips. I know Lisa had already shared the story before but I appreciated her trying to take some of the attention off of me. As the afternoon went on, we both settled down and enjoyed the day with her parents.
Lunch was served a little after noon and consisted of seljanka, chicken and rice – a meal especially made with me in mind. The meal was delicious and afterwards, I had the chance to sit down and get to know her family a little better.
They spoke of the days under Communist rule, how life had changed since the break up, and a little about how they grew up as a family. They shared a number of stories about Lisa. Those made her turn red and made me laugh as we enjoyed a wonderful time together. Around three, Lisa and I decided to head out and just spend some time together. I graciously thanked her parents for the lovely meal as we headed out on our own. Lisa and I started back slowly, hoping our slow pace would somehow make the hours go by slower. We laughed and talked, recounted the memories over the last few years and days and walked hand-in-hand back to Pete’s.
“Jeremy, I hate to see you leave. This week has been so wonderful and I have truly grown to love you. I don’t know what will happen from here but I want us to be together.”
“I had a great week as well. Lisa, you are truly beautiful and one of the most wonderful people I have ever met – now that I have gotten past that fiery, sarcastic side. I will definitely miss you and I know that while we are apart, we will truly realize the depth of our feelings. I never expected this to happen and it has really made some decisions in my life difficult for me.”
Lisa began to cry as we got to Pete’s. I held her in my arms and comforted her as she got her composure and wiped away her tears. We spent some time talking outside just trying to enjoy our last few moments together.
“Jeremy, Lisa – I didn’t know you two were back already. How was lunch with her parents?”
“Things went pretty well, Pete. I was nervous at first but once I calmed down, I got a chance to open up and felt very comfortable with them. Lunch was delicious but I think I ate too much.”
“Listen, I am sorry about the other night at the restaurant. I should’ve been happy for you two. After all Jeremy, I must trust that you didn’t rush into things and that you made the right decision. I know that if Lisa is ok with all that has happened in your life then I should be too.”
“Jeremy? What is he talking about? After all the time we spent talking this week, I didn’t realize there were some things you hadn’t told me. What has been going on in your life that I need to know about?”
At that moment, all my worst fears had come true. I stood there scared and unable to move. So much was going on in my head and my thoughts were racing. Why had Pete said something and what was Lisa feeling and thinking right now? I wish I had never come back to Estonia and I regretted ever falling in love with Lisa.
I knew that I wouldn’t see Lisa again and that once I left Estonia, we would never have the relationship we had this week. But now the time had come for me to share everything that had happened and allowing her to share in the events that had changed and transformed my life. Pete knew what was coming and I knew Lisa might not like everything I had to say. Seemed like everything around me was about to fall apart.
“I think I’ll leave you two alone,” said Pete as he headed back inside.
“Have a seat Lisa and I will explain all that has happened to you.”
I began to share my life and how things had changed the day I left Estonia two years ago. From Tallinn, we flew into Frankfurt Germany and stayed in the hotel at the airport. While we were there, Eric, my friend Jon, and myself met a group of Americans who had been overseas to another part of the Soviet Union. We ended up meeting three girls and stayed up all night talking. We all had a blast and it was quite an unexpected and fun way to end our trip.
We ended up exchanging addresses and numbers and kept in touch here and there over the next few months. Eric kept in touch better than I did but I was able to use email to chat and keep in touch. As time went on, I became really close to Erica, one of the girls we met. As time went by, things really began to go well for us and our relationship seemed to deepen. After I got back from Estonia on my second trip, Erica came out and visited. After only a week, we ended up getting engaged.
With a lot of things up in the air about her life, she decided to move and be closer to me. We dated all year but our share of ups and downs had us both questioning our decision to get married. With only a few weeks until the wedding, I decided to come back to Estonia for one last visit.
With all the ups and downs of the past year, I came here to not only visit but to clear my mind and decide if this was really what I wanted. After getting back here, I told Lisa how my feelings for her had grown and that I had really fallen in love with her. We had gotten to know each other so well and had so much in common. But despite our love, this trip confirmed my desire to be with Erica and I knew we belonged together.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I did really grow to love you while I was here but I knew that after I left, you would go your way and I would go mine. Our lives would go on and eventually we would just grow apart. Somewhere down the road I figured I would tell you about Erica. I just wanted to enjoy our time here and try not to hurt you. Only until the last couple of days did I realize that it was Erica I had to be with and that things with us would not work out. Believe me – I do care for you and love you. That is why I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“How could you do this to me!!?! I loved you and gave everything to you this week. But now I don’t want to see or talk to you again!!”
Her tears were streaming as she jumped up and ran home. I only sat there knowing how much I had hurt her. I never meant to do this but I knew there was no way I could comfort her now or make up for anything I said. I spent the rest of the evening packing and thinking, wondering what Lisa was doing, and if she would ever forgive me.
I ate dinner with Pete and told him how everything had gone. Surprisingly, he was understanding and told me I had made the right decision. In my own head and heart, I began to doubt if I really had after seeing how much Lisa was hurt and how horrible I felt just wanting to be there for her.
After dinner, I tried calling Lisa numerous times but no one answered. I was sure even her parents were mad at me now and wished they had never had me over today. After a couple of hours, her mom finally answered the phone and told me Lisa didn’t want to talk to me. In a last desperate attempt, I went over to her house begging to talk to her. I never saw her or even got a goodbye. I was leaving in only a few hours but knew I would never see Lisa again.
The next day, I packed all my things up and headed for the airport. As I headed to my gate, everyone showed up to surprise me and say goodbye – Pete, Ilmar, Dema, Maria, Helena, Meelika. But no Lisa. I got on that plane a broken, hurt man. I knew I had made the right decision. Or so I thought I did. I was sad to go and hurt. I really did love her. But I left wishing I had never come.
The sun rose early in the morning as I woke from my sleep in my own bed. My first thoughts this morning were of Lisa and the relationship that wasn’t. That week together, our relationship, and the pain seemed all too real.
As I thought about that crush I once had on Lisa, I longed to be back in Estonia again. I missed Pete, Dema, Ilmar, Maria, Helena, and Meelika and especially Lisa. I missed Tartu and Tallinn, the people, and the country. I thought about Lisa and wondered how she was doing. I wondered how she really felt about me and if she really could have loved me. Could we have fallen in love with each other?
While the thoughts and feelings of my dream about Lisa and our relationship still lingered, I knew it was just that – all a dream. Funny how life moves on but we can still hold on so strongly to our memories and feelings from the past. Sometimes the past is so hard to let go of when you just don’t know what could have been. But as real and painful as the dream was, I am glad that even though I can’t do anything about some of those “what if”situations in life, a little bit of my past was brought to mind again never letting me forget the friends, the country, or the crush.
I rolled over and watched Erica as she was sleeping. It was our three-month anniversary today. Maybe one day I will make it back for that third trip to Estonia.
What did you think of my travel love story in Estonia? Were you surprised by the ending?
Tartu, Estonia photo (jarsjo)