Kiss Me Like A Stranger

George Chapter 1: A Life Story To Last A Lifetime

Feb 14, 2011 by

George – Chapter 1:

That this will be read by complete strangers, people who I have not yet met or never, makes this missive seem almost therapeutic.

I had come to Atlanta in 1992 to work as interpreter for an international law firm with a large Japanese client.  The assignment soon went from 3 weeks to almost 4 months. Over time I grew weary of law firm take-out food. While I was not vociferous, a young law student and runner for the firm took pity on the quiet French-Italian girl and directed me to the nearest French Bistro.

It was a quaint place, small table, pseudo-bohemian students with a portrait of Miles Davis that nearly eclipsed a wall separating the bar from the main dining room. I sat facing it the right side of me parallel to the front door and about 50 feet from the WC.

I ordered the first salad Niçoise salad I had had in months. Confidential papers were strewn about my table as my meal arrived. It was divine and came accompanied by a hot baguette and butter served just warm enough to melt into the fleshy dough of the bread. In my small world I was enjoying a little slice of heaven. After a few bites, I had realized that I drank too much water before my meal arrived and desperately need to use the facilities.

I gathered my translations and tucked them neatly in my briefcase beneath the table, grabbed my purse and headed to the ladies room. Upon my return, I noticed a man, tall, angular, exotic, thin, with jet-black hair and arms moving rapidly dumping the contents of my amazing respite into a black bin, like an octopus surrounding its’ prey. I was in shock! The first thing I could think of was to scream at him ‘What are you doing, you jackass?!?!’ and so I did but not in my mother tongues of Italian or French, not even the Japanese I had been translating, but in Swedish the language of my boarding school years. And he turned to face me and said, ‘Svenska?’  ‘Mitt namn är George.’ ‘vad som är ditt?’(My name is George. what is yours?).  I replied ‘Mitt namn är Dorothea’ and ’ du är inte svenska! ‘(You are not Swedish).

We stared at each for a few seconds, although it seemed like an eternity and he retorted ‘Well neither are you!’ When he inquired where I was from and what I was doing there it took all of the energy I could muster to not blush when replying. Here was the beautiful Asian man, 6’4” proud with a broad nose, deep dark, big brown eyes and a mop-top of black hair. He was like someone you see in a movie, perfect skin and smile with these retro-eyeglasses that made you think he was Italian. Turns out he was Chinese, born in Hong Kong raised in Sweden and the youngest of seven and almost 11 years my senior.

He felt just awful about ruining my lunch and offered to buy me another. That lunch turned out to be the longest of my life. He’d ask me to stick around as he had the night shift and wanted to know if while I was working if he could come by my table and chat with me when he was on break. Very quickly 11:45a.m.’s lunch turned into after dinner drinks at the aforementioned café with George.

It was 1992. Our relationship began out of an accident. He did everything he could to keep me within his sight that evening and so it continued for years until I moved to Atlanta.

He was an entrepreneur and opened a locally-famous nightclub. I began to translate for a commodity steamship line and they hired me for sales position. Dating long-distance was tough and we made it work. Eventually, I got a promotion that brought me to Atlanta. We had a funny and quirky courtship we did everything together and everything apart and well, we just fit.

He met my family in Italy that year and asked my Grandfather for my hand. Months later we were engaged. It was a very happy time and I cannot remember another time in my life when I thought that everything was falling into place.

I met his family during the time before his father was diagnosed with the same illness that he lost his eldest brother from. The brother was 17 when he died and George was only 3. He remembered how devastated his mother was. His Dad liked me and his mother, not exactly enthusiastic that I was not Chinese. This was 1994. His father died shortly thereafter at the beginning of 1995.

Then late in 1996, George complained of stomach cramps as I encouraged him to see a Doctor – he loathed Doctors.

The first Doctor was convinced that he had Crohn’s disease but, upon changing our diets he still had discomfort. It took several more Doctors and a few specialists to figure out that he had stomach cancer – stage 3. I was 25 years old and ill equipped for what would come next.

After the diagnosis, we read everything! Went to see and listen to scholars and physicians. We knew more on the topic than people should. His cancer was something we would do ‘together’ like washing a car or cleaning out the garage the problem belonged to us both.

I had a job that caused me to travel Sunday –Thursday. When I arrived home on Thursday evening road-weary and lackluster, he’d look me dead in the eye and say ‘Kiss me like a stranger’ and our lips would meet and it was as if all of the energy in his touch would transform me from a moth into a butterfly.

I became a commodities trader in an effort to be home more to take care of him. We lived in separate rooms. He on the couch, this beautiful Italian black leather concoction that took almost 8 weeks to finally find a place in our home. And with the cycles of chemotherapy, I watched him go from 210lbs to 113, his tall frame a mere skeleton of the body he had before. To me, he was still the sexiest man alive. I made sure he made to doctor’s appointments, was fed properly, showered and cleaned up after him. We learned to eat a vegan and I followed a strict macrobiotic diet for us both, even boring people witless at dinner parties at how fabulous this experience was as it brought us even closer together.

In 1999, we were fine. The Doctors said he was an exemplary patient and we began to plan our June wedding.  George was an Atheist and I a Catholic Jew.  We were still settling on a place to hold the ceremony when the ‘save-the-date’ postcards went out.

We celebrated Valentine’s Day with a trip to St. Augustine and shortly thereafter his 39th birthday. On March 8th, he had agreed to DJ a set for a local band that played swing tunes, it was their CD release party – Antique Erotica was their name. He had flu like symptoms the day before and while I protested that he shouldn’t work that night, true to his word he did. He knew it upset me and before he left the house he said ‘Kiss me like a stranger’ and so I did.

Alas, that was the last time our lips were to meet in this life.

George collapsed after his set and was rushed to the hospital. I got a call at 4 a.m. the morning of the 9th and rushed to his bedside. There I learned that he had an aneurism, a tumor that had lodged itself in his lymph system. He was in a coma for 3 days. I could not bring myself to eat or sleep. I called his sister Nancy in Connecticut where his mother was staying for a time. When they arrived, I was a wreck. They forced me to leave the hospital, go home and shower and return when I was rested.

During my shower around 11a.m. on March 12th I had what is called an anxiety attack. George had slipped into the hereafter and I felt it. Just then the phone rang and I heard Nancy speaking in sobs into our answering device. To tell you it took years to get rid of that cassette would be putting it mildly.

The next 48 hours was a whirlwind of funeral homes, family flying into town, hotel reservations, cars,   and memorial service preparation.

His mother and I argued over his final wishes. She desired an opening casket and he always wanted to be cremated.  We came to the agreement to have both.

It was in the local paper, he was an Atlanta celebrity – 1200 people attended the funeral.

The priest at the sanctuary just off the funeral home asked me if he could pray for George, I explained that he was NOT a Christian and did not believe there was a God and that he was in the ‘entertainment’ industry so I thought it would be cool if people could clap for him, like an audience would at concert. The Pastor looked at me as if I was out of my fucking mind, but agreed that it was what George would have wanted.

That applause turned into a 10 minute standing ovation.

The Priest asked me to take the podium, I did and as my knees shook, I gave the benediction conveying that George was an icon of the Atlanta arts and music scene and a great supporter of others and that it was up to all of us to remember him on his birthday every year on February 27th by listening to our favourite indy band or supporting local music – the crowd cheered in agreement.

I never shed a tear. I think I was too much in shock.

More George Chapters

About the Author

Dorothéa Bozicolona-Volpe Has Written 19 Articles For Us!

Dorothea is a senior strategic marketing executive, fluent in 4 languages, who specializes in developing new business for national and international brands via strategic partnerships and technology. She specializes in integrating social media into marketing strategies and understanding how to measure, optimize and build current new media efforts to increase value and develop strong relationships between consumers and brands
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  1. This was a lovely and touching blog post, very poignant. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. “1200 people attended the funeral”

    1,200 people. And a standing ovation. Woah, what a story!

    • Chris, he was a pretty famous guy locally – an icon of the nightclub scene here in Atlanta. They wrote a 2 part series about the club. If you ping me on Twitter @Dorothea007 I will send you the article.

      Thanks for leaving a comment.

  3. Randy Osborne

    Powerful story! Nice work.

  4. In love, and in life, a good motto to follow. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Mike Weinberg

    Thank you for sharing your touching love story.

  6. RT @atsGf: @networkz thanx for the tweet re: @Dorothea007 post Kiss Me Like A Stranger on All The Single Girlfriends; frm the heart!

  7. @networkz thanx for the tweet re: @Dorothea007 post Kiss Me Like A Stranger on All The Single Girlfriends; frm the heart!

  8. Kiss Me Like A Stranger | All The Single Girlfriends

  9. Kiss Me Like A Stranger Wow…that’s all I can say.

  10. Thank you for a lovely and touching essay. My husband died too, when I was 39. I didn’t cry either. What would have been the use? Sobbing and tearing one’s hair out isn’t for everyone. We all respond to loss in our own ways.

    • Dorothea

      Bonnie – I agree it took some time before I finally allowed myself to weep. That will probably be posted in the 4th chapter of this missive. Stay tuned.

  11. Ola(-May)

    Thanks for a brave and inspiring story.
    Few of us have experienced this kind of loss, thankfully, but we can all relate to it on some level and
    learn from it.
    Love can truly be haphazard, transient, and powerful.

    From me to you, a ten-minute standing ovation.

  12. Oh my – what a beautiful touching love story – Thank you so much for sharing with all of us…

  13. Dorothea, Thanks for sharing your heart with us. I can only imagine how hard it was for you to lose someone that you loved each other like that but I am so glad that you were able to experience that kind of love in your life.

  14. What a beautiful, and at the same time heart-wrenching, story. To have to deal with serious illness and to lose someone you love at such a young age can either make you bitter or stronger, and I admire your strength. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy. I will definitely be looking forward to reading more of your posts. – SerenaK

  15. How great of you to be able to recollect this all and share it. On the other hand, I know I could never forget something like this if it happened in my life. I have not lost a soul mate *yet but I am reading this with tears for you and for everyone who has. I know your love is sending you a big hug today…and every day..a big bear hug like you weren’t ever strangers but enveloped in love.

    • Dorothea

      It is still burned into my memory Kelley. Your sweet message meant the world to me today as I read it. Thank you.

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