Holding Onto Karen Marie

Satraipal Rai
Guest Writer

It was 1987, and I was a teen and coming into my own. It was a time of insecurity, and I was definitely a late bloomer in some facets of life, especially in the realm of dating and women.

While most of my friends had girlfriends, I was one of very few in the circle who hadn’t yet ventured into the dating world.

I was uneasy about myself, my looks and my abilities to manage my words and the ways of being for the Casanova of my crew.

That was until one evening in August 1987 at the Palais Royale Club in Toronto.

This is where I came across Karen Marie Mateus.

If you’ve listened to the Sananda Maitreya song “Holding Onto You” you may know of what I mean.

I left the east side for a west coast beauty
A girl who burned my thoughts like kisses
She was down by street decree
She swore she’d pull my best years out of me.
Fat painted lips on a live wire beauty
A tangerine girl with tambourine eyes
Her face was my favourite magazine
Her body was my favourite book to read

A friend of ours had suggested I ask Karen to dance and surely, I got the nerve to walk over and ask, and much to my surprise, she said yes.

All nervous and geeky, I proceeded to lead this beauty to the dance floor, and there on that floor I began the courtship of a lifetime.

George Michaels’ “Father Figure” was playing, and all I could think was: “Why the heck is this beautiful woman wanting to dance with me?” I wasn’t the confident sort back in those days, and somehow through all of this, I managed to not stumble over myself during our first dance.

As the song ended and my heart was pounding, I recall thanking her for the opportunity of dancing with me. She smiled and said “it was nice,” and I immediately proceeded to walk towards what I thought was the exit.

As the lights began to come on, I realized I had walked towards a back room in the dance hall and man was I ever nervous. Realizing my mistake, I nervously made a u-turn and proceeded towards the actual exit, bypassing Karen who was standing among her giggling girlfriends as they all realized my mistake of walking the wrong way.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of emotions for me. I recall them like it happened yesterday, quite lovely. It still makes me smile decades later.

I recall telling my buddies of my encounter and as guys usually do, they bust my chops and teased me as they realized I was finally on the bandwagon of courting.

Courting? What was courting? What did I know of courting a woman?

Absolutely nothing! 

I did know that I liked how Karen made me feel all giddy and happy … even after just one dance. I knew that for the first time in my life I enjoyed being myself and was happy. I looked forward to attending school and seeing her in the hallways, perhaps catching a glimpse of her as we walked past one another in the hallways in between classes.

I didn’t know it at that time, but I was falling for her. Boy did I ever!

I wound up asking one of her friends what her schedule was at school, and I went further to ask her close friend if she wouldn’t mind me placing a note in her locker for her. Her friend obliged and I went out and bought a card and I wrote something guided by my heart.

(A lone picture left behind, water damaged, from a love never-ending.)

I’m not much of a writer, nor profess to be a poet, but I quickly came to know my gesture was very much appreciated as Karen approached me one day with card in hand. With a beautiful smile, she said, “No one has ever given me such a lovely card before.” 

This act alone helped me gain my confidence much more so, and I began to raise my bar on courting this lovely woman. I began placing roses, one a day, for the remainder of the school year in her locker. Often the rose was accompanied with a card or letter and perhaps chocolates … anything I could think of that would place a smile on her beautiful face.

At the time I hadn’t realized the power of my actions, as I was doing all of this because it made me feel “good” inside. I would wake up thinking of her, and I would go to bed each night with a smile on my foolish face, and more so the inside upon my foolish heart.

How amazing these feelings were and remain to this day. I wouldn’t trade them for anything beyond the joy of being around my son, who would become my second unconditional love.

Looking back, I am a very fortunate man to have come across a spirit as Karen as she helped guide me in knowing what love means to me and especially how to express it openly towards the world.

We dated for over five years, and all throughout I felt welcomed and special to her. She made me feel alive and grateful and helped me through countless moments of healing the pain of my past. Not an easy task for anyone. I have come to realize and appreciate the gifts she gave me, intangible sorts for her presence in my life, improving my outlook of decency and care for humanity.

She was the first to ever state “I love you,” and on certain occasions when I am reminiscing, her words echo in my mind’s eye and I shed a few tears. Tears of happiness and thanks to her for being who she is and hopefully remains.

I carry these memories close to my heart and soul, and I will always remember Karen Marie Mateus. 

I will remember her fondly. Sananda Maitreya so eloquently puts it:

They say that all poets must have an unrequited love
As all lovers must have thought-provoking fears
But holding on to you means letting go of pain
Means letting go of tears
Means letting go of rain
Means letting go of what’s not real

I know for myself love is real, and I dare not ever let go of the power of what it holds and means.

I wish Karen a journey through life, one filled with joy, happiness and health for she truly was and remains my FIRST REAL LOVE.

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