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20 April 2008 @ 08:28 am
F. Komatar  
Follow up post can be found here. Until I finish more of the Mahasraya story, here's something I wrote about my first serious crush, F. Komatar. I'm working on other bits of my life story in tandem with writing about Mahasraya.

I remember the first time I saw F. Komatar. I was in 7th grade and we had an assembly in the gym. We all sat in the bleachers and Mr. Komatar demonstrated how one could train a dog effectively, using his own Doberman to illustrate his methods. I was amazed, being a dog lover, and enjoyed his presentation immensely. He had a great sense of humor which spiced up his presentation.

The following year I was in Mr. Komatar’s Earth Science class. Earth science was one of my favorite subjects because it involved geology and I had always been passionate about collecting rocks. My mother used to joke that she could never wash my pants without checking the pockets for rocks I picked up on my many strolls through the woods.

In my first conversation with Mr. Komatar, I asked him a question about something I had read, about how one could get used to wearing lenses that turned the images they perceived upside down and after just a few days their eyes would compensate and the images would turn right side up for them. If they took off the lenses they’d have to adjust all over again. He explained how this worked, drawing a diagram for me.

Gradually we became better acquainted and I began to hang out after school in the science room where Mr. Komatar spent every afternoon. A few of the geeky boys in our class also started hanging out, and Mr. Komatar also supervised detentions. That was the year I began my spiritual journey and I started going to different churches with friends, trying to find a spiritual home for myself. Eventually I settled on the Catholic Church and this dismayed Mr. Komatar, who began to debate with me about my new beliefs, especially after I started to take lessons with a priest from a local parish, Father Kempker.

I remember Mr. Komatar talking about the Spanish Inquisition and questioning whether popes could really be infallible. I also remember him challenging me to find anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus said directly that he was God. I was unable to do so. Along the way we discussed other faiths and philosophies—Mormonism, existentialism and others. I began to live for the time after school when I would see F., as I began to think of him, and at some point I realized I was in love. I remember that I loved his sense of humor most of all, and we played off each other well, zinging one liners back and forth like a tennis match. Sometimes we even kept score. We played chess together throughout the day on an improvised board upon which I put strips of masking tape with the initials of each chess piece, enabling us to keep track of the game while I carried the board around with me.

Sometimes, on rainy days, F. would drive me home in his little sports car, a VW Karman Ghia. Just like the song, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by the Police, his car was “warm and dry,” and to a teenage girl, imbued with the sexual intimacy I longed for. My fantasies grew quite detailed and every love song I listened to fed my growing obsession with F. I grew so absorbed in him that I remember my Uncle Ted (my Aunt Gin’s boyfriend} had a talk with me urging me to be careful and warning me that I could get hurt. He was obviously concerned that the relationship would become sexual.

For my part, I couldn’t really tell what F. thought of our relationship, whatever it was. It was clearly more than the normal teacher and student relationship. I remember the term “platonic” coming up in conversation, but it certainly wasn’t on my side.

At home my mother was in the depths of depression. She had tried to kill herself with an overdose of pills during the summer between 7th and 8th grades, when I was visiting my grandparents. She was home during the day but was unable to cook or clean. For days at a time she would be in the same dirty nightgown. Bathing had become a monumental task she felt unable to take on. She lived on sandwiches, cookies, and cigarettes. I remember her sitting all the time with her dogs on her lap, smoking and reading or watching tv. Mom put on over 60 pounds that winter. I was so uncomfortable watching her, not fully understanding depression or how it incapacitated her, so when I was home I stayed in my room most of the time. I would read and listen to music. I didn’t have a phone so when I called my friends I had to do so from a pay phone or the neighbors’ house. With all of this going on I was desperately clinging to the distraction that F. provided.

One day F. said that he was going to attend a basketball game. One of my girlfriends and I decided to go as well. By this time all my close friends and possibly the entire class knew that I had a “crush” on F. That evening we went to the game and there he was—with his wife Margaret and their two children, F. Jr. and Beth. For me it was a rude awakening because I didn’t really want to think about his wife or marriage, much less his children. I don’t think I really expected that he would be leaving his wife and running off into the sunset with me. I didn’t think past being in his arms, which I was sure would be the ultimate bliss. Of course that’s the immaturity of a 14 year old. But I also remember being very frustrated that just because of that immaturity my feelings wouldn’t be regarded as being real, but rather they would be dismissed as “just a crush.” I knew that my feelings were real and that the reasons I loved F. were not trivial or imagined. I knew F., I had spent hours learning what he believed, how he saw the world, what he stood for, and my feelings were based on this knowledge. I was not experiencing a crush on a film star where I imagined I knew what that person was like. I knew—and therefore I loved.

The relationship was all the more confusing for me because I sensed that there was some feeling on his part as well, but it was never made clear. Even then I could appreciate that the position of being a teacher and a husband made it impossible to reveal openly, but I hoped for a private revelation that I would have taken to my grave. I longed to pierce the veil and discover what I hoped and believed was true—that my feelings were returned to some degree, however slight. While this never happened, we continued to spend a great deal of time together. It was one of those crazy-making situations that make you doubt your own perceptions. Coming from a fatherless home I desperately needed to feel wanted—and yet I was never able to feel secure about F’s affections.

Inevitably summer came and brought about an abrupt separation. I spent the summer working and trying to lose weight. F. had dropped enough hints about my weight problem that I felt very self conscious about it and couldn’t help but feel that it was one of the barriers between us. Perhaps I imagined that if I could only get thin enough and pretty enough I would break through his reserve and receive the impassioned declaration of love I so longed for.

I lost over twenty pounds that summer and reached the weight of 150 pounds. No matter how I starved myself I couldn’t seem to get any lower.

Somehow I had found out F’s home address in a nearby town, Hamilton, across the border in Illinois. I decided to walk over there and try to see him. I was also curious to see his wife and family again. So that’s exactly what I did.

I arrived to find them in their yard. Of course they were surprised to see me. I suspect the best thing they could have done is to set a clear boundary for me and send me right back home, perhaps calling my mother to come and get me. That would have been, finally, a clear message. Instead, I was allowed to spend the day with them. F. left for awhile, something to do with his car, and I got to know his wife better. To my dismay I liked her, and at my urging she told the story of how she and F. met in college, and how F. won out over another man who was interested in her.

Later he returned and we all had dinner before I walked home. At one point he was teasing me and I objected, and he turned and asked his daughter Beth, “Why do I tease you?”

“Because you love me,” she replied.

I was startled, to say the least. Was this his oblique way of telling me that he loved me? Perhaps like a daughter, if not in the way I wished? As always, it was an ambiguous message to say the least.

So I went home puzzled but ecstatic that I had spent the day seeing how F. lived, meeting his family, and sharing their evening meal. After a summer of not seeing him it was heady stuff.

I continued to spend time with him after school during the next year, ninth grade, but I knew the time would come when I would move on to High school. Once I was in tenth grade I came back to see him a few times. Then I got involved in Krsna consciousness and was too busy.

I guess it’s true that one never forgets one’s first love, because as years passed I never forgot F. When I was in Hamilton visiting my father after the birth of my son I called F. and he came and picked me up. We went to his home for a visit and then he dropped me off at my Aunt Gin’s, coming in briefly to see a picture of my first husband. Later still I came back to live in Keokuk and found out that he had moved to a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. I wrote to him and he responded, and we arranged to meet at the train station in Salt Lake where I and my children would be stopping in our journey back to California in 1985. He arrived with his fiancé and son from a second marriage in tow. She was also a former student of his. They brought us ice cream treats and we sat on the grass and talked about old times. They walked us back to the train and he gave me a hug. I asked, as we were hugging, “Will you write to me?” and he said, “You know I will.”

It always seemed to me that F. expected me to just know, to just read his mind somehow. I could never take his feelings or intentions for granted.
For a couple of years we corresponded and occasionally talked on the phone. I tried to keep it light even though being in touch with him again brought all of my old feelings back with a vengeance. I was a single parent during this time and was not really dating anyone. I was preparing to go back to college and was too busy to have time for dating. So it was easy to fall back into fantasizing that somehow F. and I would end up together. Here he was on his 3rd marriage, to a woman who he’d had an affair with while they both were married to other people. You can imagine what my mind did with that piece of information! It felt like all I had to do was wait this marriage out. Of course I never asked myself if he’d be able to sustain a relationship with me if he’d already had a few failed marriages behind him. I did have to wonder if his inability to talk about his feelings with me was a problem in his other relationships.

I remember talking to him about his kids from his first marriage, F. and Beth. He had been out of touch with them since his first marriage ended and he’d moved from Illinois to Salt Lake. During our correspondence F. Jr. did get in touch with his father and Frank was so excited to be in touch with his son. He tried to re-establish contact with Beth as well but she was more reserved. Knowing my own father had not been in my life for long periods of time he sought my perspective. I remember writing a long letter trying to describe the distrust and fear I felt with regard to my father and what might be going through Beth’s mind. I told him he would have to be patient and persistent if he expected her to regain her trust in his being there for her. He would have to prove himself all over again.

I was shocked that this man I had so respected and looked up to had not sustained an ongoing relationship with his kids. I was so angry at my own father for not being able to stay in touch with me and here was my beloved F., behaving the same way. I imagined being away from my own kids and I just couldn’t understand how I would be able to not talk to them for long periods of time. It was just incomprehensible.

Eventually a flirtatious note crept into our letters. I remember at one point he was writing to me while his college students were taking a test and he was describing his thoughts, playfully, and wrote, “…I mean there are three little cupcakes in this class that might just want an A bad enough------see there I go, slap my face.”

I was emboldened by his willingness to make such a joke to me of all people and I finally got up my nerve to ask him what he later referred to as The Question. I asked him, awkwardly I’m sure, if he had been sexually attracted to me when I knew him as a teenager. I suppose I could have simply ask what I meant to him or what the nature of his feelings were instead of posing it as a direct sexual inquiry. Would that have made a difference? I don’t know. In any event, his answer clearly indicated that he did not want to be pinned down. He launched into a strange rap about being known as the Shadow of the Owl or Shadow of the Ghost Owl or something like that, and not revealing himself and so on. I wanted to slap him, I was so frustrated. I mean, answer it or don’t, but don’t lead me down some convoluted path in order to slam the door in the end. A simple, “I don’t feel comfortable answering such a question,” would have been sufficient.

I wrote back a more openly flirtatious letter and sent a poem called “Between The Lines.” A few weeks later I tried to call him once again. He was trying to tell me he couldn’t talk, that his wife’s family was visiting, and I was about to get off the phone when his wife picked up another phone and bitched me out, informing me she had read my letter and wanted me to leave her husband alone and never call there again. My heart sank as F. didn’t say a word, and I hung up. I hadn’t imagined that she would read his mail and hated myself for making such a stupid mistake. I was devastated at being out of touch with him once again.

In the years since I have twice tried to get closure with him. Occasionally I would send him bits of my published writing, since one of the positive things about our friendship was the support and encouragement he gave me with regard to my writing. I had always intended to dedicate my first book to him.

Sometimes I have a dream where once again I am asking him some version of The Question and he is about to answer, finally, once and for all. Only I wake up or we are interrupted before he can speak.

Despite moving on to marry a wonderful man who makes me very happy and never leaves me wondering if I am loved, I still long for closure on this one relationship from my past. I suspect that I will die without a definitive answer to The Question. Like heart disease and migraines, I guess that’s one of the many things I have no control over. Sucks, doesn’t it?

Perhaps at heart I feel like he would answer my question if he had ever truly cared for me in a way that I deserved to be cared for. It’s all water under the bridge now, whether it was appropriate or not, so I can’t help but wonder why, why this determination to with hold a simple answer to a simple question. Does he fear the answer? Is it something he’s never wanted to face or admit to himself?

All I can do is speculate.


ETA: This is a small part of a memoir that mostly doesn't involve Mr. Komatar, so for those of you who may think that my focus is obsessive or all about him, sorry to disappoint, it's just part of a larger story. My interaction with him had consequences later on in my life and that is the primary reason I included this. Some of my story is chronicled on No Longer Quivering where I was asked to write some guest blog posts. None of that material is related to what I've written here. Perhaps Mr. K should be happy his name isn't Mahasraya!
 
 
 
3treekisser: Star3treekisser on April 20th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
Man. I wonder if I'll ever fall for someone that bad, and whether it's sad if I don't...

Thanks for sharing, Tapati. *hugs*
Tapatitapati on April 21st, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
Thanks...

Maybe it's bad if you do--unless it's reciprocated clearly and unequivocally.
(Anonymous) on June 18th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
I have known this man longer than you
First, you put too much info in this blog, that anyone could easily figure out who he is.

Next, I know his humor and his way of joking. I know for a fact that he would lead you on, just to lead you on.

Next, for your comment on not maintaining his relationship with his first two kids. His kids still today prefer not to talk to him. They shut him out due to their Mother's comments after the divorce. He treid to reach out to them for several years immediatly after the divorce. But his ex-wife would not allow any communication.

Before you start blogging about a fantasy of yours, you should try to get some more facts.

Friend of F.K.
Tapatitapati on June 18th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
I have received feedback from someone else who knew him who disagrees with you. I'm sure the whole truth of anyone's life is complex and not easily reduced to an essay. This is my account of my interaction with him and discussions I had with him about his children. I have letters to back that up, and information from other sources. You are free to disagree.

As you say he would "lead you on just to lead you on," well is it appropriate to lead on an 8th grader and not set clear boundaries? Really? It's not like we were adults flirting at a cocktail party.
(Anonymous) on September 6th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
His children don't want to be in contact with him because he is an physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive man. He needs clinical help. I witnessed the abuse he put his first wife an children through. I am proud they have ceased all communication and now live successful, loving, fulfilling lives without him tearing them down.
(Anonymous) on November 24th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
Shame on you! There is way too much personal information in this "essay". Certainly, if you want to tell your story as a seriously ill and obsessive stalker, that's your business, but the least you could have done is change people’s name. Can you not see how many people this posting could potentially hurt? You name his ex-wife and kids, tell exactly where he is from, and exactly where he moved. You are unbelievable.

You clearly projected so many feelings into that relationship yet you state them as if they are fact. You imply that there was a completely inappropriate relationship happening when it is obvious to an outsider that the only person in that "relationship" was you. And you call into question his integrity as an educator.

How could you possibly think that it was okay to tell the whole world such intimate details about this man's life - details that didn't even have anything to do with you? The only person who has the right to tell "F's" story is him - at least then it might be recorded with some degree of truth and accuracy.

Are you trying to bait him into contacting you?? Do you think that if you write something so clearly inappropriate that he might finally contact you after all these years? Is this a pathetic and desperate attempt to find a man that CLEARLY wants nothing to with you?

This writing was clearly the work of a manipulative and unhappy little girl who has never been able to see past her own delusions.

Shame on you.
Tapatitapati on November 24th, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
You are certainly entitled to your opinion.

My evidence that there was some kind of relationship is the physical letters that I have in my file. If there was absolutely NOTHING on his part why would he have bothered to write to me back then, why would he have made it a point to meet us on the train stop, why would his wife have been so upset, and why would he have spent so many hours after school hanging out and driving me home? My question is why? Pity for a troubled student or something more, I make no claims as to exactly what his motives were. That's the whole point--I don't know what was going on from his end.

If you've watched the show Glee you might have seen the episode where a teacher deals with a student who clearly has a crush. What you're supposed to do is set clear boundaries and let them know that their gifts and hanging out with you is unwelcome and inappropriate and that your only job is to be their teacher. It would have been better for all concerned if that had happened in this case.

However, my "stalking" days are over after hearing the stories of the previous commenter from his past who told me things that firmly knocked him off his pedestal.
Tapatitapati on November 26th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
Tapatitapati on November 25th, 2009 12:13 am (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
Interesting that this comes from the place F teaches...

Incidentally, I offered him the opportunity to provide a fake name to use if he so desired. That offer is still open.
(Anonymous) on November 29th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
You know, I don't care what his feelings were or what your relationship was - this man is a good teacher and this journal is potentially damaging. It was irresponsible of you. Perhaps he should have set better boundaries, or maybe you ignored the boundaries he tried to set, but that is completely beside the point. THIS IS ABOUT A NAME, NOT A STORY. Good common sense would tell you to give him a fake identity and the fact that you didn't shows only immaturity on your part. If you had any integrity as a writer you would change his name. You ask for permission to use the name, not the other way around.

There is nothing wrong with telling the story of an important event in your life, but it is inappropriate to give people intimate details of other people's lives. The unfortunately reality is that because you are part of the story you aren't able to see this with a clear perspective - and that is not a criticism of you, it's the truth with everyone; your judgment and interpretation of the situation is clouded and you projected that interpretation into this entry.

I have no personal or emotional investment in this man, he is nothing more than my teacher, and perhaps my original message was a little rash, but I just don't understand how you could do something so unfair and be completely blind to its inappropriateness.
Tapatitapati on November 29th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you

Memoir writers often choose to use real names. Sometimes they don't. It's a personal decision. Perhaps every writer who does is inappopriate, who knows. It's open for debate, certainly.

As I explain in my follow-up post on this subject,( http://tapati.livejournal.com/496458.html ) my choice to use a partial real name and real names of family members (which how could you know if you're JUST a student?) enabled me to gain additional information from an associate of his first family and put a lot of this into perspective. That wouldn't have happened if I'd written about, say, "Fred Polansky and Susan, Ann and Fred Jr." I did avoid mentioning his third wife and son from his second marriage by name, and that was my personal choice.

I fail to see, really, how he or his career could be damaged by an account of something that happened many years ago when he was a young, less experienced teacher that I clearly admit led to nothing physical. I would hope that he HAS changed the way he interacts with his female students over the years. This experience had to have been a wake up call for him!

As for ignoring boundaries, you can't ignore what isn't there. At no time was I openly and directly told BY HIM to either not hang out after school, before school, play chess, write to him, talk to him on the phone, or show up at his house. If I had ignored such warnings, he would have been able to escalate by bringing our guidance counselors (good people) and principal into it. That's what I would have advised. Instead he appeared happy and enthusiastic about the time we spent together.

The only boundary ever set was by his third wife who told me not to call again--and I have obeyed her wish.

At this point I am a 50 year old grandma, looking back on events of the far past and trying to tell them with the emotional perspective of that time.

If you wrote the "shame on you" post I'd say you are a little more emotionally invested than you give yourself credit for. It was a pretty strongly worded smack down! :)

When I wrote this I never imagined so many would google the name Komatar and stumble upon it. But I'm glad some of them did because I got a lot of information out of it and some approval along with the disapproval. *shrug* You can't please everyone when you write about your life.
(Anonymous) on November 29th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
Well, if none of this conversation has gotten through to you then there's nothing else I can say. Perhaps one day you'll understand why this is wrong.

Tapatitapati on November 29th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But what I do know is that both I and someone else from his past connected because I used his real last name and we both were able to heal some old wounds as a result. That, in and of itself, was worth it.
(Anonymous) on November 29th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
In what way would it have diminished your experience or your feelings to call him John Doe? Would it have changed the story? Please consider that.
Tapatitapati on November 29th, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
see above

Also, to anyone who knows me, and where I come from and went to school, it would be painfully obvious who I was writing about no matter what names I used. If, as I intend, my book gets published, someone will ferret this information out. (I must add again, his part in the overall story is a tiny--but necessary--one.)
(Anonymous) on November 29th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
I don't know you, where you went to school, or where you live. I never would have known who this story was about... I never would have seen it, and I wish I hadn't.
Tapatitapati on November 29th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
Re: I have known this man longer than you
What I'm saying is that if this does get published in print, those who review and write about memoirs would find out the truth and the name would get out anyway. Lots of people already knew about this back at the time--pretty much my whole class at school was aware.

This is part of a project I intend to seek print publication for.

Tapatitapati on November 26th, 2009 07:47 am (UTC)
Some thoughts from a professor on student crushes
A follow up on student crushes: what NOT to do

excerpt:

For most of us (let's hope) our students don't see us when we're sick, whiny, tired. Like actors on a stage, we (presumably) perform at our best most of the time, concealing the reality of our frailties and our inadequacies from those whom we are teaching. For many of us in academia who were "geeks" and "nerds" in our own younger years, the sense of power and satisfaction we can derive from holding a class spellbound is tremendous -- and very, very seductive. And as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong in deriving real pleasure from teaching well and knowing you're admired and heard.

But there is no greater sin in our profession than to use an individual student's crush in order to gain validation outside the classroom. Given that we've established that some crushes tend to be more sexual and others more intellectual, it's understandable that some profs may feel a tremendous curiosity about what exactly it is that a student who appears to be "crushing" really wants. Time and again, I've seen professors make the dangerous mistake of subtly encouraging a crush -- not because they intend to have an actual affair with a student, but because they are hungry for more and more validation. They may hope to entice the student into sharing more about his or her feelings, all for the satisfaction of feeling more powerful and desirable.

Students don't seem to get crushes on me as often as they used to. Some of this is because I am older, and some of it is no doubt due to the reality that my boundaries are much better than they were a decade ago. When I was a novice teacher, I did consciously encourage student crushes because they felt so damned good! I loved the little notes and the "googly" eyes I would get -- and I found myself enjoying the attention way too much. It was several years into my career before I became aware of just how manipulative and unprofessional I was being; I am happy to say that I have radically changed how I interact with students.