How I Met My Finnish Girlfriend

It all came so close to never happening

“It all came so close to never happening. This life came so close to never happening.” 25th Hour, 2002.

I’ve heard some amazing stories from people who have avoided a disaster in their lives; those tales of what could have been told by those who missed their flight by ten minutes, and read later that day that the plane and the people on it never made it to the destination.

For the rest of their lives, those people think about what could have been, and occasionally shudder at the thought of how close they were to nothingness.

I too sometimes have that horrible thought, as I almost didn’t go to the party where I met my Finnish girlfriend back in 2012.

It may have been a coincidence that the party where we met was close enough to my flat for me to say yes to going, maybe there was a reason. Either way, the parallel universe in which I did not go to that party seems like a cold place, and I don’t want to visit there.

Having no choice but to know her

There she was, a blonde haired, fair skinned girl who became my everything, standing by the vinyl player and talking Finnish to her friends in the corner of a crowded party.
She was the shortest girl in the group. Standing at 158cm, her smile, her laugh and the sparkle of joy in her emerald green eyes was bigger than everything around her.

We spoke for a while about university life, the Moomins, and life in Finland. As the minutes turned into hours, I felt that this woman had, without my knowledge or permission, tapped into every locked part of my being, and exposed it to the world, helping me feel so connected to life.

I remember saying that I thought I had made the wrong choice about wearing grey chinos, and she said I looked nice. I think she also said something about my hair and eyes, but I might have confused that statement with one of the daily compliments she gives me.

Saying goodbye forever

Later as we walked back to the tube station, me in a confusing state of elation and sadness, her making jokes and being her normal happy self, I looked at the side of her face as the lights from the tall London townhouses illuminated her delicate features, and thought it would be sad to say goodbye to her, and I hoped I would never have to.

I didn’t go home straight after that party. That girl had changed something inside me and I needed some time to think. So at around 1 am, my downstairs neighbor answered the door to my knock, and I told her all about the interesting Finnish girl I had just met.

Good things come to those who wait

There were many times I thought I’d never see her again. It turned out that the love at first sight feeling at the party was a one-way thing. A fact I learned through Facebook the next day when I saw she had a boyfriend. Of course, she did! How could any man not want to date her?

Thanks to my shyness and my desire not to fall for an unavailable girl, I had only seen her once when she lived in London, but we spoke often on Facebook and became great friends.

A few months later, she sent me a message explaining that she was moving back to Finland. Despite never seeing her in person after the party, hearing that she would no longer be living in the same city as me made me feel empty inside, and the day she left felt as bad as losing an old friend.

So, for many years, we walked on two separate paths that were divided by an ocean.

I visited her in Finland a few times, but as time moved on, so did our lives and experiences. And in time, that inexplicable emptiness I felt the day she left slowly began to be filled with work, friends, and hobbies.

But every “happy birthday” she wrote on my Facebook wall, and every random WhatsApp message that flashed onto my phone with her name displayed on the top opened that space for her again.

A 1000 miles and the passing of many years did nothing to dim the spark.

I never really thought I would know her the way I do now, and sometimes I stand back and think about how grateful I am for her.
The thought of being the guy she came home to after a crappy day was on the same level of pipe dream thinking of “if I won the lottery, I would…”

But sometimes, the world offers you a special gift. One day, while I was on the train to work, she sent me a message and we talked for a while. She told me she was single and after weeks of texting… I told her what I felt about her.

A few months after that, I boarded a plane to Helsinki. She was waiting for me at the airport, her hair slightly messy from a day in work, her green eyes wide with excitement and nervousness.

I stopped for a moment and looked at her, and then I held her tight, a hug that expressed how much I had missed her.

I kissed her for the first time just outside baggage collection department in Helsinki airport. It was a kiss worth waiting for!

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