Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Reunited after 20 years

A dear friend came back into my life in the most remarkable way. I unconditionally opened my arms and let her into my fast-foward-to-2016 life. When you think life hasn't been fair to YOU, sometimes it's nothing by comparison to what's happening to others around you.

Twenty years ago I was still a somewhat fresh graduate of the University of Hawaii, pregnant with my first child and living with my first husband in Honolulu. My then-best friend and I worked what I'd like to call "transitional" jobs at an 800-room well-known hotel, gazing upon a banyan tree, living that vicarious vacation life through the thousands of foreign visitors who passed through. My friend was charmed by one such visitor who convinced her to drop everything and fly off to Asia with him. I was not happy, and I told her I didn't trust the guy. Their courtship lasted for months, she eventually quit the hotel and willingly vacated her existence, ties to friends and her family. I didn't hear from her ever again...until December 19, 2015. I actually thought she was dead by his hands.

By the time she surfaced into my life I was just turning 47. My wonderful sons--humans she'd never met, or even could have imagined at that time she left the islands, were basically grown. My first marriage she'd soon learn ended disastrously, leaving me crushed, in financial ruin and in distrust of most men. Trust was eventually restored thanks to one man, David. She'd soon meet him and see the peace of a loving, rooted household with rational people inhabiting it.

The deception, hostility and manipulation she endured for the past two decades came to an end in January. She fled a dangerous home in a country many continents away, had learned a good amount of French by immersion and was functioning on a nervous wired energy I'll call "survivor mode" by the time I reunited with her. Her passport was so full with inserted sections (chops) it looked like a wet book, its pages swelling and fanning the cover open. She had stayed with the creep/liar/predator and lived like a gypsy, tentative and unsure of where he'd take her next. To say that he was not a nice man is the understatement of the century. She was too stubborn to reach out to anyone for help through the years, partly ashamed and partly hopeless. The fact that I was right in my gut all those years ago about this guy brings me no satisfaction when I see what she sacrificed.

She is safe now. As a friend, all I can do is be a shoulder, a listener, a Rolodex to resources and help her process what she has just lived through. I can give her pep talks and the clothes off my back. I can be the optimist and the mirror that shows her she is the same beautiful, feisty, sweet woman from all those years ago...with many new lessons from which to draw as she rebuilds her new life.

For me, this has been a gift. I will try to be of service.

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