What happened was the bombing at the South African Embassy. I still remember the fear in Charlene’s eyes as there had been demonstrations going on also at the American Embassy at the time. I imagined certain scenarios including what if someone thought she was me entering her apartment and tried to hurt me. From behind, we were of the same height and the same shoulder length hair, even the same body type. Up close, her hair was red while mine was more of a flaxen blonde with blue eyes and her eyes were green. She stalked gracefully and I felt that I had a firm walk. So all these scenarios went through my mind. Sam stopped coming about this time and Charlene seemed to get very busy suddenly with her friend from the embassy, so we met a lot less. I made some new friends and visited them more often and eventually returned home.
About two years later, while I was living in New York city, Charlene contacted me. She would be arriving in New York and she would be marrying the diplomat. Would I attend the wedding? So, I was working as an assistant to the buyer at a small chain clothing store tallying numbers, attending a few shows, and struggling to keep up with my job and all the things going on around me. I said, yes. I still remember the first time we arranged to meet and Charlene didn’t come alone. She had a friend with her and he looked smitten with her and her sister was there. I met them in the Center of Manhattan, somewhere in the East 60’s. It was a hot day, and all the doormen were outside. Charlene’s friend ducked into a music store…it might have been Tower Recordings….and he seemed very hip and suave…and we all talked for
awhile. I saw her apartment and it was cute. I went to the wedding. It took me awhile to find the perfect dress. I had the opportunity to meet lots of stylish people from South Africa. It was a fascinating group. I still knew not much about South Africa.
I lost touch with Charlene. I followed her for a bit and we exchanged Christmas cards. She send me a card with her husband and her stepson on the card. Her husband was about 15 years older than she was. They visited Latin America and for a time, I believe he taught several courses in Boston. The last I heard of her was on face book when I send her a friend request. After about a month, she returned the request with “accepted” allowing me to follow her but not to have access to her page. I felt sad for awhile because I was thinking those days of chance encounters are slim and almost gone. There is so much activity now a days that the political climate might not allow for me to meet the Charlene’s and the Sammy’s of the world. I often wonder what happened to Sammy and I remember his scorn of my political knowledge as a young American not knowing or understanding much of the world of India or the world of South Africa. I look at the face book page of Charlene and I see that she is still beautiful, older, and guess that many of our interests are still the same. If we met in person, we would continue our friendship.
Like her, I have traveled to many places as an Instructor of English. I have been to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. I have traveled mostly independently meeting many new people. Her life as a diplomat’s wife of a country often in the news has most likely not been as open as mine. I reflect that she has been surrounded by people protecting her. I remember her hesitation and her need to always remain vigilant. I am not sure if growing up in South Africa made her this way but as I glance at her face book photo I see that she has returned with her family to South Africa. So, I am reminded of all the teachers that I met from South Africa who were spending most of their working lives living outside of South Africa. I can’t imagine what makes a person decide to spend so much time outside of their country and then again, as an American, I realize I still know little about South Africa.
The world has become a smaller place with social media but yet I still am not part of this clique. She will not let me join and I realize she is wise because I could be anyone but yet, I try to remind her in my note, “Do you remember Charlene the croissants I brought back to you and your friend that morning?” There is no answer and for awhile, I wonder if with all the people she has met as a diplomat’s wife, does she remember me. I don’t know and when she states that I can be a follower; I feel some resentment as I think of how at the time in Paris, I felt that our friendship meant something more. I felt like we looked out for each other until the day of the bombing when fear drove us both inward with a vengeance. Fear does that. I wondered if I hadn’t enjoyed the better life because I was independent and an unknown, not the wife of an important man on a mission. My husband did have a mission years ago when he was connected to the United States Military as an intelligent analyst. His specialty was the Horn of Africa. Sometimes when we first met, he regaled me with stories of clan and tribal warfare and putting together information and interpreting what he saw in photos, on maps, and when he parachuted into the terrain. When I visited all those countries, I stood out as a American but mostly I just kept moving on to my goal for the day. I had no fear but maybe as the world and the agenda has changed; I can understand why she allowed me to follow here on face book but not to see or read any of what or who she has become. I am happy that she is in South Africa once again and know that we will probably never meet by chance again. That is unless I happen to visit Pretoria or she happens to come on vacation to Florida. Stranger things have happened in a state known for its eccentricities so; it is always possible we will meet on tour in Orlando shopping at the Malls. I think it is more likely we would have met in Dubai at the Mall but I can visualize her and me meeting while looking over the racks of clothing, flipping through the summer pants, or cruising the shoes at Saks. It happens. Until then, I guess I may keep following her on face book but I am not sure what does she know about me? I “friended” her so, does that mean she is glancing through my pictures of my home, my family, and my friends…reading my notes and blurbs, and thinking …what is she thinking?
That is what I would like to know. Merry Christmas to the past and to the future, let’s travel! But meanwhile, relish the day.