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 60s.  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 step son 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 both of us have accomplished some travelling. Will I meet her again?

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 Outlet .  It happens.  Until then, I guess I will 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.

It would be wonderful to enjoy a cup of coffee and a croissant together while chatting about the good old days.

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Until that day, and then everything changed.

I remember that when I spend the night after Charlene, her other friend, and I went out…we would sleep in.  In the morning, sometimes I would quietly leave to buy some fresh croissants at a boulangerie down the way and then return while Charlene made fresh coffee for us.  One day, Sam started to discuss politics with me, and then as if in futility he laughed and said, “You don’t know much about my country or about South Africa.  Do you?” I remember feeling insulted but also I realized he spoke the truth.  I knew nothing about her country or his country.  The only think I knew was that my heritage included a quarter French, a quarter Irish, a quarter Swedish and that my minor at University was French.  This was my mission.  My mission was not to understand the politics of the country.  In addition to this group, I made friends with some Americans who were starting to become involved in computers and were starting their own business.  They lived in a very low rent and affordable area of Paris which was also inhabited by many Algerians.  I still remember my counselor at school telling me, “Please be careful in these areas. “ In retrospect of all that is going in Europe today, I remember those words.  I did take them seriously but that simply meant that I continued to visit my American friends marching along with my head held high and ignoring the curious glances passed my way.

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 such as 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, 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. (To be continued)

The silk material slipped through his lightly brown hands.  His dark melting eyes which reminded one of warm coffee cream with sweet sugar followed the passage of the material as it wound its way to the floor.  Charlene quipped, “Ooh, I love it! I think it will be perfect for stepping out.” As I watched Boss’s eyes or otherwise Mr. Sam’s eyes light up in appreciation.  I wished he knew I was around.  I smiled meekly in an effort to appear agreeable, cool, sophisticated and everyone else my friend, Charlene whose apartment in Paris which was paid for by the South African Embassy since she was the secretary to the Diplomat based in Paris.  Little did I know that at the time, she had set her sights on the Diplomat stationed in Paris from South Africa.  All I knew was that I was so happy to be part of her contingency from the Embassy which included another secretary.  I had met her and Sammy at a Quaker Meeting in Paris.  Bored and seeking English speakers, I attended a meeting and met both of them over coffee.  As it turned out, we were all foreigners with little to do outside of work and that brought us together.  The French didn’t always like that we didn’t speak like natives and so, we stumbled often with the language.  I was taking a language and culture course at the Sorbonne and teaching English as a foreign language as much as I could find work.  Sam was working as a designer in Paris on his own but he was originally from  India.

He didn’t tell us much information but I was secretly in love with him.  Now, I realize that I was mostly in love with the idea of the life that this group generated for me.  The dreams of fashion design, travel, and glamour were represented by our little group.  My second major outside of English was fashion design and I almost left my University for the Fashion Institute of Technology, Manhattan.  I even went so far as to visit and inquire into living in the dorms.  Practicality reared its head and I ended up finishing my BA in English at the University and finding a year abroad to France.  I was able to take out a small loan and this helped fund my travels along with teaching English on the side.

Charlene invited me to make use of her apartment when she wasn’t there and since I was living in a small apartment which I shared with a French artiste; I was very happy to comply.  I think she was lonely and my friendship offered her some stability and a person outside of the embassy to go out with, have a drink and laugh.  I wanted Sam to make and design for me a gown or an outfit but he didn’t.  I think now he wanted Charlene to wear his creations to the Embassy parties and have his name recognized by all I would just sit back and watch him with the material gathered up in his hands, pins clamped by his mouth, and his eyebrows arched above his intense eyes.  I felt that I was living the perfect life until the day the South African Embassy was bombed.

    To be Continued….enjoy your weekend.

“If you talk to any pitcher, consistency is the most important thing.”

Jamie Moyer American athlete

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So someone contacted me yesterday from the private Christian high school where I was let go from as he was also fired two weeks after me. Surprise, surprise…he did not supply the answers to a test and would not allow them to take the test at home. Hmm. It made me wonder if I was let go because I dared to give the same two clique “Y” girls he mentioned a 0 for writing an essay berating teachers. I send them to the office and they returned. He send them to the office along with several notes about cheating. They returned. He is now the third person let go of the new teachers in less than one month. Another one bites the dust. There are 2 new teachers left: I wonder how they feel.

The math teacher is surprised and enraged he was let go. There are fewer math teachers around than English teachers but having worked as a teacher in a middle school nearby this school; I am not surprised. It is a rough area and just because the school notes it is “Christian” and a “private” school doesn’t mean it will enforce rules of respect for new teachers. It is sad but I tell the truth. I feel justified that it wasn’t only me but it did bring back some interesting and not so pleasant memories of working at a title 1 school which is denoted like at 2,500 (rank) out of 3,000 public elementary schools in Florida. With those odds, you better hope the administration is backing you and if not, hmm. And I was let go after 10 school days, 5 of which were the first days of school which included getting the books and the google chrome laptops set up.  The math teacher told me he just wants to work and share his knowledge after his military retirement. If he gets a job at at Dollar Tree as an Assistant Manager and tutors math, he is ok. Subbing along with my adjuncting is fine for me as I can see how the cancer treatment is working for my husband. If a fulltime position is offered, I may jump but for now, I am ok.

As for subbing, I am discovering some of the schools surprise me and some don’t. The math teacher will be subbing also, he told me. He is still new to the field of education but as I worked with him; I know that all of us did our best and we were good employees. We were let go because a small clique of students did not agree with something we did. For the remaining new teachers (2) , I wish them well. He told me a story of the day after I left another new teacher stating that two of the students were comparing a list of the teachers they had fired. It is a sad time when that happens.

“Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past,  present and future.”  Gail Lumet Buckley

bg-pickles

He introduced us to some new snack foods including “Oh Snap” found at Target, replenished my depleting wine rack with some new wines including one called Lambrusco Emilia Ruzzare from Total Wines and a thoroughly satisfying potato chip with chile limon. Since he has lost 45 pounds, and looks in great shape, we followed his food lead and enjoyed seafood and sometimes skipped breakfast. Skipping breakfast did not work well for me but anyway, it was wonderful to see him and his father together. There were so many similarities and for the week he stayed with us…there was plenty of time for them to bond as I was at work. When I left for my evening adjunct gig, he even arranged to meet Mike for a quick bite at a sports bar. After he left, Michael felt lonely. I think his best day this past week was when his best friend dropped his family off at Busch Gardens and then he came over to visit all of us. It was good for us, but very much so for my husband. Having company of your family, you expand your horizons. They may annoy you sometimes but they also bring a sense of growth as you realize how far everyone has come.

The past, the present, and the future remain in the room.

Enjoy your weekend!

 

 

And I am sure you are wondering what is the next step: what happened to me? Did I successfully complete my contract with the military? Did the ship get out of dry dock? What happened?

And I will let your imagination supply the ending. I know the ending and the resolution of the matter but you don’t. I wrote the ending purging my memories about a year ago, so I moved on many moons ago but it is more fun to figure out what you think.

Am I trying to be politically correct? Do I realize certain people might be offended? Nah, I just want to keep you guessing and off balance. I know the truth but not everyone out there needs to know. Maybe one or two close to me.

And in the end, if I had a daughter and she wanted to join the military : what would I say?

Follow your heart and instinct and you will never be wrong. Be at peace with yourself. And at the same time, watch your back.
Good night.