Most of the next two decades is a blur. My parents dipped into their retirement money to put me through two stints of drug rehab. There were no strings attached, but plenty of guilt trips. I survived on welfare and government disability payments. I could trade my food stamps for drugs and my body for a place to sleep. I was tired, but nothing brought me rest. The only thing in my lost decades that I can be thankful for is that I never got pregnant.
One day I was in Seattle, waiting for a friend to pick me up. I sat outside a corner Starbucks watching two kids smoke cigarettes. I remember hoping they’d put out their smokes and leave so I could take what was left to smoke later. Then a woman stopped in front of me.
“Cabbie?” the woman asked, almost as much a statement as a question. “Cabbie? It’s me, Rhonda.” My old friend looked tall and slender in her black yoga pants and neon green tanktop. She was a bit grey at the temples, but still looked so young. I can’t begin to imagine what I looked like, or how she ever recognized me.
We talked for over an hour. Rhonda was careful not to ask any questions and I didn’t offer much. Mostly we talked about the years of our friendship, years I’d relived in my mind a thousand times over during the previous decades. I kept expecting her to tell me how terrible I looked and then stab at me with a hundred and one questions. Isn’t that what old friends do after they haven’t seen each other for a long time?
The more we talked, the more I could see a kindness and compassion about her that I didn’t remember. She couldn’t have known the mess I’d made of my life or the pain I’d put so many people through. She couldn’t have known who I’d spent the previous night with, or what I did to get enough money for my one meal of the day. It was like she knew exactly where I’d been and what I’d done without me saying a word … and she didn’t say a word about it either.
It was like old times. My best friend had found me. It was like my life took up exactly where it had been before she left for that stupid summer camp. Then she mentioned Jesus.
** Part 3 of 4