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never too late to learn

published: 2012-10-11

The other day, I saw two women I know from the past. We were classmates once. Friends, by circumstance. Girls.
I see them now, 25 years later, as our paths cross. We had never expected them to. We stopped being classmates, being girls. And so we stopped being friends. There had been no projection into a connected future.
The one woman stands on a stage. She is holding a microphone and reads to our children from the book she has written for kids their age. The other sits in the audience, her second child on her lap.
As I look at them I feel a connection that unfolds itself over time and reaches out into the past, colors our shared history in retrospect. The woman in the audience turns to smile at me.
The woman up on stage had a stepmother. She was there too. On seeing the stepmother, all I could think of was how the girl back then ate a whole stack of sandwiches with chocolate hail. She had dimples in her cheeks – she still has – and yet she always felt sad. While eating those sandwiches she said to me, “It’s like there’s a hole inside me I’m trying to fill.”
She had come from America. I had come from Africa. And the woman in the audience had come from Israel. One day, this girl from Israel had an argument with a tall lug from Syria, who was also in our class. It wasn’t the argument that had impressed me. It was her reaction. She was a girl of astounding beauty and confidence, always calm and collected. Yet now, I could see how the tears burned painfully in her eyes, her cheeks had gone red, she clutched her fists until they went white. She would have run out if she could, but the teacher came in. Meanwhile, the guy from Syria smirked condescendingly.
All of it, of us, existed back then. I marvel at life’s cycle, at our place in this world. These two women who came from different worlds far away are now forever close to me in my own life.

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