It was Tuesday, and rain had just started to dampen the ground.
We sat at a table for two, underneath a strange modern-styled light fixture. I said it looked like a creepy white underwater creature. She said it was more of the human body, inside out.
I knew that we both had stories to tell. I didn’t know that hers would out-do mine, not that it was a competition. I didn’t know that her stories would further define the crease between my eyebrows that I hate. I didn’t know that she had ever carried so much on her small frame.
I cringe, even now, when I think of how I underestimated her. I’m only human, I know, but making a mistake like this one-not seeing her for who she is-tore at the fibers of my heart.
Upon first meeting her, I could see that she was fiery That she was strong and capable and deeply caring. During our coffee date under the unusual and downright ugly light fixture, I saw so much more.
She was born in Prague, to parents from different social classes. Her mother born into the world of the bourgeoisie, her father born on a park bench.
Her parents were blacklisted in the Czech Republic. Ostracized. Ousted. Rejected. They were made to feel as though the country that gave them life, was not their own.
Eyes wide, my mind was spinning. She spoke of an unplanned pregnancy, of herself being conceived, and I was still stuck on the word “blacklisted.” Being blacklisted, they had little money. Living in a room the size of a large kitchen, they knew poverty and pain.
They moved to China, where she went to an international school run by East Indians, and where she herself developed an East Indian accent for a time. They moved to Syria, where she adopted an understanding that it was normal to have military weaponry pointed in her face. They moved to Libya, where a man exposed himself to her through the car window while she and her mother waited at a stop light.
She hated Libya the most.
They moved back to Prague, where she completed high school. She was accepted into law school, but chose unyielding passion over unfavorable practicality. She chose to come to Vancouver and to attend the University of British Columbia for film making and international studies.
What hurts the most, she said, is when people underestimate her and judge her based on her age and on her cheerful exterior. “Age does not account for experience,” I thought.
Well, my darling red headed girl – You, are a gem. You shine brightly, though the hardship you’ve been through. You love deeply, care often, laugh easily, and help daily. Knowing you has brought me joy and filled me with gratitude. You are a beautiful blessing.
And your story is beautiful. It gave me rest.