Despite the Distance

I remember it well; I had just gotten home when I received a phone call from my mother with the news. An earthquake of unimaginable strength had just shaken Haiti and she was letting me know, as she was trying to conceal her concern from me. The rest of the conversation is a blur; all I keep thinking is Régine…Régine is there. Is she ok? I say my goodbyes to my mom and reluctantly take hold of the remote control. It didn’t take long, it was everywhere, the chaos, the agony, the scared faces. The whole world had their eyes upon this forgotten country. I sit and cry.
I zone out and start to think of Régine, a great friend of mine, no, she is much more than that really, she is my sister. I met Régine in college back in Puerto Rico, I don’t quite remember how. She lived in the dorms where I too lived. I know we became closer as I tried to practice my French with her; she’s a smart woman who was majoring in business and speaks French, Spanish, English and Créole. She’s kind of quiet but when you get to know her she’s sassy and wise beyond her years. I’d go to her to teach me the “real” French they don’t teach you in the classroom, more than just the basics, I want to learn everything and she does her best to keep up with all of my questions.
Fast forward a bit and we’re living in Lille, France. Two students on an adventure, caught up in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. We’re roommates now with Arelí from Mexico, who has a vibrant personality and a daring soul. We all manage to get into trouble, travel and learn all we can about this new, old world.
Years pass and we still keep in touch, we write, call, email, always reminiscing. We talk about our first jobs, our loves, our families. I share the happy news of my wedding, later my first child and recently my second.
My son calls out to me and I’m thrust back into reality, in my cozy home looking at the TV with the news programs interviewing experts and getting remarks. I pick up my phone and dial her number. I can’t get through, of course I can’t! The rest of the world is trying to do the same. Finally after many emails and instant messages to people who might have some news from her, I find out Régine is ok, thankfully. I’m updated that most of her family has moved out of the country and that her uncle has passed away due to the quake. After a couple of days I get an email from her letting me know that she’s still shaken but ok. She tells me that the home she shares with her mother was affected, that she’s scared and that things are nothing close to back to normal.
Weeks later I manage to connect with her on the internet and we instant message. She has great news, she is getting married she tells me. I’m elated, and slightly confused. How can you plan a wedding when all of this is happening? She lets me know it’s the only thing keeping her mind occupied and that it takes her away from reality.
I wish I could be there for her, I wish I could just pack my bags and go to her wedding and dance and see her smile and be happy just like old times. I wish this but I know it can’t be done. I’ll send you a wedding present then! I exclaim but she kindly lets me know that they don’t have a working postal system. Rebuilding is barely noticeable, and what little progress has occurred has come slow like molasses. We wish each other well and sign off.
Recently I opened my email and was happy to see an email from Régine with the subject line Wedding Invitation. As I begin to read, the first lines read:

you'll be present in my heart!
I smile; glad that she could have her special day, and touched that she cared enough to remember me.

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Arelí Araiza said...


I am so glad because Régine had her special day and also that she is ok, but the most important thing about this post you wrote I feel blessed because I met you, Régine and KAte in Lille, France
I love you all so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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