Twelve years ago tonight, I saw you for the first time. You were standing in the parking lot of a disheveled looking apartment building in the periphery, part of an inherited case load. As I jumped out of the car to meet you I observed a long figure, hands in pockets, shoulders shrugged a bit up, like you had just finished asking a question. We exchanged names and shook hands. Curious. You looked like a gauner of sorts. Not at all the pudgy, diffident but sweet looking young man in the badly copied I-94 from this afternoon.
The complexities of refugee resettlement work are well charted, I won't repeat what is known. I think in the field, you are never quite prepared for the many, many varied manifestations of trauma. Some things just come out of the blue, never before seen and not dealt with in the handbook. And when they do, you deal with it the best you can creating as you go along.
I worked hard. As uncomfortable as it sounds to me now, in my then preposterous innocence I was proud that my reputation was slightly less than terrestrial angel. I wince now, but in those days I blushed. It was so.
Well, and then - there you were. It seemed improbable but somehow we knew each other from before. We seemed to remember the indelible lines written in invisible ink on tiny palms. The perfect circle pattern, the one that undulates up from the sea floor and pulls the willing into the depths. The electric soul threading that is stitched into the silent black velvet found behind starry stars. This all we remembered. Where we had met on other occasions, this too.
Maybe because of this remembering, that very night you managed the oldest trick of all tricks. And I walked in - I am no longer ashamed to say - confidently, just like fools and those who know better, always do.
Every year on this date I remember you well, man standing at the edge of a parking lot peering into a burning and crumbling building. You, fully entranced while looking into the fire, now licking the walls, your eyes searching the night sky embers, as if these very same were the only thing to save you from nothingness.