Bologna, and a reunion..
On our last day in Florence, I headed to Bologna to meet a long lost friend. This reunion was a long time coming. Almost 14 years. My high school graduation is the last time I remember seeing her. But, we had drifted a while before then. This was always kind of a sad reality for me. Here we had been so close, then, for some reason, high school changed us both. We ended up on two different paths. Unfortunately, she took a wayward turn and had ended up in the less fortunate of situations, where, I had taken a different turn, which had led me to a good place.
I have some fond memories of Moni. It was Moni with whom I first discovered Hawaii, at age 12, and again at 13 and 14. I have a special place in my heart for Hawaii, and the memories of seeing and swimming in the aqua blue water for the first time with her are some of my fondest. In grade school, she and I had been two of a foursome. Ra, Moni, Cal, and Shan. We did everything together, and at times, we fought and took sides against each other: Me and Cal, against Moni and Shan…or, Me and Moni against Cal and Shan..only to make up minutes later.
One of my funniest memories of us was in 8th grade. We all snuck into the Gym when it was closed and jumped on the ‘Pro-Pit,’ this huge mushy foam mattress used for PE high jump activities. We were caught by our drill-sergeant-ex-Marine PE teacher, and he punished us by making us pick weeds in a field adjacent to school, for a week during lunch. We may have severed his trust, which had taken 3 years to gain, but I think we all bonded as a result..even though, at the time, another fight ensued in which we all pointed fingers at each other for even coming up with the idea. It makes me smile to think about those days. Everything seemed so innocent. The next year, we all split off to different high schools, but Moni ended up at my school a year later. By this time, I had already made some new friends and found it hard to incorporate her into my circle of friends. I tried to, but at this point, she had different interests than I did, and we just sort of drifted. In the past, I had always wondered whatever happened to her. I remember thinking that she hated me, and that I had somehow abandoned her in high school when she probably needed me the most. So, I was most surprised when I received an email from her, out of the blue before Christmas. As fate would have it, she was living in Italy, and I would be going there as well. I knew at this point that we would meet again.
I think what surprised me the most was that it felt so natural to see her again.. after so many years, and all that has taken place since the days in which we were close, so long ago. It felt as if we had never left. She has changed, but in some ways she is just the same, and that was comforting. She hit rock bottom at one point in the not so distant past, and she was able to put her life back together. I admire that. It is also scary and sad to think that had she not cleaned up, she might not have made it to see today…and then, she never would have contacted me, and I never would have known that we still had a friendship buried within us. But, she did; and for that, I am thankful.