My soon to be husband and first boyfriend made a lot of promises. He emphasized the amount of land he owned and how that land might sustain us in some vague, promising way. He painted a picture of an idyllic life filled with enjoying each other’s company, travel, and living an adventure filled life. Just the kind of life I’d been living, and the kind of life I wanted to continue living, but I’d have a partner to share it with.
I booked a flight to New Orleans from Saudi Arabia. I’d travel from Dammam to Bahrain, Bahrain to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to New York and New York to New Orleans My multiple flights would take almost 24 hours to complete, but I didn’t mind. I was in love and going to meet my love. I was going to be with my life partner, my first love, my last love.
I arrived in New Orleans and went straight to the car rental counter to book an SUV for the drive to Mississippi. I got a nice, large SUV that was comfortable and smooth. I settled in, drove away from the airport, and called my intended. We chatted excitedly as I drove through the darkness. He pointed out places of note and places that I should avoid. We laughed as the miles between us got shorter by the minute. I drove quickly through the southern darkness, across Lake Pontchartrain, into Mississippi and finally his home town. He lived on the outskirts of the town and I had to find my way through the damp darkness to his home. But, finally, I found it. I had arrived…
I pulled up to his front door, and he was standing in the doorway leaning on a cane. As I climbed out of the truck and walked around to him, my spirit voice yelled “RUN” with such an urgency that it made me hesitate. As I walked up to him, again the voice cried out “RUN” and I spoke back to it: no, no I’m not going to run, I have to see this through. I’d come too far to listen to that panicked voice. I had already invested too much time, energy and money.
I saw him. He looked a little like the man I’d known 45 years before. But his right side was completely paralyzed, and he dragged his foot as he walked. His right hand and arm hung at an unnatural angle. When he spoke, most of his teeth were missing. He was much much thinner than I remembered. He was not the same man. His speech was difficult to understand and it took a big effort for him to speak.
When I walked into his “house” I discovered that it was a two room dwelling, barely above a shack, with a refrigerator that didn’t work, and an added unfinished extension that was filled with mold. Every window was either cracked or had a hole, and the floors were painted concrete. There was a stove, makeshift sink and deep freezer at one end of the large room. Against a wall was a ripped up leather sofa which sat on bricks. In the corner behind the door was a large bag of dog food for the two dogs he owned. There was a bed in the room and a dresser that was dilapidated and falling apart.
To the right of the large room was a bathroom with a stained bathtub, makeshift sink and small toilet. Just beyond that was a tiny bedroom with a full sized bed, and new air conditioner. This was my new home. Parked to the side of the cabin/shack was a van that barely ran. It would not run at all in the very near future.
When I walked in, there were no flowers, no candles, no wine or champagne. There was just some cold food that someone had brought. That was my homecoming.