We all have those friends who come into your life, that stay in your heart forever. The kind of friendships that change you.
She was new to the group. She had just moved to San Francisco from San Diego and was still trying to find her “home” in a city that is anything but homey. People told us we should meet, that we would get along great. When we did meet she came up to me in a crowded room full of people and stuck her hand in front of mine and said “so you’re Hope, i’ve heard we’re supposed to be great friends” Right as she said this I was trying to swallow a piece of bread covered in $16 dollar brie cheese that was too big for my mouth. I couldn’t talk but shook her hand and made a joke about my stuffed cheeks. We chatted for a moment, then I made my way back to the brie.
Our next encounter was better. We enjoyed a grilled cheese and tomato soup at the Grove with some other friends. We walked through stationary stores and her eyes lusted after all the handmade cards. She walked me home since we were just a few blocks apart. We talked the whole way down Fillmore street and ended at Divisadero. When we hugged goodbye I knew everyone was right, we would be great friends.
A couple weeks later I got a text message from her, she was getting kicked out of her apartment and had no where to go. She wasn’t asking for a room, but was asking for hope. At that moment I knew, we would be that hope.
We were sitting in my living room, drinking tea and talking about things we liked and didn’t like. Trying to find a common ground since we were going to be roommates in just a few short weeks, yet this was the third time we’ve spoken. She said something that captured my attention, something that told me there was more to this girl than her blond hair and short shorts. She said..she liked hospitals, that they felt like home to her. I knew exactly what she meant. Before asking her why, I knew at some time, and some where she experienced great pain indeed. Maybe not the same pain as mine, but a great pain. I could see it in her eyes, in the way she carried herself, and in the way she didn’t care about small insignificant things. She was sharp and to the point because she knew there was no time to waste. When she told me her brother died of cancer when he was 12 and she was 9, I wanted to wrap my arms around her and tell her everything was going to be alright, but I hardly knew her, and i knew my mere words would never fill the hole that grief left in her heart. So instead, I told her about my pains. I was standing at the stove adding more hot water to my tea. I watched the steam rise out of the spout, without taking my eyes off the tea kettle I said ” I don’t know if you know what Cystic Fibrosis is, but I have it.” After I said those words it was like an invisible glue wrapped around us, binding us together for life. Neither of us knew it at the time, but now neither of us can survive without the other.
We talked for hours that day. She told me the last words her brother spoke, and I told her what its like living with a deadly disease. Every word that was spoken, brought us closer together. That is what grief does, it unites the suffering, it brings together the hurt and broken, it makes the unbearable..bearable.
In her latest card to me she said that sometimes we use humility as an excuse to shield ourselves from exposure, thinking our stories aren’t needing to be told. When she met me, she knew that I had cf, but she noticed that I never mentioned it. So she told her story, the tragedy of her brothers death at too young an age. And now, because of her, I can tell my story. I can talk about the pain, the suffering, and I can also talk about the hope. She taught me there is beauty in being vulnerable, and strength in showing weakness.
Our time as roommates was short, but sweet. She lived here in sf for two years, moving from apartment to apartment, district to district. And still home was never found. I guess thats why in two weeks, she will be returning to her real home.
She often tells me we saved her life, that living with us was like getting a second chance at life. She says she was homeless and we gave her a home, she didn’t have a bed and we gave her a pull out couch, she was hurt, and we healed her wounds. But I say, all we did was love her. Because love, true unselfish love is life changing, and life saving. So I think she, was really the one that saved my life.