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“Here’s my new boyfriend! Just kidding! 🙂 ”
I send my El Salvadoran friend a snap shot of me and one of the artist’s young son, Raf, who is adopted from El Salvador. Raf was wearing a cap that says El Salvador with its national flag symbol printed on the front. I thought there were no resemblance between Raf and N, one of the artists at my gallery, but I didn’t care much. I just always assumed that he was her biological child.
And so it was a surprised to me when N told me that she had adopted Raf from El Salvador. Not so much because he was adopted-N is a beautiful soul and of course she would adopt a child with Autism and give him a better life.- but because I had just made a new friend from El Salvador two days ago. M has been my regular customer at the coffee shop since last fall, but we are now getting to know each other. This kid reminded me of him.
That snap shot opened up a constant flow of texting between me and my new El salvadoran friend. Before we knew it, we were planning a mountain bike ride. “Can you ride on weekday evenings?” He asks. “I can ride on Tuesday.” I say, breaking my pattern. This is the second time I am breaking my pattern in less than a week and both happened with him. Our first meeting was at 7:45 at a local restaurant where we stayed out talking for 4 hours. It was almost midnight when I got home. And now I am going to meet him for a bike ride in the evening.
The other day, I was out riding in the back seat of my dad’s car to meet a couple who was interested in renting my parent’s condo. Dad was driving, and mom was in the passenger seat. I was in the back seat corner, glued to the window, just admiring the evolving night scene.
“Wow, mom, dad, I don’t even remember the last time I was out this late! This is so cool!” I sounded like an eight year old child excited about the chance to stay up late.
“Because you always go to sleep so early.”, mom answered.
“What do people do this time of the day? They probably have dinner…” I ask a silly question and then answer myself as we were passing a busy restaurant. They had a line all the way out the door. So many people out in town. It was 7 pm. It was getting darker. But it was like a new day starting all over again. This was the world I did not know about. This was the world I had forgotten.
Flash back to 10 years. It is my last year in Seoul, South Korea. I am out late with friends. I think we meet at Starbucks at Coex Mall in Samsung dong. It’s a happening place, and the mall has my favorite mega bookstore in the entire city. We are out chatting away our evening, the five Seoul girls. We met when we were freshmen in college, and four years later, we were still as inseparable as ever. I talk and talk and talk until my brain gave out, and as it always happens when I talk too much, I get light-headed and dizzy. But I love being with them. I am so alive, and so full of vitality.
Now I am back, sitting in my dad’s car. My sleep pattern is breaking for the day, and it has a major effect on me. My eyes refuse to stay open. But I can’t stop looking outside. Everything looks so fresh to my eyes. It’s like a whole new world out there, and I am starting to remember the feel of the evening, the feel of the night deepening. If morning is like a cold cup of purified water, then night time is like a glass of deep red wine. I have long been a morning person, and I hope to remain a morning person for the rest of my life. But that doesn’t mean I’ve always been this way. Once, I was a night person, too. I did not always go to bed before the clock hits 7 pm. Once, I had a life, too. I had friends, classes, meetings, and things to do. I was one busy urban girl. Once.
And it ended when I moved to Tennessee following my now-ex-husband. I didn’t know what to do with my evenings in the suburban house deep in the country. Especially since my husband was away frequently on his business trips. At nights, I would miss my family and friends so much more than I did during the day. I had no one to run to, and no one to invite. And so, I started to face the night head-on. I sat in my lawn chair alone, watching the sun go down lighting up my home country. I was learning to let go as I was watching the sunset. Night by night, one person at a time, and one memory at a time, I was learning to say goodbye to all that I loved. And then, the nights came that I was too drunk to think any thoughts. Every night. And then even worse nights came that I was suicidal. Every night. And then, the memories of my dark nights fade out. What happened is that I started my anti-depressant medication therapy.
What would make a person to go to bed at 7 pm every night? I will tell you what.
Divorce would. Many solitary nights would. Morning job shifts that start at 5 in the morning would. Nightly blues would. An ideation of a monastic lifestyle would.
Was it healthy for me? That’s a whole new story and I think if I start to write about that, this piece is going to be boringly long. But I can tell you what that lifestyle of going to bed at 7 pm did to me. It made me remain single for five years after the divorce took place.
“You’re my first ‘guy’ friend since my divorce.”
I told my El Salvadoran friend honestly when we met up the other day.
“You’re my first Korean friend, too.”
He says, smiling, as if he doesn’t find anything weird about me staying single for the last five years. I don’t know why I thought that would even be a shame.
“I’ve never stayed out this late in a long time, either.”
That makes him raise his eye brows.
“Really? Sorry I am making you stay out so late.” He apologizes.
“No, no, it’s good. I need to break my pattern. I am going to break my pattern. “
What I meant was profound. What it symbolizes is no small matter. Like a little bird emerging into the world, breaking its hard shell, it means I am ready to try my sense of survival. It means that I am ready to practice moderation and balance. And it means that I am ready to bring my light into the night, protecting my light against the darkness.
And I want to reach very, very far out.
I want to hold the hands of those engulfed by the darkness of the night.
I know the POWs of night time wars are out there.
On the battlefield of loneliness all human beings fight, and the field of desperation for connection and love, those poor souls stand, without the armor of the divine love in their hearts. I once stood on that barren field, before I found my refuge in Jesus. I was held captive by the night. I was that POW once.
The shell is breaking free.
I can hear the cracks.
And I am not afraid. I am ready to walk into the night hidden in Christ, reflecting only His Light.