I think about her often....
Sometimes in life our path crosses other's in unexpected ways and it's not until much later when we look back we realize the enormity of how much that one individual's presence however fleeting impacted us. Maybe they encouraged us with words that spoke to our heart and never really left us because they touched us so deeply. Maybe they showed us a kindness that surpassed any kindness we've ever experienced in our life. Maybe they saved us. Maybe they were the one who God used to help us when no one else was there, willing or able.
Her name conjures up strength, resilience and beauty... I can picture her kind smile and the beautiful hues of pomegranate and persimmon in her shift dress. Her cheeks were rosy like ripe apples, her touch warm and reassuring and although we struggled with language barriers we connected through a kind hearted bond as women joined in sisterhood.
names have been changed or omitted
Night time came as it always did and Mai brought me a couple of blankets and a pillow, setting them on the arm of the short burgundy couch in the living room. I thanked her and she retreated down the hall to her bedroom for the night closing the door behind her. The guys that Bao had reluctantly entrusted me to temporarily until he found me an adequate place to stay were sprawled among the various worn out recliner chairs around the room watching the television in the pitch darkness. I could just make out their outlines in the dim light flashing from the oversized TV screen. Exhausted, I propped my head up on the blankets and pillow sitting on the arm of the couch and pulled Bao’s black leather jacket up over me as a blanket and as some sense of comfort, slipping into a light doze.
Not sure how much time had lapsed, I suddenly felt someone sitting next to me and a hand on my knee. I slowly opened my eyes to reveal three of the guys were surrounding me on the couch. Oh no, I thought immediately sensing what they wanted…Suddenly there was a bright light to my left. Down the hallway in her now open bedroom door Mai stood there illuminated in the yellow light wearing a faded patchwork robe holding a baseball bat in the air. She headed toward us purposefully screaming "Stop!" in Vietnamese waving it at the young men who now hurriedly stood and backed away from me. I collapsed back on the couch disheveled, with my hips exposed, completely drenched in sweat and exhaustion. I hadn’t realized I’d had tears streaming down my face I’d been so focused on trying to wield them off me. I laid there gasping for air I was so winded from the physical exertion I’d just gone through, my breath coming in gasping waves and my heartbeat moving like a galloping horse untamed and off course. Mai took one hurried glance over at me with sheer horror and then turned back to them screaming again in Vietnamese this time "Get out!", waving the bat at them in renewed rage, her pretty face now darkened crimson red. The guys didn’t argue and immediately ran out of the house into the dark inky night letting the backdoor bang loudly behind them.
Mai checked to make sure everything was locked behind them then came back to where I was now sitting on the couch. With shaking hands I’d pulled my jeans back up and refastened them, pulling Bao’s leather jacket to my chest as a sort of protective shield, my knees drawn up close to my chest. My breathing was slowing a bit but my entire body was visibly shaking. One would have thought it was the dead of winter, as my teeth wouldn’t stop audibly chattering. Despite the mix of emotions coursing through my mind I already felt better knowing she was there.
Mai had saved me...
If it hadn’t been for her courageous act, that night would have had a much different outcome. She had crouched down next to the couch beside me and touched my shoulder.
“It okay. I’m here. I help you. They bad.“
I had thanked Mai and hugged her tightly... it was on this night I was given the gift of help from someone I’d have likely never crossed paths with in my lifetime. This woman was a pillar of strength and goodness. Mai took a chance and stood up for the right thing when in a modern world of complacency many people wouldn’t have been that brave.
I think about Mai often...
And when I think of her the one word that comes to my mind of what she represents is...