When I met Laura, about a decade ago, I’d never known anyone who had served time in jail. Laura had spent a great deal of time in prison–16 years, to be exact–and I was interviewing her for a magazine I recently launched, about how she was adjusting to the “outside world.” I’d invited her to dinner at my apartment for the interview, and instantly liked her. A tall, handsome woman, with a cropped hairstyle, Laura was articulate, with a no-nonsense attitude.
Thus began the most unusual friendship of my life, with a woman who appeared to be as different from me as I am from Amal Clooney (I grabbed that name out of the air!) But appearances, as we all know, can be deceiving. And, after knowing Laura for 10 years, I realized she and I share an important trait: Drive. Laura has not let anything stop her from creating a decent life for herself, despite obstacles that would have made others cower.
Laura was not shy about asking for help, and I was fortunate to be able to help her, emotionally and financially. I bought her clothes; helped her get a rent-subsidized apartment; advised her on finding employment. While many of my family and friends cautioned me about being ”too generous,” I knew Laura wanted to make sense of her life, and I didn’t intend to walk away.
If truth be known, Laura and I did hit a rough patch, when I felt she had started taking advantage of my largesse. So I told her how I felt, and parted ways. We lost touch for a few years, but she was often on my mind. Then, about three years ago, Laura called and asked if I could help her with an overdue rent payment. Unfortunately, she had lost a long-time job because they discovered she didn’t have the proper qualifications, although she excelled at her work. I didn’t hesitate to write the check, at a time, I might add, that I was not in an especially rosy financial situation. But Laura needed the money more than I did.
A few weeks ago, Laura invited me to attend her marriage to long-time boyfriend, Jerome. They have been together for over a decade, and Jerome told me he decided to “make an honest woman out of her.” He recently landed a wonderful job as the head cook in a residence for troubled teenagers, so he felt he could finally take care of her.
Laura and Jerome married in a city government building in downtown Manhattan. She looked lovely in a long white, pleated dress, the first dress I ever saw her wear! And, she was nervous, an emotion I’ve never seen her show.
This is what she texted to me a couple of days later: “Hey, Geri, I just wanted to thank you for showing up and also to let you know that I’m in Atlanta at an AA World Conference. This is my first one, and tomorrow is my 12 year anniversary. I hope that we can keep up with one another. Have a blessed and safe holiday. Tell everyone hello.” And this is what I texted back: “Hi Laura. It was wonderful to be at your wedding ceremony. I am extremely happy to see you in such a great place in your life. Love Geri.”