My new column at Mcsweeneys is up. It was a hard one to write, because it was a hard thing to experience.
What I didn't add in the piece is the fact that this was the last time I have seen her; Hali (not her real name, obviously) moved to the East Coast the next day. She was supposed to come visit here in June, but she is 8 months pregnant and won't be able to come out.
I don't write very much anymore about living where we live (low-income housing, refugees for neighbors) because it doesn't seem safe. But I will say that there are many, many sad things going on all the time. Some times I can shove it down, and other times I can't. I have been grateful for this column-writing-experience because it has forced me to look at the situation square in the eye. And, no surprise here, I have been found wanting.
The girls in the refugee community get it the worst. They come here, are educated up to their eyeballs both by the schools and the media that they should "follow their hearts" and "believe in themselves". They catch ahold of these ephemeral promises and hold on tight, until suddenly they can't. Their culture catches up when they turn a marrying age and demands they go back and live life the way it always was. Except this time, the girls know that there are different paths out there. Just not for them.
In many ways, it seems like the worst of both worlds. And there isn't anything I can do about it, really. Just stay a friend. Keep the channels of communication open. Try and be nice to the men in the community for once, and influence them for good.
And, of course: pray. Pray. Pray, without ceasing.