I stayed with my best friend and his family in late 2005. It was an odd time in my life. Very transitional. My parents had been dead for a year, and, as horrible as it sounds, it was somewhat a relief to know they couldn’t hurt me or call upon others (in my father’s case) to hurt me. I loved my parents and can honestly say I *never* wished them dead. They are, though, and that was the first time I knew with certainty that they couldn’t hurt me.
Those three months were among the best I’ve had. They were easy. I had managed, briefly, to trick the cult into thinking I was 1000 miles from where I was actually staying. No idea how long that would have lasted, but it did last those three months. I can’t remember that ever having happened before. Never before or after that time I spent with my best friend have I ever felt so safe and so settled. I had no permanent place to stay and no job, but I felt stable. Over the years, I’ve tried to put my finger on what it was that made that time so special, but it wasn’t until last night that I figured it out: stable family.
I felt so safe. The cult didn’t quite know my location (miracle), but even more than that, the *people* were stable. My best friend and his mother were the permanents. His 7-year-old nephew stayed over once or twice a week, and a neighbour’s 8-year-old son came in to hang about now and then. We all just fit. We fell into a routine that felt ages old. My best friend was in graduate school and worked until 7:30 on campus most nights. Either he drove himself in or I took him to work. He came home, some variety of dinner was made, and we settled into the evening. Some nights we hung about and chatted. Some nights he did homework. The events of the day were processed.
We were stable as people, too. Although my best friend and his mother got in a row or two, there was never more than a few cross words exchanged. It never felt like there was impending violence, nor were there sudden outbreaks of anger. No overt signs of mental illness existed, so the ups and downs of that did not break the stability. It just worked. It was the most stable time of my life. In London, even though my family was intact, my mother’s ever-changing mental and emotional status kept an overall feeling of tension in the air. So for the first time ever, I was surrounded by relative constants and knew I could stay there as long as I needed.
It’s hard to explain to someone who has never experienced severe trauma, dealt with a mentally ill parent, or moved about from street to street looking for a place to stay, what walking into peace is like. I was 24 years old, and it was the first time I’d felt that *constant* stability and security. No questions asked. The sad part of it all is that it’s not something I can reproduce. I don’t intend to marry, and even if I did, having just the two of us wouldn’t recreate that sense of family I had among the three of us. It’s so hard to put into words.
Whilst trying to explain this to my best friend last night, I kept getting choked up. He and his mother will never understand the magnitude of what they gave to me. I can’t possibly thank them enough.