It was a lunch with new friends, an outing I’d pushed myself to attend. Fourteen women of which I had met one. If you’re a perpetual expat it’s something you know you have to do. Put yourself out there, continue to recruit, take a deep breath and walk into a venue, a meeting, a lunch or a coffee with your friend radar on high alert.
The one person I knew was through a mutual friend, that friend being Erika. Erika was now long gone, she and her husband Andrew had left G and I here in Qatar for their next expat adventure, Nice, France. Ouch! Not only were they leaving they were breaking our hearts in the process, in a Jennifer, Brad, Angelina kind of way. Sure, our friendship and life here in Qatar was pretty bloody good (Jen), but how do you compete with Nice? (Angelina). We skyped in the beginning, us in our dustbowl of a backyard, them surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills. Us sipping on our mass-produced Australian wine that we’d paid a fortune for, them guzzling a 2 Euro bottle of something fabulous and local. A year down the track they announced they were going to Amsterdam – okay, so they’d broken up with Angelina, but just like Brad they were going to be okay. Grass greener? Surely so in Amsterdam.
Back to the lunch. So there I sat, across from the one person I’d met before. It made sense Erika was going to come up in conversation. We giggled over Erika’s ability to call a spade a spade, or in Erika’s case possibly more so a f*c*en shovel. There is only one Erika: brash, honest, passionate and strikingly conscious. The very first evening Erika and I had spent together she’d come over to the house with her husband Andrew, in between raucous conversations and bottles of wine she’d been so willing to share her faults and indiscretions, she’d laid out her soul in between giggles and stories. As a serial expat she knew how it worked, the unsaid here I am, this is me, if this makes you uncomfortable we probably won’t be friends. When we said goodnight at 4am I turned to G and said “I LOVE THEM!”.
I was crushed by her departure. I got busy, worked harder, filled my time, but I missed her terribly. And like many expats who’ve been in it for the long haul I questioned why we do this to ourselves. Why do we let ourselves get so close knowing that it’s all going to end.
Back to the lunch. As we shared our mutual Erika stories other members at the table listened in and joined in on the giggles. “Where is this Erika? Why isn’t she here?” By the next round of drinks we were toasting Erika “Here’s to Erika!” And by the end of the day our mutual friend and I gave our own knowing toast “Here’s to the Erika’s may there be more of them”.
The world needs more Erika’s. While I know there is only one Erika for me there will possibly be Kate’s and Catherine’s, Susan’s and Sonya’s, Annabelle’s and Aisha’s. And yes, while it hurts so much to say goodbye, nothing can replace the memories of what you had – what I had with Erika was rich and raw. I’m pretty sure she’d throw me an enormous eye roll with an accompanying snort if I was to quote those corny words from Dr Suess. Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened.
Happy birthday gorgeous Erika.