For the longest time I felt like time had stopped for me, or maybe it wasn't time so much as my life, and what I was doing with it. I guess too you could say that I'd marked that point of change by becoming someone else, and while I certainly didn't recognize it at the time, even if I had I'd never admit it outright. I think the worst part about that time was that for a large percentage of it, the person I'd become wasn't even someone I could be proud of.
When I was young, I had such high hopes for the future...I met the girl I was sure I would marry, raise a family and grow old with. I had just started college and while we knew it would be tough for a while, the end result was well worth it. My life was everything I had ever dreamed it could be.
Seven years of happiness...and then the war came...my world unraveled, everyone I loved, everything I had was gone. Nothing mattered anymore, I might have lived on a deserted island for the emptiness I felt. Suddenly everything that had once brought me joy instead brought me pain, and I knew I had to do the one thing I never thought I would do, I left my home. I left the memories.
I thought at first that it was easier not to talk about my past, but I couldn't stop myself from needing to protect those I allowed myself to get close to. Maybe if I kept them safe I could make up for not being able to protect my family all those years ago. But, it didn't work, and time after time I got close only to see things fall apart until I became someone I no longer recognized.
I hated the person I became during those lost months. My life became a time of excesses, alcohol, fast cars, sex, but never so close to anyone that they saw how much pain I was feeling. They couldn't know how hard it was for me to make myself live the life I had chosen for myself.
Finally, even that life was too much and I tempted fate yet again by going to the Congo. I told myself I was going to help them, but time after time I put my life at risk, and because of my carelessness another life was lost. I can't know that Patrique's death wouldn't have happened under other circumstances, but, he stayed because I refused to leave the clinic, he died because of my stubbornness. I faced my own death that day and I made my peace with it, I was ready to go, but, death was not yet ready to take me, I had another chance to start over.
I returned to Chicago a changed man and over time found my way back to Abby. The life that we have now with our son Joe is very close to the one Danijela and I had often dreamed about, the only real difference is that we are here in the States instead of in Croatia. Somehow, through all of these changes, after all of these years, I've come back full circle, and at long last, I can finally say I'm happy.