Part of the reason behind my leaving Croatia was that too much of who I was, wasn't so much who I was, but, rather who we were. The friends I'd had in college, easily became Danijela's friends, and once she was gone, it was like building a puzzle and always knowing it would never again be complete because there would be a hole in the picture for the piece that had been lost. I guess I decided it was easier for me to stop building that puzzle then to keep looking at that incomplete picture, and, as hard as it was for me to turn my back on the friends who wanted nothing more to be there for me in my time of loss, I did just that.
I suppose in a way it was for that same reason I avoided going back home for visits, that and the fact my brother and I hadn't exactly seen eye to eye on my leaving in the first place. While I was convincing myself my leaving was my chance to start a new life, my brother Niko, saw it as running away, and me the coward for not staying to face the life that now lay before me.
I wonder if it wasn't fate that intervened on that day that Gordana called me asking for my help in finding treatment for a Croatian boy whose care was beyond that which the doctors in Croatia could provide. Thinking back on it now, I'm sure if she hadn't I likely wouldn't be here now. I was in the middle of a downward spiral, drinking too much, sleeping around. My carelessness had cost a patient his life and almost taken that of a co-workers, and I still hadn't learned my lesson. I was looking for a way out and I wasn't afraid to take others with me in the process.
It wasn't just fighting my way through all the red tape to get the permissions we needed to treat the little boy, or listening to all the excuses of why money was more important then the child's life. Once Gordana was in Chicago for those short hours, I could almost pretend I was the person she remembered me as. I should have known the feeling wouldn't last. The longer we talked of the life we had shared all those years before, the more I realized that the person she knew, the person Danijela had married had died with her. I don't know if Gordana was surprised to find out I hadn't stayed to learn the outcome of the boy's surgery, but then, she didn't know what an expert I'd become at running away, and if it wasn't for what had happened to me in the Congo I might be still be running today.