I was eighteen years old when I met my angel.
At age seventeen I was chosen for a fledgling study/work program in Switzerland run by an American professor and his wife. I would live in a chateau full of international students, study French, English literature and European history with the professor in the mornings, and help out with a little housework and cooking in exchange for my room and board. I packed everything I thought I would need for an entire year, said goodbye to friends and family, and flew to Geneva, where I was picked up and driven to my new home in the city of Lausanne. My room on the top floor overlooked the city and Lake Evian. It was beautiful.
First impressions of my living situation changed quickly, as I found myself living in an emotionally and psychologically abusive nightmare. This is another story for another time, but in essence I was told daily I would never amount to anything, that I was lazy and stupid and my life was a waste. While I always held a small glimmer of knowledge that they were wrong about me, after four months I was at the lowest I’d been in my life.
I was finally able to make arrangements with my parents for me to leave Switzerland to stay with another French-speaking family. On a freezing cold day in January, I was unceremoniously dumped at the huge Zurich train station with a year’s worth of luggage and a ticket to a town in the south of
France. I struggled as I tried to manage my suitcases, carrying some and pushing others with my feet, all the while fighting back tears. The daily commuters rushed past me.
All of a sudden, someone asked me in English if she could help me with my things. A girl about my age was standing next to me. She picked up half my bags and walked with me to my train, where she helped me stow them on board. When I turned around to thank her again, she was gone. I got off the train and looked all around the platform to find her but couldn’t. Finally, I saw her, looking back at me and waving. She was four platforms away, more than a ten minute walk by underground tunnels, but she had been next to me less than a minute before.
I didn’t know who she was, but I knew in that moment that she had been sent to comfort me. I knew, right then, that things were going to get better, that Someone was watching over me. To this day I can remember everything about her but her face. When I try to picture it all I see is light.