Katie had asked if she could write her version of the moment we met, previously written from my perspective in A year in people #50 – Katie the cryer.
My boyfriend and I have come to Arrowtown for the weekend to participate in the Motatapu event. He in the mountain bike race; me in my first-ever trail-running race. We’re camped out at the Arrowtown Holiday Park for the weekend–our ‘re-set’ weekend as he’s put it. After a year of long-distance between New Zealand and Canada, I made the move to Christchurch to be with him. I can only describe these first three months as a ‘crash-landing’.
I was prepared for the mental struggle I would encounter regarding job-hunting and finances, but was unprepared for the struggle our relationship would go through. Things went awry nearly as soon as I arrived and we’ve been on a steady path of fragmentation since. So, after a particularly traumatic conflict a couple of weeks ago, we’re down here in Arrowtown trying to ‘re-set’ our relationship. What’s really happening though is the firming up of our ending.
It’s the afternoon and we’re sat on a blanket beside my tent. There are some other tents dotted about, and a van parked at the site next to us, but I haven’t seen anyone coming or going from any of them. I’m grateful for the privacy because we’re debriefing on an argument from this morning. I’m in tears and doing a poor job of translating feelings into words as I share with him my experience during these first few months of living in New Zealand.
Eventually the conversation wraps up and we head to the race registration. We make a pit stop for him at the campsite’s bathroom. As I’m waiting, a gust of wind sweeps the campground. The sun pierces through the moving branches, blinding me for a moment. I recover to find the silhouette of a woman approaching. With the sun behind her, she honest to God looks like an angel coming out from the heavens. And she’s coming towards me. Quickly.
She stops in front of me. Hair in a ponytail, reflective sunglasses on, and rocking a sports dress, this chick exudes confidence and cool. So why the hell is she approaching me? I’m embarrassed when she says “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I was in my van in the site next to yours and so I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation,” She’s British. Of course. (Cool factor increases to a bajillion.) Then she says “I just want to let you know that it gets better.” Huh? Has she just totally skipped the small talk and gone straight to the core of it? I’m floored. She’s my people! She carries on, “I moved here 18 months ago for love, we broke up, and things have gotten so much better.”
What do you do when a stranger comes out of nowhere–out of the god-damn sun!–to exercise the most unexpected kindness? You hug them. And so I hug her. I give the biggest, warmest hug to this angelic woman, this beautiful person who with three simple words–it gets better–has cast aside judgement and bestowed hope.
I pull back and mumble apologies for being a crying sop. She laughs and says, “My name is Tara. I live in Christchurch. Take my number. If you ever want to talk and share some company, I’m here.” So I input her name and number and then promptly text her: “Hi Tara. Katie the Cryer here.” She laughs again and saunters off. My boyfriend comes out of the bathroom at this point. “Who was that?” he asks. Hindsight will make clear that my gut is screaming to say “A kindred spirit!” but I am currently too bamboozled for words.
So this is the moment when The Fates threw me into the wonderful fortune of meeting Tara Papworth, one of my most treasured friendships.
(N.B. She was right. Things HAVE gotten better. So much better. <3)