A woman just ran to my house — in the dark, without a flashlight, clad only in a zip-up bathrobe, not even bothering to brush away her tears — to tell me goodbye.
I was in the outdoor shower when I heard someone shouting my name. (In Moldova, we don’t use doorbells. We stand outside a house and shout till someone answers.) As I heard her yell “Leenzee,” I realized it was my partner Natalia, the librarian with whom I taught 9-11th grades last year.
I hurriedly washed the Peace Corps-issued anti-dandruff shampoo out of my hair, wrapped myself in the towel my aunt Kim sent me and ran out to meet her. She’d just heard from my other partner, Dorina, that I was leaving early tomorrow morning, so she’d come to tell me goodbye.
We hugged and hugged, not caring that I was soaking wet. She let loose a long sting of Romanian: Why didn’t you tell me earlier I would have been here sooner I just heard or I would have been here no don’t worry I don’t care you are wet I wish you health and happiness I hope you and Mike get married and you come back with two kids please come back please call us I would have brought you a present we will miss you your mother will be so happy I would have come sooner.
I smiled and held my hand to my heart, trying to show (since I couldn’t get a word in edgewise) how much she meant to me. Then she asked me to remember this country so small I could fit it in the palm of my hand.
“I will remember,” I told her, “because now it fits in my heart.”
I blew her a kiss. She blew one back. She left, and soon, so will I.