I want you to know that I still think about you. I still think about that night you saved my life. I still think about how brave and courageous you are, and how I can only wish that one day, I can be as strong as you.
His hand was desperately trying to muffle my screams as I cried for someone to help me. I could hear your faint voice in the distance yell “let her go!” as you ran outside your apartment to save me. I could see my predator in the distance, running farther and farther away. I ran up to you when he was finally gone, and you hugged me tight as I cried in your arms. I stared at the flip-flip he left behind after he sprinted over the train tracks.
You went to grab me juice from the kitchen, as I stared at my reflection in your gold-lined mirror. I didn’t recognize the girl staring back at me. My hair was falling out in clumps and my face was badly bruised. I tried licking the blood off my lips but it stung as I put my tongue to the wound. You came to the mirror and grabbed a brush from the sink. You stroked my hair and pulled it up into a ponytail and whispered that I was safe. You told me that I was your beautiful American girl as I choked back tears and tried to erase the memory of the night.
Just then, I remember you spun me around to face you. I remember how beautiful you were — inside and out. You hugged me and said in your thick Italian accent, “please, don’t let this ruin you. This night can only destroy you if you let it.” I can hear those words still and see your smile, which was so genuine. You sat me down and told me your story about the night you were riding on your moped and three men stopped you, pulled you off and threw you in the back of their truck. After they were finished, they let you out and you drove back home shirtless. I remember you kept talking about how they ripped your favorite shirt. You loved that shirt.
We spent every day together after that night. I remember cooking you dinner and us drinking wine and laughing until 2 in the morning. I remember the outdoor concert you took me to with the neon lights swirling on the building that looked like a midlevel castle. I remember the green-beaded bracelet you bought me when you told me that you saw yourself, when you looked at me. I remember feeling a closeness and bond with you that I didn’t know could exist. I remember your fiancé giving me a rose on the steps of the Duomo and singing a silly song just to make me laugh. I remember your smile, your voice, your eccentric outfits, and your beautiful soul.
I want to let you know that you have made me a better person. You have made me strong, sympathetic, and fearless. I lost my virginity years later, the way it was supposed to happen — and this is all because of you. So don’t worry about me, because I have turned into a person you would be proud of. I am writing this letter to you, because I want the world to know that you exist — that as many people there are out there that will hurt them, there are that many others that will help them, too.
It was a battle of good vs. evil that night, and we won.
I have not spoken about this memory in over 5 years, and now I am choosing to tell it in order to give hope to others who have had to endure such a traumatic event. You inspire me and hopefully this story will have the power to inspire others. Even though I will carry the weight of this painful memory forever, I will also have you, my beautiful guardian angel, as a standing symbol of hope, bravery, and compassion. I am not a victim, and neither are you. That night did not ruin me, because it brought me to you.
The last night I ever saw you, before I was about to board my plane back home to Philadelphia, you told me you loved me. You are the only stranger I have ever loved. We have not spoken since, and the phone number I have tried to call you on is missing one digit. But I still wonder what it would be like if we ever meet face to face again. I would come to Florence, and you will still live in the same apartment even though 7 years have passed. You will open the door, and know exactly who I am.