Bonita was in love.
She says she still is, but you have to look closely to catch a glimpse of it. When she talks about that love now, what bubbles to the surface most often looks more like other things.
It looks like jealousy. It looks like revenge. It looks like pain.
They are often confused for one another. They often are used to excuse one another.
It was 1989 when Bonita Osbon fell in love with the man whose life was the opposite of hers. He questioned rules; she tried to follow them. She was religious; he was not. He was an accomplished sailor; she didn't know the first thing about boats.
But in that year, he was the man her life needed. She pauses to relive, in a moment, one of the long walks they took. A flicker of love lights her face for the briefest instant.
Oh, she had moments when she let the possibility that they were not compatible sneak into her thoughts, but she shook them off. So what if she didn't know anything about boats? She had wanted to learn sailing for a long time. Now she had the perfect opportunity to fulfill that long held fantasy.
Her love allowed her to go down the lineup of their differences and convince herself that they didn't pose threats to their relationship that could not be overcome.
The one that persisted through her efforts at dismissal was the difference between their religious faith.
Still, they became a couple. They didn't marry, but they decided to have a child.
Shortly after that, the relationship that seemed to be made in heaven in 1989 started becoming one with all the earmarks of having been manufactured miles short of there.
Their daughter is 6 now. She lives with Bonita but spends alternate weekends with her father.
Their relationship became strained after she discovered he was unfaithful. It ended after she found out he had gone on one of those sailing trips she had dreamed about _ with another woman.
But none of that explains why she called me. She said God told her to do that.
She said her story needs to be told so the state's child services agencies and judicial system will know that they are compounding the abuse she took from her former mate. They are helping drive her deeper into poverty, she said.
She said she cannot afford the costs of attorney fees and missed work the seemingly unending legal actions require.
Their parting of ways has been bitter. They have spent as much time with lawyers and hearing officers and judges haggling out vendettas as they have working out practical matters in their and their daughter's lives.
Dreams die hard, especially when you fall in love with one.
Still they must be buried.
It is hard to say that to Bonita Osbon, especially when the hardships her life is throwing at her makes it hard for her to see the ones she keeps throwing at herself.
It is easier just to tell her she is not alone.
Each year, untold numbers of women follow Bonita's footsteps and confuse the man in front of them with the man they want him to be. Like Bonita, they end up with a flicker for a moment of love that never happened, and a child who did.
Too often, they drag the child into their confusion.
It is not what Bonita, or the other women in her shoes who need the state and the courts involved in their families' lives, want to hear.
But the painful truth is that we often, usually, suffer for our mistakes. The end to the suffering doesn't always come wrapped in red ribbons, or in an envelope from the state.
It is important to think of Bonita when the dream, with all his too easily forgiveable flaws, is standing in front of you.
For that her story needs to be told.