...a mosquito net over a single
bed in a room at the YMCA in Dar es Salaam. Bustling, gritty streets,
open sewage, a lone woman defecating on the sidewalk. Young men with
hipster glasses, colorful hats, t-shirts and frayed jeans, like any
major city in the US. I remember long days stretched out, nights and
days in equal measure all year long. Close to things, body odors
mingled with diesel exhaust, goats and chickens and the smell of
burning rubber and plastic. I remember holding hands while saying
hello, sometimes for many minutes-I remember morning tripping over
afternoon, falling into night, rising moon a flash-konyagi and a
first cigarette. The first time alone in a house and a first heart
break. A longing for friendship, for closeness. So close to
isolation. I remember it not being my language or my song. I remember
feeling like the worst sort of coward. Immersed but distant, foreign
yet familiar, a family of strangers. I remember being a floating
mountain. I remember missing home.
I don't remember nights wide awake with
someone there but not there. I don't remember staying even after he
had left, I don't remember drunken nights begging for a love existing
only in my mind. I don't remember feeling empty, stranded, and
broken. I don't remember living in fear of the stranger, wanting
something concrete and spoken out loud and simple. Transparent.
Honest. Colorful and bright. Light and full. I don't remember half
formed sentences and explanations. I don't remember a dead year.
Weighty, heavy, disembodied, suspended. Nothing held. I don't
remember thinking, life is a long walk through a waterless stretch of
desert. I don't remember long letters written to loved ones far away
with a single desire to convince them of excitement, when in reality
it was a trudge. I don't remember wanting so badly to convey my
story, this story of a powerful and novel experience, the drama of my
discovery of a conspicuously different culture. I don't remember a hardening heart, sensitivities calloused over, compassion
merging into fatigue. I don't remember turning to disfigured
conceptions of reality.
I remember a
conception of reality debunked by existing reality. I remember
learning to retain sensitivity. I remember somehow making a crucial
connectivity with existing reality, engaging with a situation as it
was found. I remember reaching out to another human being as
meaning, as the most basic form of energy found in a shared
experience, the wings of a hummingbird, or perhaps more subtle, a dove. The sound a faint flutter. An unwavering sense of life, of hope.
...to sit in an exquisite
space and rub against my imperfections. It is far easier to face
coffee stains and stray hairs on the floor and leftover food crumbs, and moss growing in the windowsill than a spotless
room. Sometimes I need to touch or brush up against my
imperfections, my own personal fallen trees, shower mold, dirt prints - my own personal wild disorder.
...things come in your mailbox from previous tenants. You learn their name, and occasionally, you learn something about them that very few people might also know. Or maybe many people know. You don't know them.