Monday, March 18, 2013

I remember

...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.

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