I remember landing in the tiny desert country in the Horn of Africa, a balmy 90 degrees in winter and learning that a long-sleeved blouse even made from linen was too hot for this place. My skirt—a Goodwill find—was uglier than sin and the same muted brown of the dust and sand. I was hot, tired and fearful of what it meant to move to this tiny Muslim republic single, female and Western. I was afraid.
The man who picked me up and tucked me and my suitcases into a large white Toyota Landcruiser brought me to a room with a bed freshly made with the thin film of dust that would be my normal in the next five years. He and the others, they gave me a day to find my feet and started showing me around. This is the bus line you want and here is the best place to shop for groceries and this is the classroom where you will teach and over there is the clinic where you can pierce vaccines into bony arms and legs for the poorest of the poor.
As I had prepared I tasted my fear and swallowed hard. I wondered if I would see dead bodies at said clinic and I wondered if there were guns in the hands of everyone as my beloved fiancé saw just across the sea. I feared and worried myself tired, then left the freeze of Boston to arrive in the unglamorous heat of “hell’s waiting room,” as she is called.
When they pushed me out the door and onto the bus and I was cut off from everyone by this wall of noise called language I was afraid again. Could I even make it home? Could I find the groceries and count out the money and resist the temptation to flee to the comforts of my barren and dusty room?
Days passed and I left and returned. With a husband, then with sons. The walls of noise beckoned me to find the door and beautiful women nurtured me into their story, their world. I started to listen and learn and laugh and even make jokes. I was named and participated in a whole different world. They would tell me that yes, I was white on the outside but on the inside my heart was theirs and really, they were right.
My Muslim best friend and Jesus were the ones I cried out to as I started to miscarry my first baby and they both showed up—one to bring me water and books and tell stories on the edge of my bed and one to heal with power and stop what an American nurse had said was definitely a complete pregnancy loss. Now I am afraid again. Afraid I will never hang on her neck and cry and kiss because we missed each other so. Afraid that I will never hold her third baby who was named with my name. Afraid that those neighbors who named me “complete, whole” will never yell to me down the street again. Afraid that I will be lost in the land of monolingual monoculture and lose myself in the process. Afraid that those men who laughed at me as I tried to skirt around a bull camel claiming his territory on my road until I lost all hope and—like so many men of old—girded my loins showing more white skin in my conservative neighborhood than was appropriate and ran yelling past him—and they laughed and laughed and laughed—that those men who will still remember my name years later will never have a chance to call to me. To embellish that story in the way only a nation of poets can. Afraid that I lost the self I found when I lost myself the first time. Afraid that this chapter could be over.
Loving my Fridays with http://lisajobaker.com/2013/02/five-minute-friday-afraid/