If you are new here, welcome! On Fridays I write with a community of those who love the written word and need to “just write, without worrying about getting it just right.” So we write for five minutes, without editing or over-thinking, and link up at Lisa-Jo Baker’s. Today’s prompt is lonely.
I awoke, startled, heart pounding with Hibo’s face only inches from mine. My husband was at school, teaching Level 3 grammar to students like Abdi-Waiss (who, no kidding, actually wrote “Your Name” on the top line of his exam when my husband told the students, “Write your name on the top line.” We miss Abdi-Waiss all the time.). I had dragged my mattress up to our flat roof where we slept when it was too hot and that first spring, it was always too hot.
I must have left the front door open and that might have piqued her interest. Or she knew my husband’s work schedule and she couldn’t help visiting when I might be alone. Whatever the reason, I awoke with her wide eyes and milk chocolate skin inches from my face. She told me, “I wanted to make sure you weren’t lonely.” So with adrenaline pumping and sweaty sleep marking my cheek, I sat up to reassure her that I wasn’t lonely.
I learned a whole new way of lonely in Cite Barwaqo. I had friends who confided in me that they hadn’t been alone in a room ever. In their whole lives. (They didn’t count being alone in the bathroom for a few moments.) So whenever I was home alone, they honored me with their visits. As an introvert, I often grumbled my way through the whole, “Who is it?” “It’s me!” conversation while I racked my brain for the voice that belonged to the “me” on the other side of the door. All I was really lonely for in those moments was a few moments alone.
Now I grow lonely in other ways. I’m lonely for neighbors who watch my door with such friendly intention that they knock precisely three minutes after I’ve been left alone. Lonely for sleeping under the stars and waking up one roof over from a strict Muslim man, both in our pajamas, both tacitly agreeing to pretend that we don’t see each other in the odd intimacy of the first moment awake while I grab a headscarf from next to my sleeping mat. Lonely for that dance of the market, surrounded by hundreds of people but not bumping or bumped. Lonely for afternoon snack time, the gorgeous laziness of a coastal desert culture waking up from an afternoon nap and needing something, anything to take away the taste of sleep. Lonely for life, really.
I live life here but I lived life there and so wherever I am, I have to hold open my hand to this loneliness that spills over. It never happens on Christmas morning in the Horn of Africa when my husband is supposed to work. Just like it doesn’t happen here on Eid. The small moments pierce me through. A whiff through the bus window that reminds me of August afternoons on the Long Island Sound in my dad’s 24 foot boat. The Sammy Youssouf track that pops up on iTunes and pulls me back to the life I’m not living at the moment, the life that is not on pause waiting for me either.