The mosquitoes here don’t carry malaria, and I can’t seek refuge from the persistent bed bugs in his dark and cool apartment, eyes probing mine, slight smile on his lips. The scent of citronella can’t mask the memory of smoking coconut skins, of his tall frame and the way he carried himself gently, the last awkwardness of boyishness only evident when his whole body shook with laughter.
San Blas, Mexico 2013
Does the nomad forever carry the scent of exotic perfumes and spices with him as he traverses the desert, breathing in the swirl of sand and ancient trade routes, reminiscing of women dressed in burgundy and mahogany, silver bracelets rattling with every persuasive shake of their hips?
Cuenca, Ecuador 2012
Does he dream of the way the ocean caressed his lips, carrying with it a salty promise of sinking, drowning in the vastness of something other than the desolation of the desert?
Where does he carry the mark of the switchblade that almost took his life, where is the signature of sorrow, the brand of shame he’s endured for the sake of the journey? Where is the visible proof of the way it has changed him, each passage creating invisible ravines and gullies deep within his heart?
Yellowstone Park, 2007
There is nothing but silence, nothing but memories as he places one shaky foot in front of the other, traversing a sea of sand and remembering the shape of her almond eyes searching his. There is nothing but the sound of the high tide echoing in his chest, crashing against craggy cliffs, carrying with it the mournful cries of sailors and sirens, longing for the shore.
Patras, Greece 2011
The immensity of coming home can never be adequately described; returning to a place you left to find it unaffected by your absence, recognizing the face in the mirror, but not the growing feeling of revolt, of tyranny murmuring just below the surface, threatening to upturn the flimsily held together day to day routines, crushing a fragile stability built on popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue.
There’s no going back. Footprints shift with the desert wind, fading into oblivion, requesting anonymity, whispering, “This never happened, you were never here.”
Water can never flow upstream. Even ravines of the heart, carved stubbornly over time, dry up and disappear, the sun’s rays beating them into submission, evaporating with the pursed lipped hush of goodbye.
Boti Falls, Ghana 2014
Yet. I can’t help searching for clues, tracing the lightened scars on my skin for the mysteries within, waving my arms frantically in front of the motion detector, hoping for proof that I am still alive, that I am heavier than Light, stronger than the trembling in my voice. There’s no way this can be real. The lush grass under my feet deceives the memory of sun hardened earth, of sweat trickling down the back of my neck, of discovering dried salt patterns on my dust streaked clothes and laughing.
Quilatoa, Ecuador 2012
It can’t be possible to wake up without you next to me, to be picked up by someone else at the end of a long journey, to search for anyone else’s face but yours in a crowd of strangers. It can’t be possible to eavesdrop on conversations so easily, to sleep in the same bed night after night, to forget the feel of your fingers interlaced with mine or the tantalizing promise of adventure breaking with the light of dawn, weight on my back, freedom’s song vibrating through my veins.
Grain Valley, USA 2013
Where did you go? Why did I go? How did I find my way back, and what if that secret world of the bedroom wardrobe never opens to my touch again? What if the telescope becomes a kaleidoscope, dizzying images and shapeless colors distorting the feel of stubble on your cheeks, the pattern of rain drizzling down the window, clinging tightly to the lilting motion of the train carrying me away?
The world is too big too fit inside a snow globe. This mountain air can’t be contained in a souvenir, though baby, I wish it could. These highways will never reach to you. They are too big and too wide to lead me to hidden forests and the curves of your back, too modern to run through ancient villages lined with palm trees and temples carved from stone by weathered and faithful hands.
Milos, Greece 2011
These paved roads don’t know the trampled firmness of worn earth, or the sweet scent of slickened clay. They will never know anything of a child’s laughter, of a herdsman’s sturdy staff, or the cries of a lost wanderer, raised fist held against the sky, stumbling in the dark absence of the moon.
Teiman, Ghana 2014
*Photo credit Lena Wrobbel
But I will wade through the night for you, I will fold delicate airplanes from paper written with your words and send them back to you. I will bend my ear to towards the hazy horizon and listen for answers. I will engrave your name on my heart and keep it safe for those days when you’ve forgotten who you are. And when you’re lost in the desert of your homeland, when the loneliness and silence become unbearable, I will sing the mournful song of the sirens and bring you back to me.
Istanbul, Turkey 2011