“These days are numbered.” -The Head and the Heart
These days I am drinking less beer and more tea. The kind that promises relaxation. Like an old woman, I take sips and think of you, like you belong to the past when we met a million years ago. I think about you when I am stirring a bubbling pot of curry soup in a Wok, because it’s the only pan we own big enough to hold all of the tomatoes and onions and rice we season with our Hopes, stirring and tasting and testing the result. I think of how we crowded into a small kitchen with a two burner stove and how we used to feed so many mouths from one big pot and how it smelled so, so good. Like community and love and sweat and home.
A mattress on the floor and a few broken plastic chairs were our humble seating!
Teiman, Ghana 2013
These days I have a hard time not crying when I visit the cheese aisle, because Kroger is no Carrefour and where is the damn camembert, and why are there so many aisles of boxes of crackers and chips and hollowed out pumpkins with scary faces?
These days I am more likely to laugh while dancing in the kitchen or drumming around a campfire, but I still remember those humid nights with yelling and screaming when a scorpion would crawl out from under a rock, or the peals of giggles that kept me awake when the whole house discovered two frogs mating outside our bedroom window. The croaking and cackling made such an outrage.
These days I have a home with a washing machine, but I still hang my clothes out to dry when the days are sunny and windy, and I still sometimes think of mango flies and shudder. I still try to take my clothes down before sunset, and I still miss the colorful fabric waving in the air, broken pins barely holding up baby clothes and underwear with holes in them.
Teiman, Ghana 2013
I still ride the bus and I still sometimes listen to those songs that made me sad
when I was so far away from you. I would listen to them on repeat and smoke a cigarette or two and try to forget things like time and distance and borders. Sometimes when I am waiting in that underground terminal or climbing the staircase with my backpack full of books and scattered pieces of paper, I will think of metro stations in far away places and forget that I am here and not there.
These days the weather has finally changed and I am remembering the smell and taste of Fall, eating everything pumpkin in sight just to make up for those long, hot, days of an entire year of Summer when pumpkins and holidays were fairy-tale concepts like Santa Clause and Cinderella.
My first Fall Stateside in two years!
Nashville, TN 2014
I have put away or thrown out most of my traveling clothes, but a thin residue of red earth still clings to my boots and I can still see it when I am tromping through new forests of fallen leaves and dark rich clay. I am no longer wearing clothes and shoes with holes in them, sewn and re-sewn with mismatched fabric, neon green and brown, but I still wear the sweater with the elbow patches on them, cut out hearts on my sleeve, covering the worn out places, the hard spots, the loss.
I bought new running shoes that have never walked the dusty roads of Ghana, or spent the night airing out under your car, too stinky to be inside after a bicycle ride in the rain. Winter boots have replaced the broken flats with the missing heels from all of the walking I did just to get to you, cobblestone agony and relieved ecstasy.
These days the wind blows cold and fresh and northern. My students still play soccer, but they each have their own shoes and socks and the grass is soft to catch them when they fall. I still yell and hug and play, but not in equal amounts, and not cheek to cheek, or lap overflowing with arms and legs. I still walk through the neighborhood, but I don’t sing the Macarena or scan the wooden stands, waiting for the freshest yams to come out of the sizzling oil so I can take them home for lunch.
Colored leaves replace scattered refuse and pine trees lean into the Sun’s fading light, On another continent palm trees sway in the opposite direction toward the burgeoning dawn.
Nashville, TN 204
These days I am no longer a backpacker or a traveler or a nurse. Sometimes I am asked if I live in a half-way house, or if I sell drugs, or if I will stay and for How Long. Sometimes I wonder if I have the words “Forlorn” or “Flight Risk” or “Foreigner” written on my forehead. Sometimes I wonder when Grace will pour out of my eyes instead of confusion.
These days I have been tripping all over my words as I struggle to communicate. I am learning to tune my ear to a different accent and smiling with secret memory when he gets the “h” wrong and the front of his tongue meets the front of his teeth just a little off timing and the “th” sounds just like yours. I am still practicing my French and failing to pinpoint the exact word for such-and-such in my native tongue because I don’t feel so native. I am sometimes catching myself drawling, just a little bit, and wondering if I should start watching the show Nashville for a hint of context because I am still feeling lost in translation.
Sometimes I would like to belong and other times I am certain belonging is the root of all evil because we all belong to each other and roots are just leaves which turn into raindrops and why does it matter anyway? We are all very untethered, flying through a crazy Universe and wobbling the Whole Way. We are all wanderers and so forgive me if I have a hard time exchanging this frayed backpack for a purse because I am carrying all of me with me and it takes up some space. I am not so easily folded and compressed. I have never understood maps or mirrors.
These days I am letting the weeds grow beside the flowers because they are both alive and sort of beautiful and who knows, and why not? I am sinking into “I don’t know” and “Enough” and “Present.”
These days I am embracing the mystery and putting down the fists. I do not want to punch the meaning out of life, or the Light out of you, because we are basically the Same. I am letting my hair grow and letting my roots wiggle because maybe this isn’t my forever place, but it’s a new pot and the earth is fertile, and I have some expanding to do. I am learning to uncurl from the shape of your body, learning to un-entangle from your embraces, and finding my own weight is just enough.