Sunday, September 16, 2012
My Comunity Health Worker told me about his brother whose arm was badly burned and contracted at the elbow. One day he got tired of working in the fields with one arm. He hung his arm from the branch of a tall tree, stood on a chair, and then kicked it away. His weight ripped the flesh down the middle of his arm, the skin and muscle hung in dripping shreds, and then Voila! he could bend his arm again.
That's what I just did to my heart.
I have rarely cried like this, and certainly not on airplanes.
Tchad is behind me, the miles are stretching wider and wider between me and everyone I love.
I'm sobbing into an airplane pillow with a scratchy lime green paper case and probably ruining the mascara I wore just in case I met the rugged man on my dreams in seat 13B.
Instead this time I'm smudgy eyed splotchy cheeked - not much of an improvement on my last yellow tinged departure.
I feel like my soul fell to the bottom of my feet and then if fell further, down into the bowels of the airplane - and then a little grinning imp opened a cargo door with a wink to my heart and pitched it out - letting it splash into the flooded Tchadian rice fields, sending it parachuting home before it's too late.
Where is home?
I don't have one anymore.
Home is Teskrio and Bikaou and my little brick end room plastered with pictures from yet another life, an MSF map, a French quote and calender chalked on the wall by the previous tenants, and Rosie the Riveter strong and red and screaming we can do it from the wall.
Home is barefoot in the morning, and Hester sagging and stretching my mosquito net by trying to lay on top of it just so she can be close me me.
Home is the grime and the blue and the stark silhouettes of children outlined on the walls of the pediatric ward. Home is the rows of crying little people, home is the torn mosquito nets and bright rows of fabric protecting each quinine drip from the sun. Home is my stethoscope pressed against sharp ribs and tiny chests. Home is holding tiny precious persons in my arms and willing them to live.
Home is outside the ward - on the sole wooden chair, tightening turnequittes around hands and arms and feet - squinting with the light of the headlamp, searching, sticking, finding, trying.
Home is trying, always trying.
Home is having something to try for.
Home is a place outside of yourself.
Home is a purpose, a dream, an idea that grounds and surrounds you.
Home is a reason to get up in the morning, A reason to have your dreams whisked from your mumbling head by 5 am sweeping, a reason to endure rats and roaches and pit latrines and mud huts and scorpions and heat rashes and liver malfunction and broken bones and 3 bouts of malaria and giardia and parasites and 120 heat and death and suffering and constant demands on your soul, your spirit, your pocket, your body, your mind, your sanity.
Home is when all of that which once was madness becomes everyday, becomes normal, becomes part of life, ceases to be new and foreign, intimidating and daunting, disgusting and unfathomable. Home is when you realize you aren't suffering. When you smile and skip with the wild joy that you are still happy and, daringly, comfortable.
Home is when you embrace that reality, plant a little soul garden there, and sit down on the earth in a patch of wild daises, and see beauty while pulling thorns from your feet and burrs from the bottoms of your trousers.
Home is glorious skies, bright and clear and crystal blue with puffing creme clouds and layers and layers of blood-orange fade to cotton candy sunset cake.
Home is 5 months of hot season spent under the stars, home is the wishes - the tiny murmured wisps of hope that curve a rainbow into the arc of each shooting star. Home is every morning rolling awake to a misty morning dawn, sunshine falling down in chunks and beaming dancing dust minstrels into gritty eyes and grudgingly wriggling toes.
Home is sitting next to a bucket of slightly green mangoes old knife with no handle - biting and tearing and pulling and pealing and squishing your way through piles of mangoes, sucking the tangy strings of orange from the ivory seed, listening to Eric Clapton and blowing flies off your lips.
Home is tea in the "pub" and freshly fried gatos and Affe, affe - exchanging my 3 Arabic words with the gold toothed shop keeper, sitting on the rough benches after a hard night's work - listening to squeaking crickets and heated perspectives.
Home is the walk to work every day - a perfect winding 15 minute walk, holding my breath past long-horned cows meandering in front of me, Florence and her brothers and sister always running out to greet me, my adorable little neighbor boy with his wide wondrous face-splitting smile. Always running beside me to grab my hand, squealing "Lapia - toe!" (Lapia - Nangere greeting like, hello, and "toe"? well, he wanted a photo!). It's watching the millet grow under your eyes, seeing a difference every morning, the path going from dry and dusty brown to frosted greens, to lush and wild, to tilled mounds of millet shoots, to strong and towering green stalks heavy with their dark red and white clusters, to the trampled crisscross of harvest, the stalks lying rhubarb and scattered under the munching mouths of cows.
Home is Bronwyn's house - eating fiery red spiced curry and learning the secret of fabulous rice, curled up in facing chairs, hands warms around mammoth cups of frothing steaming coffee, being able to say anything, anything at all, and wanting to. Home is a friendship where you can be exactly who you are - and kick your shoes off - and not have to pretend - and still be loved.
Home is the sky. always different. always wild. always breathtaking.
Home is the rain, the lazy and furious pounding of rain on a Friday morning, letting the sheets of sound fall over you, pulling tapestries tighter and knowing that as long as the thatched roofs are drenched in greys, that you have no where to be, nothing to worry about, and you can let yourself fall.
Home is the other volunteers, vespers at Olen and Danae's, Lyol's sunshine smile, baby Zane saying "up, up." Home is getting lost on the moto with Carlie, reading a certain book series with Athens, and teaching those long Thursdays in the village with Marci and interviewing women with Naomi. Home is the thread that holds us all together, the small strand of idealism and courage combined with grit, tears, and dogged determination that means at the end of the day we are family.
Home is Tchad.
Home was Tchad.
Right now home is Seat 13B. Home is a conversation (in French!! - GREAT French, may I add!) with a Tchadian businessman that imports cell phones and laptops, listening to sad French Music and intermittently watching tears fall out of my eyes and slink in rounded circles over my cheeks.
Home is frazzled braids and flowing black pants peppered with holes and a ragged brown shirt and blue crocs tucked under my striped bag and off of my feet.
Home is limbo.
Home is in the sky.
Home is right here, right now, writing these words, stale airplane air and the low babble of languages.
Home is loving something and someone and somewhere enough for your heart to break into jagged and streaming strips of pulsing red when you tear yourself away.
Home is where the heart is -
but my heart is in Bere,
dripping and swirling over the rice fields,
trying to catch my soul that zagged free fall and rainbow from the bottom of the airplane,
trying to reconcile the great divide.
Maybe they'll take the next flight - pop up beside me one day sarcastic and grinning - and we'll have coffee and watch clouds and realize that the sky is still the same vast seeing sigh and that we might still be home after all.