i’ve been away. it was a place much like dagahaley. the difference was, when i tired of the heat, or the sand, i would wade into water near as clear as air, and swim between schools of skipping fish that pattered its surface like rain.
no rain here. before i left, i would ask the old men when. “soon, soon,” they would say. now, they shrug. perhaps another two years.
and still they come.
i returned yesterday, after two days of driving. as we drew closer, i saw green fade to brown, women’s faces framed behind bright beautiful scarves and soon, we were swerving on sloping sand, fishtailing in the dust. camels loped behind burnt trees, and between these, miles from each other, houses of rounded sticks. an impala stepped from the brush, sleek as glass. a young boy, six, waved an empty plastic bottle at us, and we stopped to give him all the full ones he could carry. they fell from underneath his arms as he tried to juggle more, and landed in the dust at his feet. he grinned, his tongue bright between missing front teeth.
and then i was home. here. and when i saw people, they were glad to see me. glad! and me to see them. perhaps that is what makes a home, a place in which you can find your love reflected back.
this morning, i did my daily march down rows of the sick and stick thin, and then to the tents which we’ve pitched to house them because still they come, and i wonder whether this is news anymore, if news needs to be new, or at least heard for it to qualify. i went back after lunch, and the nurse said to me, quietly, “that boy passed”, the one i spent the morning with convincing his mother to stay, that his best chance was here under our careful watch.
on the day before i left, i took my prized dagahaley possession, a plastic rhinoceros, one that i use to buy the favor of suspicious three year olds, one that replaced the toy elephant that marched off when i left it on the desk and turned my back, the one that children look at, spellbound, having seen neither a rhinoceros nor a plastic toy and which their parents hold up and examine in equal amazement, i gave my remaining rhino to a 12 year old girl who, when i left, was dying of sepsis, and told her about the real animal, how big it was, and strong, and that this one would reminder her of that, and asked her if she would hold it for me until i returned. she would.
she did. well, her father gave it to me this morning. she lived, though barely. she is unconscious now, hasn’t eaten for days. i arranged for her to travel to nairobi, should there be a chance for better care or x-rays or blood tests or one thing that might be everything, as they pulled away from the hospital this afternoon, i handed it back through the window. i feel foolish now, she’s a bit old for toys, but i could think of nothing more to give, and i wanted to give everything and sometimes its like that.
so that’s the news. there’s so much more, but i don’t know where to start, or if i did, how i would ever finish.
it’s the end of the day now. 9 pm, the dagahaley midnight. i’ve poured water on my cement floor, so that it might cool. an evening wind, like clockwork, has picked up, and is picking up the grass from my roof. i’ll read some, and go to bed soon. i’ll lie there, until the day unclenches itself, and i fall into the dust of the next one.
see you there.
this song just shuffled on. lullabye.