Fieldset
Ballast.

it is Friday, our day off.  it is 830 and the sky is a disappointing blue.  at this point, I crave clouds.

my plan for the day, after I finish this, is to break some ground

beside my tukul and make a garden.  I am going to plant

it is Friday, our day off.  it is 830 and the sky is a disappointing blue.  at this point, I crave clouds.

my plan for the day, after I finish this, is to break some ground

beside my tukul and make a garden.  I am going to plant

carrots.  I will leave before they are ready to eat, but I can

watch them start.  and it seems like honest work.   like

washing dishes.  I am looking forward to it.

the child I talked about, the one with the blind mother, is somehow

alive.  i took the tube out of his nose, and he is drinking.

he is still so very thin, his skin stretched tight over his ribs, like

paper over a wire frame, like if you turned your back, he could blow

away.  but not for long.  if I have my say,  he will be

so fat he will be able to waddle through the eye of a

hurricane.   and after him, the next one the same.  in

fifty years, people will be writing about abyei’s epidemic of obesity,

and the graph will start in 2007.

I wrote “in twenty years”, erased it and wrote “thirty”, and finally, “fifty”.

maybe fifty.  if I am alive, I will be an old man, eighty

three.  I will walk down abyei’s streets, shaking my head.  I

stop for a rest in an otherwise empty coffee shop.  the man behind

the counter will take off his computer glasses, and smile.  he is

in his 50’s, fat, pleasant.  we will start to talk.  I will

start to tell the story I have already told to five disinterested

strangers, how I was here once, fifty years ago.  there was

nothing.  only a hospital.  and now, all this.  he will

shake his head with me.  he was born in abyei, lived here all of

his life.  he too has seen it change. he lived in a tukul, made

from grass.   there was no electricity, no trains.  two

of his brothers died from diarrhea.  he nearly died too.

when he was three.

“how old are you now?”

“fifty three.  more or less.”

“was your mother blind?”

that is one version of the future.  it already exists; it simply

needs to be arrived at, uncovered, rolled into place.  another is

that this place remains forgotten, largely untouched by the best of the

best things in the world.  your attention, like mine, turns to

other more personal matters.  we read about abyei tipping once

again into war, about thousands displaced.  we shake our

heads.  in fifty years, as an old man, I will look at abyei on

google universe .  all I will see are sticks and plastic bags

fluttering in an empty field.

but for now, we are here.  I meant to say this before, but I

haven’t.  whenever I write “we”, I don’t just mean the team or

msf,  I mean the larger, more collective sense.  you and me,

and everyone we know.   I mean the “we” as a species that

has, through culture and nature, manifested a system of

humanitarianism.  that support the idea that we should put

ourselves in the middle of the world’s worst places, the ones that

threaten to tilt into war or be swallowed by disease.  or, like

abyei, both.

I believe this sincerely.  we are here, you me and everyone we

know,  because there is something inherently valuable to our

presence.  it is a manifestation of a quality we value in

ourselves as individuals, one that when exercised feels entirely

correct.  the feeling of standing between two people who are angry

enough to fight, or stopping to help someone stranded by side of the

road, and once you do, you realize the perceived risk is less than the actual one.   the mission in abyei, like the

ones in afghanistan and the congo and bolivia, is that feeling

multiplied a million times.   we all share it, we all know

that it is better than the one we have when we turn our heads and

pretend not to see.  so, that’s why I am here.  because of

that part I share with you and everyone we know.

as one person, i can’t make either of those abyei’s arrive.

I only have a vague idea where they lie, and the world is too

heavy.  it’s a rudderless ocean liner with six billion people on

it, barreling towards the future, full steam.  we can’t even budge

it.  all we can do is walk to the side that lies in best direction

and bring some friends.  there is nothing to say we can’t make it

a bit of a party.  and, maybe, if we want to be extra sure, we

lean over the railing a little bit.

i’ll bring the boy with the blind mother once he is fat enough.  he’ll make for good ballast.