Fieldset
day.

now is the point in the story when the character begins to be pulled

towards a future he thought would never come.  the character,

however, cannot appreciate any signs of movement.  he still

measures days in the same way; from dawn to dusk.  he has learned

now is the point in the story when the character begins to be pulled

towards a future he thought would never come.  the character,

however, cannot appreciate any signs of movement.  he still

measures days in the same way; from dawn to dusk.  he has learned

that the future beyond that is not something that can accommodate

feelings as narrow as certainty.

when a patient is asked her age, she often smiles.  she doesn’t

know.  maybe twenty?   when is your birthday?  she

laughs.

you go to meet someone for an appointment.  he is not in, you are

told.  when should I come back, you ask.  when he is in, the

answer.   when might that be?  when he is here.

I discharge a family from the feeding centre and ask them to come back

on Sunday so that I can make sure the child is growing.  my

translator laughs.  there is no Sunday, he says.  I tell him

to tell her to come back in five todays.  he translates, then

turns to me.  she says she will come back.  unless she

doesn’t.

it is that way.  one day.  it took me some time to learn the

cadence.  it is why even though I know I will leave here in two

weeks, I have a difficult time understanding it.   this is a

point where I should be stock taking, measuring what happened, trying

to make the most of the little time that remains.  but time is

measured in todays, not tomorrows, nor yesterdays, nor birthdays, nor

deathdays.  only now, and just after now.

we were talking today about how nonplussed parents are about their sick

infants, how they can say they will be right back, and leave for hours,

sometimes for days.  how even our nurses will leave a drowsy,

dehydrated baby sitting in her mother’s arms while they organize the

cupboard better.   it seems, and I have been told, that they

are reluctant to invest too much in them.  they are the most

fragile, and the most easily lost.  in a famine, the little food

goes to the oldest, the strongest.  they are the most likely to

live.  the youngest goes hungry, gets weaker, and soon there is

one less mouth to feed.  women with families of four have watched

as many die.

from what I have seen, and what I can glean, the loss is no easier than

it is for grieving parents in Canada.  the women love their

children, mournly them deeply.  they have seen, though, that the

line between life and death is a thin one, and must feel that whether

it ruptures or not is beyond their control.   the raw law of

nature is too close and everyone can feel its hot breath.  at

home, we fret over antioxidants, try to bargain a few extra

minutes.   we watch nature on tv.

I left my tukul, just now, to find a cigarette.  writing about

dying makes one care less about picking nits with his own

health.   as I stepped outside, margret said to me, “you know

that little failure to thrive kid, the one with the grandmother?

he just died.”

I saw him an hour ago, and he looked fine, awake, stretching his wasted

arms towards an offered cup of milk.  and in that hour, these past

sixy minutes where I returned home to eat lunch on my day off and

started to write, in the sixty minutes where those of you in Toronto

were having your morning coffee and folding the Focus section of the

globe flat onto your breakfast table, and those of you in Alberta were

getting your last minutes of quiet sleep, during one of them, he fell

from the fence.   how can that be?

it seems that the rupture remains beyond my control.  I don’t know what else to do.

I don’t write these things with the intent of making anyone sad.

it is simply the way it is.  be sure, there are as many happy

things happening in abyei today.  a baby is born.  a man

falls in love.  someone received a letter from a wife he thought

lost in kenya, and she is coming here, to abyei, after all these years

and he is so excited he doesn’t know whether to sit down or stand

up.  all of these things, at the same time.  the good ones,

and the hard ones.  but for all of them, as for me, as for you, we

don’t know which we will meet as the dawn breaks into the open

sky.   the only thing we can be certain of, is that for all

of us, the day will draw to a close.