three days. friday the 13th. that is when i fly. i will overnight in a small southern town, rumbek, and continue to khartoum on saturday. in sh’allah. as i write this, one of our staff, scheduled to fly today, has been standing by the cracked air strip for several hours, scanning the sky. no plane so far. three days. were these the ones i have been waiting for all this time? they seem ordinary, the same as before. hot dry days end with hot sweat sleeps, abyei limping towards its future.
three days and i will leave this place behind. i have been told that once you step off the gangplank in geneva, this world collapses, ceases to exist, becomes unreal, inaccessible. the rupture is complete.
for now, it is all right here, available to me as soon as i walk out my tukul door and crack my head on the rafter. the clack of the generator, the taptaptap of the mirrorbird, a crowded outpatient department that looks at me hopefully as i stride past. i can’t see myself on the gangplank, only
pushing open the rusty pharmacy door later this evening and loading my arms with TB medicines, only stepping between the nylon cocoons of sleeping families late at night.
i spent last evening trying to finalize my travel plans after i leave geneva next week. next week? that seems impossible. it is too near. i feel no connection with that future, as inevitable as it might be. i spent an hour looking at flights, responding to emails, looking at the comments. at dusk, i folded my computer into my backpack, and started the long walk home. i quickly encountered some acquaintances from another NGO out for a walk. i tried to talk, but could not. the words that came were jumbled and strange. i had just spent an hour engaged in this unfamiliar interspace, pulled from this place to place to place to place at a thousand kilobytes per second, and it had left me dizzy and uncertain. it didn’t fit well with the cows, and the water pumps, and the women balancing buckets, and this group of people walking before dinner. after a short, stilted conversation that we both left confused, i walked slowly home. by the time i arrived, i found the ground beneath my feet.
and it is still there. here. abyei’s brown ground. all dust when i came in february, cracked and shifting with the wind. now, as i look out at a black and heavy sky, soon to be thick mud. it has changed. completely.
this is the point where i begin to wonder what i have changed. this is when you start the questioning, only now, just as the days push up against one another, too heavy and full to toss behind you in bunches. you don’t have today and tomorrow anymore; you have lost them. in their place, TODAY and TOMORROW, too swollen to change, and you live them like a race.
i was thinking about this today as i was sitting in the TB office, about what i have accomplished, what i will have left behind. as i was balancing in the interspace, the one between here and there, then and now, one of the young TB patients walked in. she is about eight years old, and has been on treatment for two months. after the first meeting, i have not seen her parents. she comes every week on her own, like clockwork. she always wears the same torn, overlarge, black dress. she peeks around the corner, then bashfully slides into the room barefoot, and steps onto the scale. she answers my questions shyly, only with nods. when i finally place the foil packages in her hand, she skips out of the room. i adore her. so brave. when i saw her this last time, for the last time, i had this overwhelming urge to give her everything. i didn’t even know what everything was, i just wanted to give it.
and i knew then that i was thinking about things the wrong way. when the plane takes off and the abyei ground falls from beneath my feet for good, the best things i will have left behind are not the ones that can be summarized on my end of mission report. they are the bright, beautiful parts of the
day that can only be lived here. there are many. i will miss them.