I’m halfway through one of those weeks that started off bad and quickly got worse. My mind is spinning with tasks of privilege. I mentally recount all that is wrong: My puppy has her period (for 22 days and counting) and she is bleeding all over everything. Our washing machine is broken. Our cleaning lady bailed on us three weeks ago and we haven’t heard from her since then.
I cross Borcherd Street from my apartment to the vacant lot with the Bluegum tree, adjacent to the public parking lot on the corner of Banhoek and Andringa. Moira is perched under the tree like always; Dino isn’t far away. They both approach me with gusto and I can tell that even though it’s 11 am, they’re both three sheets to the wind. Dino asks where my dog is while Moira hugs me and asks me to buy them a loaf of bread. Sometimes she is very belligerent and sneers at me when I walk by, muttering under her breath in Afrikaans. Today she tells me I look beautiful and tells me, “I’ll be waiting for you, sweetie.” She will forget about me by the time I walk back home.
“Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
-my Great-Grandmother Colligan
This is the tale of Leigh, a stranger who quickly became a friend at O’Leary’s Irish pub in Terminal 3 of Abu Dhabi International, at 8am and two Stellas deep.
I’d been in the airport for 13 hours, and had two more until the departure of my connecting flight to Johannesburg. It had been a particularly unpleasant evening with the only airport hotel for non-visa holders booked to maximum capacity. After being saved from the piece of terminal floor upon which I’d set up a makeshift lean-to with my backpack and scarf, an incredibly kind airport worker named Magdalena brought me to the Muslim female prayer room next to the elevators in Terminal 4. I spent the rest of my night curled up in the corner of dark cocoon of a room, but I had to scram at sunrise because the shifts were changing, and clusters of female airport staff were coming in and out to do their makeup and gossip over tea in paper cups. I seemed to be a pretty unwelcome intrusion, so I decided to gather my things and venture into the heart of the airport.
Strangers, So I’ve been off living my life for a while and there are some exciting shifts and unexpected changes taking place. And I want to tell you about ’em. So here they are, in a numerical list, in no particular order of importance:
1. I’ve just returned to Johannesburg after six weeks back in Ye Olde United States.
That’s why I’ve been so quiet lately. I’ve been doin’ my thing in America since early October, and I used it as an opportunity to unplug. (IE: I didn’t open my laptop once!) This year I spent my longest time away from home to date–9 months. A full gestation period. *throws up hands and shakes head* Needless to say, it was way too long and I’ve learned my lesson–that I need to be home, in America–in Pennsylvania and New York–to recharge my spiritual battery, to seek refuge in the people and places that I call my true home, at least once every six months.
The oldest one walked up to me. It was the Sunday afternoon of a three day music festival and everyone seemed keen to get outta dodge.
I was making my last trip from the campsite to my rental car. He looked as if he was playing a part he had only ever been told about but never given the script for. I watched him shake off his doubt and walk over to me, chest out and strutting, until he was standing right in front of me.
“Hello Madame,” he declared, “May I have some money? Please.”
This is an old favorite–written in Washington D.C. in the fall of 2011. I was new to the city and was working as an intern for CNN. My first assignment was to go out “to the field” with a photojournalist and capture B-roll of a city-wide protest of convicted murderer Troy Davis’s impending execution. This poem turned out far better than the B roll. But unfortunately, the protests, which spanned the nation and garnered endorsements of Presidents and the Pope, failed in their mass attempt to reverse the sentence of Mr. Davis. He was executed on September 21, 2011.
They saunter around Tivoli Square, between a cinema and a supermarket; at the cross section of American life. Fifty Samaritans with the face of a convicted murderer who found God in a prison cell. Meek and bespectacled, in three days he will be dead. Carter, Clinton, The Pope, and the rest of the world bate their breath and pray for justice as he palms his rosary beads and orders his last meal.
“Hey Hey, Ho Ho, The death penalty’s got to go! Hey Hey, Ho Ho, the death penalty’s got to go!”
But one of these things is not like the other. In a sea of royal blue solidarity, there is an aqua jumping bean darting between people like she’s at a carnival of pious-intention. Continue reading “Pint-Sized Vigilante”→
Returning to New York City, after living in the third world
Her and I, we didn’t part on the best of terms. I absconded from my role as “struggling millennial writer cum waitress” in the unforgiving ecosystem of the Big Apple because, in the three years that I lived and worked in New York, I found myself calcifying over with cynicism at an alarming rate.
I served far more tables than I published articles and wrote poems, deflected daily catcalls with aplomb, learned to control my panic attacks while stuck on the N train in the tunnel under East River between 59th Street and Queensboro Plaza. But I was weary. I found myself doubting her wonder, her grandeur, her reputation as “the greatest city in the world.” What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I thriving? Fulfilling my potential? How was spending my early 20’s in NY turning me into such a curmudgeon? Continue reading “Reconciling with the city that never sleeps”→
When Anand is excited he speaks very quickly. His English is about 50% to begin with, and when he gets animated, each word leads into the next with an exotic cadence and I can no longer follow. I have to ask him to slow down and repeat himself before I can finally decipher his words, only to then declare them like mini-epiphanies.
“OH! Motorbike! I’m sorry, I thought you were saying ‘modernite!’”
“I don’t know ‘modernite’ .”
“I don’t either!”
And we laugh, because laughter, apart from tears, is one of the only sounds that transcends language. When we laugh together, it doesn’t really matter why. It matters that we are sharing something with one another. Something that we both understand to be positive, to be safe, to be indulged in collectively, like the juice of a coconut from a shady roadside stand on a blazing afternoon. Continue reading “Mornings in Chennai”→
She found comfort in the folds of the Metro paper.
She heard symphonies when the subway would screech.
The type of girl that remained steadfast in the assertion
That dandelions were flowers
And weeds were just seen as disobedient
To everyone else but her. Continue reading “aubergine”→