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…but looking back is for weenies, right? Trying to hold 2002 in both hands creates impossibility—it's made of water…slips through the cracks of my fingers…where lies the closing parentheses is as big a mystery as where the opener was found…so shape and size, those I will throw into the ambient and worry only about color, if upon a resolution you insist. On—how did I say it that one time—throwing as much paint on these white walls as my arms will allow… You do the same, my friend, and we'll compare out finished tableaux later.
Suddenly my host family is familiar: this on the eve of the eve of my depart. My host mother, whose criticism was been the extent of our interaction for the past two months, presented me with a cadeau and tears in her eyes—the children are clamoring to spend time with me—neighbors are out in force. I stare unblinkingL where the last 12 weeks only a dream?
My outfit's held up at the tailor: nervous that it won't be done in time for Friday's ceremony. Trying to figure out how to label my gas stove: moving is such chaos: compounded here.
Last day of training—I will stay tonight in a room that echoes my arrival—empty and dustry, with only the sound of my breathing to remind myself that I'm still here. Finding myself oddly attached to this place I couldn't wait to leave—seems to be a pattern with me. Knowing of my depart makes it easy to be fond—it's when I dig in my heels that I'm the most independent. Defense mechanism? Survival tactic? Who knows… Haricot's been especially clingy tonight—I think he senses something's different. Poor little shit—after I leave, who willlove him?
From earlier today: "Ah this enlightenment I seem— what would I do if I ever found it? What would I look for then?"
Am official, at this early hour of tomorrow's morning—signed, sealed and soon-to-be- delivered. I actually did feel a change somewhere in my belly—something larger and more sturdy replacing that which was built of balsa wood before. I rest now, after dancing and drinking, wondering what the fuck to do with this carrot I've been chasing. Wary, almost, to inspect it; fear that it may not seem so orange at such a close range.
"I think that humans are mostly animals, or else animals are mostly human, one of the two."
Happy birthday, Chris. Here are some cookies and coffee and a mix tape.
Rocky's leg looks funny—Rambo and Maggie are gonna each other.
"Where's your post again?"
Water surprisingly too cold to swim in—"You better remember that feeling come March"
Strange stomach problems circulating amongst the health kids.
Kantos left without saying goodbye—may be easier that way.
"A lotta shit to do tomorrow. I'm hauling a lot of shit."
"What are you thinking, Chi?"
"Nothing. I just hope Rocky's leg gets better."
That "now" is actually "before" in the scheme of things – "before I got used to life"; "before I knew [fill in the blank]"; "before I met [fill in the blank] who helped me [fill in the blank]." It's strange in some respects to already have this perspective—because it is truly "before" anything has happened to make this "now" something to look back on. But it is helpful guard meme, at least in that it gives me somewhere to plant my feet.
The kittens are so tiny—I'm afraid to name them before I know that they will make it.
First full day at post—am overwhelmed and know it, exhausted and feel it, unfocused but don't care. Find myself wanting to fast forward through life a little— again—to the point where I stop gaping at everything— the cows outside my windows, the rats that live in my roof, the children that gape right back. Letter home: "I'd be lying if I said this part wasn't hard. Exciting, fascinating, interesting—but also hard" Lack of lingual skills compound my cluelessness, and one of the kitten has taken a turn for the worse…Trying not to draw analogies between our situations.
One of the kittens is dying as a I write these words. I've been trying to feed him all day—powdered milk with a spoon—but a few minutes ago, when I tried again, he struggled and then started convulsing. He now lays there, motionless, amongst the blankets and lantern light. I don't know what else to do, to think. One of the kittens understood eating; the other didn't. Why one, why not the other? Is the line of life really so fine?
His brother is bathing him—do either of them realize? I've been so close to this dividing point.
A long day, started out with difficulty: I had dozed off in my vigil and woke at 4:30am to find the kitten had died. Only a sliver of a moon, so I buried him by flashlight:< BR>
Fear no more the heat of the sun,>BR
Spent the morning quietly, doing household repairs. Went into town, more for the bike ride than anything else; sit drinking tea with the other kitten sleeping in my lap. Am so wary to be this one's protector; I feel as if I've committed some grave error and should not be trusted.
Most days I feel like some sort of absurd cartoon character, stumbling and fumbling through this life for the amusement of some unseen audience. "The Adventures of Jewels" or some shit like that: isn't it funny to see her discover, with perfect comedic timing, her flat front bike tire
on her way out the door
?What a knee-slapper. How she
yelps involuntarily at discovering a rat in her makeshift kitchen! Or how about this one: all the little kids pissing on her at the baby weighing today.
If I wasn't me, I'd be laughing my ass off. Really.
Suck suck suck! I forgot the words yesterday, so I am making it up now…My excuse is traveling and a dying kitten—the other one I left with the neighbors before a short trip I am making. It sounds bad, but I hope he passes on before I get back. There are some missionaries in Kandi that wanted to cook us dinner, and we wanted to let them. Pizza with artichokes and MELTED CHEESE. And cake! We ate ourselves stupid and then watched
--every missionary I've met lives this large. They were kind—didn't try to convert.
Can barely see these one hundred--am writing by electricity and luck, hoping I'll get there before I pass out. A good trip overall, although it leaves me wondering where I fit. I came here to escape, yet I find myself clinging—to people, to the comforts, to that which I have known. Such an internal struggle—I want to rise above these wants, to exist in a place where I can look down on them, desireless, but am so damned infernally human sometimes… All I want is to observe, unobserved (to plagiarize myself) and then to do, purely.
Am back: a day of travel and dust.
Conversation: confessed how responsible, how fucking responsible I feel for the imagine of this place I give. Each scene has been cut out of a magazine and pasted with a glue stick—but I can't cut out the context, too. That rests where the edges curl up—you shouldn't trust anything I say. Noting is true but that everything is false. I'm not here—it's all made up. I actually live in Cincinnati, work at a gas station, get manicures every Thursday. I have a boyfriend and a dog. I am blonde.
And another thing: I am in high school. In the 10th grade. I am pretty and popular. I'm male. I speak Swedeish.
"The complexities and syntactic interchanges are spectacular: a nebulous mix of profundity and polysyllabic bliss. Brilliance at every carrefour; an understanding of complacency as familiar as chamomile."
"She entered the room on the hells of her own shadow, trailing herself from the moment she was born. The air held an odd familiar smell: burnt banana bread."
"RandoMania: Back tire now flat; tools to fix it in Sierre's house in Mville. Must walk there tomorrow to get them."
I am strong and brilliant and all-powerful. Been feeling so fucking inept these past three months that any sign of capability on my end will be a proud banner waved. Pulled French out of my ass; fixed my goddamned bike and bluffed my way through a meeting with my supervisor, commanding respect at every turn. This will pass; this I know; but for now I'm gonna take this puddle of accomplishment and jump like hell in it. For now I'm gonna pretend like I've been here since the beginning of time. The stars are shining for me tonight, sister.
Gotten in the unfortunate (?) habit of responding in English to situations I would otherwise flounder in:< BR>
[hauling my bike through sand, kids point and laugh]: "Yeah, you little shits, just you try and say that to my face"
[at a baby weighing]: "Uh, do you realize that your kid's pissing all over the front of you?"
[unable to get back from the latrine]: "Hey, cow? Would you mind moving the fuck over, for like 2 seconds? Cow!!"
[to the old man outside my door]: "No, dude, I STILL don't understand Dendi, and I see your English hasn't improved either…"
This independence—I had no idea how it tasted. It tastes blue; some unidentifiable texture that's both sticky and light. To sleep tonight not knowing how I'll fix tomorrow, but knowing that today doesn't give a shit about the content of the next sunrise. Or that it does: today is tomorrow, yesterday, too: time is invented, darling, and so are we: I'm the filament in Edison's light bulb; you're the spark that'll incinerate us both. The dreams are returning—I may still be myself. Or I may have been someone, once. It's still too early to say for sure.
Coffee, coffee. Oh, you elixir of the gods. Nescafe is a cruel joke played on us;; am waiting for the day I forget what a good dark roast tasted like. Not that I need any diuretics; am hoping the systems allows for a bike ride into town later on. A little unsettling to know that the entire village knows the state of my disgestive tract, but here I am writing about it, so why am I to gripe? They tell me the hot season is quickly approaching—I want to hang onto these cool morning tightly, with both hands.
Grrr. None of these are right, though: maple syrup smell and sweat down my back: the lantern's on the fritz and covered in soot: a whole conversation in Dendi, comprehension (I'm discovering) optional: Qui-sen the dog hunts lizards as the sun sinks below tomato fields: calamine lotion flaking off my mosquito-bitten heels: I never mentioned (I realize) the death of the second kitten: where to find money to build a latrine?: am trying my hand at drying fruit; the neighbors wonder about the sacrifice of perfectly good pineapple.
Niger tomorrow, if we can sneak across the border sans passport.
Gaya today; am amazed at the differences between the 2 sides of the river. They say Niger feels like you're walking on the set of
. Though I wouldn't know if they were true, it certainly felt far removed from just about everything. As I write this, Mom finishes the Houston Marathon. I found a phone and called—but a week too early. Sigh. The week's getting charged, with voyaging on the closing end of it. Miraculously, all 5 eggs survived the bike ride home. Will make pumpkin (found in Niger) banana bread tomorrow in my stellar Dutch over.
She runs out to the rising sun, the backdrop of the tempera sky rendering all objects (including herself) two-dimensional: silhouettes of groping forms—this one rising up to battle, this one crouching down in hiding. This anonymity of object is somehow comforting: that the only difference between she and tree is scale and motion, not composition. Eventually, though, she will have to turn around, put her back to the sunrise, and view the world as color and light, form and distance. That she becomes again undistinguishable, and different.
"Where that would be enough that
rush of sound and—"
Oh darling, what am I going to do with you? I'm becoming something more than I am—I can see this in the way you write my name. I walked around for half a day, grinning like a good, until all of Paris flashed before my eyes, 9 months in one fell swoop, a handful of this sand my bike tires sunk into. I'm stuck here with a pen almost out of ink, wondering how I'm gonna write myself out of the picture frame you're keeping me in; watching the shadows the lantern's throwing on the wall.
Q: So Jewels, here we are again, and this time no counting words. So what do we have here.
A: What do you mean
Q: Hey don't you see the format. I'm the Q you're the A. So skip the asking and stick to the answering sister
A: Who are you calling sister
Q: Ahem. So where were we
A: Was that another question
Q: Will you just fucking drop the power trip already
Q: Don't pout it's just it's just that sometimes the question is the answer you know what I mean.
did it. I think. I wrote back. Tempted to stuff the envelope somewhere and test myself: Is it in the writing that we become lighter, or the sending? Normally, I'd be wondering about the reception, but when the world takes at least 2 days by taxi to get to, nouns become verbs, we become the process, the sphere of the globe becomes the pancake of the universe and the jury's still out as to whether it's been cooked all the way through. With my luck, the wheels'll get stuck in the batter, just when we think we're getting somewhere.
Let me tell you a secret, he said: The world is actually flat as a lilypad. The third dimension is just itself folded, and Ralph Nader holds the strings. I want to hold
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
under my tongue, feel it dissolve into my bloodstream. Multurn in parvo, n'est-ce pas? So I'll throw the rest through ripped screen windows and tear off my clothes in celebration. This is the way the world ends, not with a whimper, but with a bang. Let me tell you a secret, he said: That's how it all begins, too.
In Kandi (again): Am feeling surprisingly businesslike these days; meetings and traveling and committees— am not sure of the day of the week, at this point in the evening. Feeling the job dissipating slightly, replaced with impatience to breathe minus the--
"What's your middle name?"
"I was just named for my grandmother…" < BR>"What time are we leaving tomorrow?"
All I want is my general foods international coffee"
"Thought I fucked up January until I realized today is still yesterday, technically…"
"Shut up, cat. Heed my warning, psycho."
"Did you get the little red cap?"
"It's because nothing is certain, Jewels." And I stopped and held my breath. I've got this habit of looking for my footprints in the sand, this obsessive proof of existence tendency, but also because even my footprints are so starkly different—the stupid Birkenstock-dumbbell logo rising out from those of flip-flops and bare feet, and so I found them, and myself, and realized that profundity, then, lies in the startling of a single bird, not the flock: this rush of wind and sound: would that this would be enough.
is certain: that's why that's why that's—"]
Pop quiz: Your job is such that you have succeeded when you have made yourself obsolete; ie you are evaluated by your possible non-presence. Personal qualms regarding this odd measuring rod aside, you strive to make yourself exist as little as possible, and you certainly hide (as best as possible) the existence of your wallet.
Question 1: Your neighbor is sick and can't afford the hospital. The bill comes to the equivalent of $5 U.S. Discuss the implications and complications, especially in light of "self-sustainability," of possible financial involvement (on your part).
Question 2: What should I do?
All right, I'm getting desperate, and I'm not even talking about this (apparent) 2-year vow of celibacy I appear to have made No, this is something else: I'm personally close to the end of my stash of pens. So here is what I propose: sorry in advance, JK, for being so commercial. You're a writer, you gotta understand.) Anybody who sends pens (Roller Ball, preferably, although I'll take
) to Julia Robinson, BP 31, Malanville, BENIN (West Africa) will have my undying gratitude for all time ever and I'll write a sonnet in your honor in my words. Seriously.
I am the decision that has no right, just an empty echo of action swinging from a chain. I am before exhilaration; the anticipation, not the relief itself. "The equivalent of $3 U.S. The price of a goddamn latte." I am the dark on the other side of your mosquito net. "Wonder if I should have gone about this differently." I am not here, never was. "It's like I'm two people." I am shit. "What if our roles were reversed?" I am not ready. "I don't know what the right answer is, but doing nothing sounds like the wrong one."
Small pieces begin to fit together: after almost a month of listening to the rats and lizards on my rooftop, it occurs to me that without them, termites would make short work of this whole shebang. I'm actually indebted to their late-night dance parties, however loud they may be; in any case, they were here long before me. So I put in my earplugs before bed, raise my Nalgene and wish them bon appetit. Reason, Jewels, reason: You're so goddamned impatient sometimes you fly right by it. And there it stands, shaking its head slowly and examining its fingernails.
The Tip Jar