(circa the end of November 2016)
I am now accustomed to the musty smell of my apartment, the dripping maze of laundry that hangs in the courtyard, the light sinking below the horizon in the evenings. The flutter of the yellow weaver birds through Mary’s windows, the bitter taste of green tea, the fickle promise of rain cached above in dark purple clouds.
One night, just under a week before I will leave to go home, I come across some disturbing news from my past. A prophecy spun by a deep and forlorn vein of my intuition rings true as two loose threads wind their way together. I find myself alone in my apartment sobbing so passionately that I wonder if the neighbors can hear me. A friend decides to call me from across the world, threatening the reputation of coincidence.
Despite the gift of compassion emanating from a different hour of sun-stroked Earth, a very old wound is torn open inside of me. The blood appears in the form of desolate tears, and only begins to clot with the sweet kiss of sleep. I have come a long way since I first began cutting calories and refusing to eat; in this moment, however, one part of my brain is back to the beginning, back to the gateway of the circular path to self-implosion. I feel the tremors of the past envelope me like an earthquake traps a panicking deer.
The next morning, Nicole is teaching an art class. I lose myself in the frenzy of organizing children who haven’t been exposed to many art classes before. Paint is spilled across tables and floors, flimsy cups of water topple to soak wide radii around them, and pathetic safety scissors fail to tear through the fibers of the paper. Nevertheless, after authoritative commands and a fair amount of patience, we have dozens of brilliantly colored “butterfly wings” scattered around like pairs of matching shells strewn across a beach. Two hours of utter exhaustion is worth this final, delicate project synthesized from stacks of paper, imported acrylics, and virgin paintbrushes. Several sweet children help us clean up the art room, which looks more like a war zone between children and paint.
Nicole and I have Mr. Luke over for dinner one more time before I leave. Though he is only in his twenties, he’s the administration head at Restart. Mr. Luke hasn’t taken a day off in months. Though an incredible role model for the older boys at Restart, he holds them to much higher standards that what they are accustomed to. When they rebel, it’s primarily against his rules.
Mr. Luke talks about politics, Restart and the various children there, and tells us what is potentially in his future. He’s awaiting to hear if he’s been accepted into a prestigious program that empowers young African intellectuals. As Mr. Luke drives off into the night on his motorbike, Nicole and I look at each other with a knowing glance. Mr. Luke is going to do big things with his life.
The next day, I walk back to the apartments by myself one last time. The sky overhead is darkening, thunder anxious and rumbling above me. In a season when rain only threatens to mar the ground, this time it will come pouring down. I feel the foreshadow of rain in my bones as I watch for lightning on the horizon, counting as the seconds diminish between the flashes of light and the boom of thunder. I am walking through a lightning storm.
I feel a gust of raindrops materialize out of thin air. Lightning cackles and thunder booms like an old woman laughing as she pounds a drum. I realize that I am walking in the midst of open fields, a dangerous minefield of lightning strikes. With a seemingly unavoidable disposition for finding myself outside during storms, I am exhilarated and terrified as I tread lightly underneath a frenzy of celestial bolts that both splinter and illuminate the sky.
I am soaking as I finally ascend into my apartment, my cleansing ritual not a dunk underwater but a bewitchment through the life and death ouroboros of storms. I am pure once again.