Saturday, June 19, 2010

But You Can't Trace Time

This week four of my dear lovely friends left for vacation. They won’t be back in Goma sweet Goma until after I’m gone for good. / This includes my closest friend here and her kind quirky partner. I have basically been living on their couch for the past two weeks because they are lovely dear humans, because I am clingy by nature, and because they have a Play Station with games like SPIDERMAN and DANCING WITH THE STARS. / Oh how I’m bad at goodbyes.


Here in Goma, every Friday and Saturday night under the dark starry Eastern Congo sky there are house parties with Primus beer and dancing, with music blasting and blaring. Last night was Friday but I was too sad about having to leave Goma for good in only two weeks. At the party, the loud music and moving bodies on the dance floor overwhelmed me. I fled inside, helping to blow up pink balloons, hiding from the crowds. It was because I was inside that I was the first to see N all dripping blood.

N was standing there, all dripping blood, and she called my name. I rushed over and helped her sit down on the step between the hallway and the kitchen, grabbed kitchen rags, and wrapped up her wrist. There were spots of blood speckling the floor, blood footprints. I tried to say comforting things and she told me that she’d gone to lie down in one of the bedrooms when a friend’s young dog, terrified by the loud music of the party, hiding beneath the bed from the blaring bass, had leapt at her.

Other people came quickly, got her into the bathtub, washed out the wounds. Four of us piled into a truck and drove on the bumpy roads to the Level III MONUC hospital, N leaning across me, me trying to grip her so she didn’t bounce too much. Because none of us is a UN employee, we had to fight our way into the hospital – but because she was bleeding like a gutted animal, it wasn’t a very difficult fight.

She’ll be fine, she’s fine, and she was brave, attempting jokes even while she was badly shaking from shock. The Indian doctors got her all bandaged up. When she was wrapped up and shot up with drugs and went home to sleep, and when everyone went back to the party, I stayed sitting up on her couch, watching movies, waiting around, just in case. But it wasn’t necessary. She’ll be fine. A few weeks will pass and her open cuts will crust and scab and turn to scars, and a year will pass and her scars will fade back to skin.


Yesterday afternoon, before the party, before the loud music, before the teeth and the blood and the hospital, I was so sad about having to leave Goma. I bummed a cigarette and went out to sit on the porch off my office at work with my cell phone and called my best friend at home, my college roommate T. Before I’d even begun speaking she knew why I was upset, and she laughed at me a little. She reminded me of how heartbroken I’d been when we left college, and how I’d cried like we were dying – and when we left that summer on Nantucket, how sad I’d been – and when we’d left study-abroad in Rome, when we’d left all the places we lived together. A lot has changed in the six years since college. T told me about her lawyer husband and her golden retriever dog and her pretty green house. She talked about what it’s like to be in your second semester of pregnancy, how the nausea has stopped, how her mom still keeps accidentally offering her wine, how her little brother is convinced she has control over the sex of the baby and says he will be furious with her if it is not a boy. A lot has changed. I talked to her about Lake Kivu and Nyiragongo and the dry season and life in Eastern Congo. So much has changed.

But we are still best friends.

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