Monday, June 21, 2010

what we talk about when we talk about love

You wake up yesterday morning – late, because it is Sunday – and you roll yourself out of bed. Slip beneath the mosquito netting into the pink light of the day. You pull on socks and tennies, not the 500 franc flip-flops your feet are used to wearing. A baseball cap. Shorts – shorts! A ratty gray tee-shirt that says PITTSBURGH – City of 446 Bridges. You walk out onto the crackly gravel of the driveway and find a chauffeur.

Fifteen minutes later you pull up to the local tennis courts – brown clay, dusty, beneath the brilliant sun of the dry season. Beside a water source swarming with small children clutching jerry cans. The tennis pro grins and greets you in French and you respond easily, in French, and he loans you his light, tightly strung pink racket. Beneath the brilliant hot sun, dust clings to sweat turning your skin red. You smash the ball into the net, over the ratty fence, and sometimes, once in a while, into the opposing court. You beat one of your dear good friends in THREE GAMES. Three games! Three whole games are yours, yours, yours, you WIN them. It doesn’t matter that those three games are out of a total of thirteen. You scream with glee and gloat and run to the net to laugh.


Nighttime Recipe: Tired tired tired from a long week, open your bedroom door. SKITTER SKITTER SKATTER! There goes a tiny black crab skirting sideways across your floor. Rush upstairs to breathlessly tell your housemates. Swing around and run back down to your bedroom clutching a broom. Sweep the silly little guy into your orange plastic trashcan. In the soft breezes beneath the stars, carry him to freedom by the lake, gently over turning the basin. Bang on the basin – it’s for his own damn benefit! – when he won’t unpinch his tiny claws. Watch him skuttle away and feel GOOD about saving his life, about your contribution to the life force, about one more small soul still attached to its earthly body because of YOU. Return to your room. Brush teeth. Brush hair. Pull on PJs. Pull down mosquito netting. Switch off light. Crawl deep beneath crisp clean sheets. Clutch your stuffed penguin. Shut your eyes and breathe deep and GURGLE GURGLE BURBLE SCRATCH!

Snap open your eyes.

Kneel on your bed. Fumble for your flashlight. Swing the light across the floor. See a tiny black claw sticking out from beneath your blue pumps.



Two of your dear wonderful friends are in Zanzibar. Barring security crises which are very unlikely to come to pass, and barring delayed flights which are much more likely, they will be home in Goma three days before you leave. They have promised – PROMISED! – to bring you a shell.

Spirals of shells can be distilled into beautifully pure mathematical formulas. Your recognition of that is the closest you come to believing in religion, and it’s enough.


Today the waters of Lake Kivu, filled with crabs and shells and the bones of murdered beloved people and fish and methane gases and white capped waves, are brilliant bright blue, like Renaissance paintings of heaven in the sky.


Jikke said...

I really really like the way you write. Become a writer!

Rachel said...

Thank you Jikke!!! That's really sweet. :)