It’s been 5 weeks to the hour
Most Mondays I feel
Lethargic all day
Headaches and body aches
I can’t explain
I can’t sleep most Mondays
Because I don’t want to
Wake to that fateful call
I don’t want to come collect your
Limp body from the third hospital
That did not have a bed
To begin the emergency care
That you so desperately needed
I don’t want to wrest shoes
Then socks then…
From your body
I still stalk your page
To see who else has just
Discovered your death
Who else is full of grief
And needs to share
Or say what a wonderful
Man you were
Your name used to stare
At me from my chat list
Every day for weeks
One day I signed in and you
You had been idle too long
I freaked out because
I thought it meant family
Had deleted your page
You were still there
I want to download
You put up
I want to keep you close
On Saturday, I went to
A Ghanaian funeral
I thought of you throughout
Wondered how your service had been
How sad I was to find out that
Your family had streamed it
Wondered where you have been buried
And if I can come visit you
When next I come to New York
I thought of you at the graveside
Wondering how your mother felt
As the soil was thrown on your casket
As I stood watching the soil thrown
On my uncle’s casket
I wished I had been present for your funeral
I missed you so deeply
I had to walk out of sight of the grave
As the burial concluded and we walked away
I looked for a sign that
You knew I was thinking of you
And wouldn’t you know it
There was an empty packet of
That Monday when we had dinner
You had confessed that you were stressed
And that you had started the morning
with a Striker or two or…
I didn’t want to hear the rest of the count
So in the graveyard as I was walking
Towards the gate
I looked down and saw you
Smiling at me
I knew that you knew that
I was missing you
I’ve not written much lately
Well not much I want to share that is
Choosing instead to
Focus on my job search
My upcoming readings
Yet my journal pages overflow with my pain
Anger and frustration at a system
That does not work
For the average Ghanaian
Which is what you and I were
This f*cked up system that
Allowed you to die
In the back seat of a good Samaritan’s car
Today 5 weeks to the hour
Two weeks after
Your dust hit God’s dust
I sit tapping away
With a renewed vigor
Similar to that which you
Often gave me
You must write love
I am writing love
I miss you
The ache goes and comes
Seeking refuge in my body
When it wills
I think of all everyone has said
It will be a long time
Before you don’t breathe with him
Sometimes I hope this long time
Sometimes I am scared
I’ll forget before it’s
The end of that long time
I worry that I’ll forget
That once I breathed
In unison with a person
Who made me feel
So alive and open
To all the world’s possibilities
I pray that I have the
Support I need to trek this
Mountain of grief
And to live out loud as you did
And love boldly again
With arms open wider than possible
Uninhibited as you taught me
Today, my worst nightmare came true!
We begun a romance quite unlike any we had known in our individual pasts. Sure, we each shared one that was somewhat similar, but there was something different about what we had this time around. Perhaps it was because we were older and wiser this time around. Perhaps it was because of the circumstances under which we met. Perhaps it was because of the environment in which we lived and interacted. Perhaps we were just destined to change each other’s lives.
“Hello my name is David. I thought I heard an American accent…” he said with a broad smile that I would later come to identify as his signature confident look. He leaned his long frame over the back of the seat and extended his hand. My friend and I received his gesture of friendship. What ensued after this handshake will remain forever etched on my memory walls. Conversation starters flew here and there as we attempted to capture this other American on the bus. My friend and I had both missed home; we craved any contact, especially with like-minded individuals. From what we were discovering he too wanted to make a difference in Ghana. Make his mark. Make some money while doing so. He was a farmer. We were writers. We labeled him an activist. We would dream big together. We exchanged our virtual identities. We’d stay in touch! Halfway through the four-hour journey back to Accra, my friend and I resumed our individual comfortable silences and left David to his I-pad and headphones. I glanced over a few times; he looked content. My friend asked if I thought him cute. I responded in the affirmative, but added that he was much too young to be worth the chase. End of discussion.
We stayed in touch. Friended each other. Emailed. Stored phone numbers. Followed tweets. Commented on blogs. We each had a network the other could benefit from. For two weeks, it was just a friendly interaction.
Another U.S. friend came to town. She insisted on visiting his farm. I connected with David through texts and we made our way to the farm.
He hugged me. I hugged him back. Even though I didn’t expect a hug, I responded as I usually do with all hugs: I squeeze tight. I hate lukewarm, back-patting hugs. Apparently he did too. Later, he’d tell me that no matter how gorgeous a woman looked, if she gave him a back-patting hug, he’d lose all interest immediately. So I squeezed away and something happened. My heart rate quickened. I turned shy almost instantly. I giggled. I couldn’t concentrate as he showed us around the farm, pointing out equipment. I followed half-listening, attempting to catch a whiff of that musky smell…Axe? Sniff… Whenever we would lock eyes, he’d grin widely. Somehow I knew that transformation was taking place in him as well. We left the farm. I got a text almost immediately: “you give good hugs.” I sent one back: “I love to receive good hugs.” In the next hour, what could easily have numbered fifty texts went flying across the ether. Somehow we both knew our fates were sealed and our stars had been aligned. What we weren’t sure of was whether we ought to follow the new path laid out. 25 texts a day until our next meeting. The tension built until our skins crackled with the fire and desire that was burning inside. We met up. Suspended kissing until we were both sure we wanted to follow this path. When we finally decided, we spent a glorious, blissful holiday with each other.
I was fast latching on to the idea that this was someone who loved whole-heartedly and with arms open wider than was possible. To say David paid attention and took note was to tell a half-truth. He was present. Available. Willing to love me into existence. Always there when my own fears and doubts chased me into hiding. Always there when I returned. Always there when I played peek-a-boo with my emotions. David made me write poems I didn’t think I had in me. Made me strut like he strutted, confident that I looked good if I felt good. Made me feel like the hottest woman alive. He saw all of me and loved her into being. He refused to take my shyness as an excuse. Knew when to be speechless and when to be articulate and convincing. He encouraged me to live life fully day after day.
We lived at least forty-five minutes apart. Was this sustainable? “Is he worth it?” Mom asked. I was due to leave Ghana in a couple of weeks. Was it worth the eventual break-up pain? I didn’t have the capacity to do long distance especially with something this new.
We sent such massive numbers of texts in the weeks that followed, we gave MTN and Vodafone a reason to stay in business. We were online daily, sometimes for hours at a time, when we ran out of phone credit. I read his work. He provided input on mine. We met up at all times. We have our flexible schedules to thank for this. We were so open with our PDA. More open than I had ever dared to be with anyone, especially here on the continent. We defied the odds of a short-lived romance. I changed my ticket un-coerced but with him as a catalyst. I wanted to try this new thing on for size. Day after day, text after text, one bliss-filled night after another, the ticket date kept moving backwards until I had found a reason to consider really living in Ghana. Conversations about ideal lovers, equal partnerships, babies (anyone who knows me probably has their mouth in a big ‘O’), dreams that were bigger than both of us combined, we had them barely a week ago.
Reality stole the scene for a couple of days. My aunt was fast losing her battle with stomach cancer. My mother had a bad case of malaria that had us all scared. First text: “Baby, let me know what you need from me.” Second text: “Babe, I’ll be in town for a meeting later, can I come give you a hug then?” Skins tingling, eyes glowed bigger than our cheeks, we hugged and squeezed soon as he hopped off the bike. Same intensity as that first day on the farm. Not much had changed. Two hours later, reluctant to leave for the meeting, more squeezes and French kisses outside, next to the bike, I chastised: “Babe, you really ought to try stopping this smoking again.” Helmet on, he pulled away. I blew him a kiss. He caught it, winked and sped off. An hour later, Me: “Babe how is your meeting going?” David: “Great! Still working away!” Another hour later, Me: “Babe, you make me smile.” David: “*smiley face* I’m glad.” Ninety minutes later:
“Madam, do you know the man who owns this phone? He has been hurt very badly. Only God can revive him.” Caller ID stated: David. More hurried words later. I was on my way to 37 military hospital. Change your course the voice said. Another hospital. No bed at the first one. Three incompetent ER gate-keepers later, and ninety minutes from the time of the crash, my David left this world. I was catatonic by his side whispering to Yemaya to bring him back. “Let there be a flicker somewhere,” I muttered as I rubbed his lean legs. “I love you,” spilling out of every pore. “Forgive me for not saying it early on,” countering those “I Love Yous”. I took some of the items of clothing moving like a zombie. Lips trembling, yet silent. Hands unstable as I removed shoe laces then shoes then argyle socks. I smiled. Ever my flamboyant man. The lean-structured, high-cheek-boned face, now unrecognizable. I watched them wheel him into the ER. Now I want to scrub that sight out from behind my eyelids. I heard Yemaya say, “I’m sorry my child, this one’s mine.” Unable to speak I nod. “I mutter, “please don’t leave me.” I hope you both hear me.
My biggest regret? Not saying I love you until the end. Toying around with the idea that it was not time to say it yet. I fell for you so calmly, I forgot to say something. My second biggest regret waiting to go public with the beautiful thing we shared. Discussing a perfect time to tell family. Not naming what we had. Not claiming our good fortune.
Few know of the details of what we shared. Few can pick you out in a lineup: “yep! That’s Kuukua’s lover!” Few will smile at me or squeeze my hands. Few will hold me tight imagining my grief, my pain. Few will know we dreamed big together everywhere we went.
Today, I silently give thanks for having you in my life.
Today, I grieve you and quietly praise Yemaya for you being intimately mine for a time.
Today, I became the invisible widow.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 16 so far )
I had argued with my friends. They said I was too trusting, allowing a total stranger to let herself into my apartment, use my laptop, and have free reign of all my possessions while I was attending a conference in Chicago. I couldn’t be dissuaded. She was safe, I was convinced. She was good people, I told my classmate who was to hand her my house keys.
Several hours after she had let herself in, the cab dropped me off. I grabbed my hand luggage and headed up my 13 steps, heart beating a tad bit faster with each step. What if she had changed the password on my computer, found out the document that held all my passwords and transferred my measly dollars into her foreign account. I was actively trusting the universe that I was right about this woman.
I put the key in the door. All these thoughts vanished as I quietly pushed open the door. She lay curled up on the 3-cushion, well-loved, black leather couch I had inherited from Craigslist. Her spindle-curled locs lay scattered around her head, slightly concealing her face and caressing her cheeks. Both arms were folded at the elbow in a prayer pose, supporting her sleeping head. I had only seen pictures and images from our Skype conversations. I wished she would stir so I could see her beautiful face. Two suitcases stood guard over her sleeping body. Despite all admonitions to pack light, here she was with luggage to last her for a couple months instead of the one-week trial we had agreed upon.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
To My Siblings, In Solidarity
The sun is beating down mercilessly on people who are already toasted varying degrees of brown and shades of black. The skies look like those on the Simpsons TV comedy: cotton-candy blue and white, and as I lay on my back, I can almost picture the credits rolling across the endless screen and hear the familiar tune playing. The sun beats down on my left side yet the gentle breezes from the right slowly caress and ease the heat of this equator sun, making it all worthwhile. The sound of a metal bell reminds me that some people are working even on this holiday. As the sound of the bell grows fainter and shifts to the background, it is replaced by the crowing of a rooster and the barking of dogs. Other sounds have become so much a part of the environment that one has to pay particular attention to be able to decipher what constitutes the cacophony.
Where am I? I’m sure you are dying to know! For Christmas, I gave myself the gift of a second pilgrimage to Haiti, Ayiti, the beautiful land of beautiful people where the great economic divide is as visible as the night and day that marks the passing of time and where suffering, as widespread as it is, never keeps the people from smiling back when you make eye contact. I had to return to Ayiti. It had wrapped its arms around me in May 2002 when I made my first pilgrimage and it had refused to let go. So I honored it, and all who were in it, by returning.
I am sitting on the rooftop, seven floors up, at St Joseph’s Home for Boys, affectionately called “Michael’s” after the director and founder. As I bask in the sunlight thoughts of snow, thousands of light years away, in my memory, I try to absorb all of Ayiti again—yes, I loved Ayiti, just as I loved my homeland, Ghana. I had fallen in love with Ayiti from the minute I exited the plane and had to make my way to the terminal on foot.
As I lie, I absorb all the sounds that are unique only to Ayiti and some of the other developing countries I have been blessed to visit: the sound of the vendors’ bells and voices advertising their wares, roosters crowing (although I am still unable to determine the exact reason since people have been awake since 4:30 am), music blaring out of speakers miles away echoed off the mountain sides, “tap taps” (local bus system) and taxis honking incessantly, engines of cars starting up, a PSA of some sort being run from the back of a pick-up truck with a make-shift megaphone, people calling out to each other in Kreyol, cats and dogs fighting for turf, and intermittent gun shots interspersing this orchestrated piece, poignant reminders of the state of the country.
The sun has dipped behind one of the many mountains that encircle Haiti although a part of the island is still bathed in sunlight and a shadow of light is thrown across the mountain. Sounds of nighttime are slowly replacing those of the day: generators kicking on (electricity is only available for part of the day), the crackling of firewood and the smell that accompanies it, as people prepare the evening meal, rush hour traffic with all its sounds, and radios and televisions blaring loudly.
The flight part of the journey had been uneventful and we had landed finally, after about 15-20 hours in airports (Ohio to Miami to Haiti), on the small farm runway that had cattle and goats grazing on it. About a half hour after landing, and squashed in the small cab of a pick up truck, with luggage competing for space, we were ascending and descending roads that were carved so adeptly out of the mountains. In the darkness, roads pitted with potholes filled with rain, gave the illusion of being smooth terrain until we were jolted out of our seats when our driver landed in one of them. It was pitch black, the kind of dark that threatens to swallow the dim, struggling headlights of the journeying vehicles. We had been driving for over 90 minutes when we had originally been told that the trip was a half hour max. There had to have been something wrong. I was convinced there had to have been rebels on the main highway and that’s why our guide had detoured. Who was to say?
Was my faith tested? You bet it was! I began saying the Rosary in my head and trying to remember any prayers I had memorized in my 20 years of Catholic school education. That having brought no comfort, I took refuge in making my petitions in my native tongue and just free-styling. At this point, I realized how ridiculous I might have seemed to any of my friends and family back home. I had made this trip after reconciling that “if this should be the end then so be it, I was going to Ayiti, come what may!” I smiled as I realized that this initial panic stage was natural when faced with trials. This thought surprisingly calmed me down enough to concentrate my efforts on watching the driver make it round each sharp bend in the two-lane mountain road, the lesser of the two evils. No sooner had I shifted my focus than we were arrived at our destination: the rectory at Plaissance.
Plaissance was one of the two reasons I had been itching to return to Ayiti. Located in the northern part of Ayiti, Plaissance for me was the French Riviera with all the mountains dripping with greenery. This was also where my host family lived and I could hardly wait to visit with them and catch up on 3 years worth of news…whew! Oh wait a minute, we can’t do that! The language barrier for me was my biggest struggle. Having had some elementary French in school, I could get by if people spoke French however, the Kreyol in Ayiti, a mixture of French and African languages, bore little resemblance to French. As I vacillated between excitement and disappointment, I began to piece together sentences in my head from the basic Kreyol I knew. Yes, I would tell them this or that, oh wait…how do you say this in Kreyol? I got ready for bed; tomorrow the words that eluded me now might come.
Gwo Jan was the other reason. This was where my other family lived. Two men and a lady! , Ari, Dja, and Carla. These three were my inspiration for some of the work I had gotten involved in since returning from my first trip. They had the arduous task of educating their own people, the people of Ayiti, about the history that lay beneath the brand name sneakers they loved to wear, the struggle with power, and the struggle against systems that was always in motion. They were also responsible for educating any tourists, who dared to enter their village, about the beautiful land of Ayiti and its people. These three, so far as I was concerned, were the heroes whose stories hardly ever got told. They had captured my heart and brain and engaged me in working for the struggle from the first time I had visited and though our communiques were few and far between we carried each other in our hearts and I couldn’t wait to see them again.
I look at the chaos that surrounds me. Sometimes I work well under pressure although this time all order and creativity has eluded me even though my deadline is but 24 hours away. The chaos, the order I strive for, the pressure which produces results, or so they say…all this is nothing compared to the thoughts that take residence in my head all day long as I go about the mundane tasks of my everyday life as one of the numbers in a big corporate institution.
These thoughts are far from related to my job or everyday routine. These thoughts are about the greater good, about service to all people, if I may be allowed to use clichés. My thoughts are with the people I met on my two trips to Ayiti (Haiti), my study abroad project in Morocco, my trips to Ghana, my working vacation in Egypt, my time at the Catholic Worker house in Denver, CO, or more recently and way less expensive, my chat with the unassuming man who everyone mistook for homeless. These are the things that occupy my head as I try to navigate my way through the numerous cubicles, edit letters, make copies, or prepare mail.
In these thoughts the perpetual question burns my innermost parts each time I can scrounge a few minutes to pause and reflect…what am I being called to do…in the long run, what really matters the most?
This question has come to me in various forms, and over the last five years since graduating from college I have processed this question in numerous settings: over dinner with religious discernment groups, in retreats, workshops, service trips, journaling, and mind you, this list is endless. If I have learned anything at all, it’s that, nobody else can tell me what my calling is because this is something that I need to discern for myself.
In journeying through this process of discernment, I have slowly learned more about myself, and my place in the grand scheme of things. I have come to cherish the heritage, the ancestry that makes me who I am today. I have discovered and embraced the similarities, as well as the differences, that make us all children of the Great Being.
It is with such a basic foundation that I returned to Ayiti for the second time. I returned not to donate time or money but to visit with the ones I had met once before, to sit in solidarity with my siblings, to share with each other the gift of our lives, despite the admonishment of family and friends fearing for my safety in Ayiti.
There is a quiet knowing…a sort of “I have arrived” feeling as I sit on my steps and crunch on some cereal. The “ChocoBalls” cereal I chose instead of the name brand one which cost 11/2 times more than this one. I may never get to live as simply in America as I do when I am in Ghana or Haiti but I can carefully consider my choices before making my small everyday decisions. I have been back two days now and I’m still buzzing with the energy and excitement that usually accompanies a return from a service trip where one has been made more aware and one has left with a resolution of some sort.
I’m reminded of my trip leader’s numerous poems that she read to us at prayer time while in Ayiti. One in particular sticks out: “to my brothers and sisters in third world countries” it begins and then it apologizes for the insensitivity on our parts that allows us to spend twenty minutes picking out what sweater or shoe to wear when my sister halfway around the world, is putting on the only piece of clothing or pair of shoes that she owns. This prayer has stayed with me since my very first trip to Ayiti because somehow that is how I manage to stay grounded…to constantly contemplate the faces of the people I know and am now fortunate to call family, in Ayiti. To remember their joy and excitement when they don their Sunday best for church or throw on the same pair of shoes for work day after day. To recall their smiles as they share what little they have with everyone around. To let myself revel in the optimism and conviction of the people as they say “Viva Ayiti”! My family in Plaissance and Gwojan who keep the dream of freedom alive, and continue to live and tell their story despite all attempts to silence them. They are the thoughts that constantly plague me as I go about my routine tasks. They are the constant heat from the equator sun, absent in the dead of winter, yet ever-present in my thoughts as I ponder what the greater good and ultimate calling is.
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That’s what we call the 26th of December in Ghana, and I’m sure in other British colonies. If we had presents, we gave them on Boxing Day. Usually, if I remember correctly, that’s when we made our rounds of various family and family friends’ homes. We took presents of fruit or cookies and stopped to drink Fanta or Coca Cola in each location. We sometimes ate jolloff or chicken at some of the homes. It had the feel of an American Thanksgiving Day. We would arrive home stuffed, and usually headed straight for bed.
It feels like eons ago. This is my 15th Christmas I have spent away from Ghana. It feels surreal to have had 18 consecutive ones and to now be bereft of them. My sister Sheela is in Ghana. I wish I had gone with her but there was no way I could have pulled off another ticket twice my rent. I think it makes me miss home the most when there is someone there “enjoying” it for me. Although yesterday, Sheela gave me one of the best presents ever–a Skype phone call with all my cousins. The ones with whom I grew up at least. I felt like the proud big sis to have all of them gathered around the computer talking in and out of turn catching me up and telling me I should be there. I smiled broadly on this end for moments after we hung up. I ought to have been there, but no use wishing that now. For months I had been kicking myself for going to Ghana in August instead. It would have been so much nicer at Christmas when everyone else was home as well, and definitely more enjoyable to go with Sheela. But I didn’t. I am here in the grey-slightly warming-up, sun-struggling-to-peek-through, Bay. Much as I love the Bay and California, this is the one year where I wished most for a White Christmas or a Christmas in Ghana. Perhaps it was mainly to do with the fact that Sheela was in Ghana or perhaps it had to do with the fact that I loved family and wanted to be surrounded by large quantities of good food, big laughs, and re-telling of stories.
In any case, I am here, trying to be content, to love being with me, and eek out some writing. I am going to finish up a piece on analyzing Christmas music which strangely enough disappears when it hits 11:59 pm on Christmas Day (have you noticed this?) Shouldn’t we be rejoicing now that the season is finally here? The child has been born? Yesterday afternoon, I was in CVS for an item (yes they were open) and they were already setting up the Christmas sale aisles for all the items that have come to define Christmas. I guess if the carols were gone, there was no need to keep the tinsel or miniature Nutcracker or reindeer. Ironically, I also noticed that close to 90% of all those working to dismantle Christmas were of Asian descent. Earlier on in the IHop in a pre-dominantly Black neighborhood, our server and several of her colleagues were also Asian. It was fascinating to me that I observed this stark difference. Were there always several Asian workers and servers, or did I just notice them more because it seemed they were the only ones working? Were they the only ones working? Why? As a woman of color sitting in a restaurant with a very diverse pool of customers, why did it bother me to see all Asian servers? Did Christmas bring all these people together? If so, why wasn’t the server pool just as diverse?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
She cussed silently as she felt a splash of water hit the footies that she wore. She had washed her regular house slippers and forgot to dry them so she decided these padded footies would have to do. The splash of water came from the pot of meat that she was prepping to slow-cook.
She had literally been on her feet for sixteen hours, except for an hour in therapy and a few minutes here and there as she commuted from one place to the other. She had done massive amounts of laundry and had stood through that as well. So tonight, the feet made it known that they were tired. “A few more minutes guys, I promise,” she whispered. I really ought to invest in one of those kitchen mats that absorb the shock. She knew her back would ache when she finally lay down to rest tonight. She was certain of it.
Grammie lived close to where her college was, in a subsidized housing community that mostly housed senior citizens and their families. It was off Broadway Street almost close to downtown Columbus, and was right on the bus line so it was real easy to get to since she didn’t have her license yet. Sometimes, she would bring a friend with her and enjoy watching Grammie entertain someone else while she cooked.
“Hi Grammie!” she called to her grandmother from the back door. She had dropped by after classes to have a cooking session with Grammie, or more like to fix her one of the many Ghanaian dishes she loved; they had about five in rotation now.
She would call and ask what to bring and Grammie would say:
“Oh honey, don’t worry yourself, everything you need is right here.”
Sure enough when she arrived Grammie had laid out all the ingredients for the recipe of the day. Grammie had also baked her, her very own spice cake. Of course, she knew she had to share once she arrived at back on campus but she didn’t mind. They brewed up a cup of coffee and sat down to prepare the ingredients. They would catch up on which of Grammie’s neighbors’ children had gotten into trouble that week. Or talk about how Mz. Thelma and Mz. Fanny’s smoking habits seemed to be getting even more out of hand.
“Sometimes, I can just smell it!” she declared, referring to her upstairs neighbor Mz. Fanny.
“Remember when you used to come by the apartment so we would cook?” I miss those days,” Grammie said. Grammie had been confined to wearing an oxygen mask for a year now.
She smiled reminiscing right alongside with her.
“Yeah, I remember.” There were patches in her memory that made her worry; she was glad she could recall this memory on demand.
Encouraged by this recall, she continued:
“Remember me going up to Ms. Fanny’s apartment to say hello and bring her a piece of cake or a bowl of whatever we had cooked that day?”
“Yeah. Fanny would always tell me I had a good grandchild,” Grammie added smiling.
“Mz. Fanny would put hot sauce on everything I took to her.” she said.
“Yeah, that’s Fanny alright!”
Picturing the old apartment that Grammie had brought tears to her eyes. SO much had changed since then. Those were the carefree days of learning to live life in America. She had acquired independence by choosing to live on campus even though home was a mere 30-minute bus ride away. Having lived under her Grandmother’s totalitarian house rules for nineteen years, she was finally unfurling her wings and realizing what freedom truly meant.
Tonight, cooking in her own kitchen had brought these memories rushing back right alongside her flood of tears that seemed to rise out of a deep pain she wasn’t even aware she was holding. Grammie was on a breathing machine, with tubes in her lungs to help her breathe. Tonight when she checked in with her sister, she had said Grammie was getting more and more confused. She had been lately, before the EMS came for her. Her brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen, the doctor said. Tomorrow was a crucial day, they were going to try and switch her to breathing on her own.
“Do you think she will?” She asked her sister, already knowing that answer was ambiguous.
These thoughts overwhelmed her as she cleaned her brand new crock pot. As much as she loved cooking, there were days when she could just stand to throw it all in a pot and not have to mind it half as much. Tonight was such a night.
She felt Grammie’s presence in the room. She burst into tears again smiling as she saw her tears drop into the bubbling liquid. “Cook your heart out honey. That’s my girl! Oh honey, don’t cry, I’m ok, I can cook now.” Grammie seemed to say.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
This is the third piece that was published in the African Women Writing Resistance anthology in August.
Musings of an African Woman: Life in the Land of Opportunity
I. IMMIGRANTS IN A FOREIGN LAND
The leaves on the tree right outside my window gently stir with a wind that only blows about every ten minutes. The air is hot, sticky, and humid. The leaves rustle and move yet no breeze enters my room to ease the stifling heat. The air condition units of the neighbors kick on and drone out the sing-song voice of the man who is having a highly animated conversation next door.
As I gaze out and try to take in my surroundings, I realize how this crowded apartment complex reminds me of the Korle Bu flats back in Ghana, which houses civil servants who work for the government hospital. I think to myself, life in America is just a coated version of life in a so-called “third world” country. True, the thickness of the coating makes it easy to dismiss this theory. People work so hard all day only to retire to this in the evening–a conglomerate cacophonous display of miniscule living quarters! For the amount of money people pay for a place here, they could be living in a 5-bedroom ranch house in some developing country free from all the stresses of life. Sure, some of the finer amenities of life could be missing, but these should be minor inconveniences given the amount of space and peace of mind one would enjoy.
…I have finally gotten my body to understand that lying still, perfectly still, is the fastest way to staying cool and sane.
So, really, what makes this different from an average Akua (insert “Joe” or “Jane”) living in a developing country? Maybe it is the convenience of constant running water here whereas Akua would certainly have to be rationing or walking some few miles to a well or a community pipe. Or the electricity that seems to burn all day long, by which these people in the other apartments are cooling their living spaces. Or could it be the microwave, coffee maker, or George Foreman grill? All seemingly necessary appliances for existence in America yet, I beg to differ! These are all mere trappings of the life we choose to lead in this here “freedom country” to which members of “developing countries,” en masse, escape with hopes of amassing wealth and returning to establish a mini-America in their homelands.
Noble goals, no doubt! But realistically, how many of these people ever end up leaving America to return to their homelands? How many actually achieve that goal of returning home to recreate better versions of the lives they had here in America? I would like to purport…very few! The average immigrant Jane usually ends up caught in the lifestyle of consumerism. With the onslaught of bills, even a trip home to visit aging relatives or bury a dead family member becomes unaffordable, a debt to be added to the credit consolidators list, or for some a risk, the imminent danger of not being able to return because of immigration regulations.
As I write I wonder, whom I am really writing for. Who is my audience? My people, my fellow “developing country” citizens who, like me, have left oftentimes, better living conditions to come to America with the hopes of “finding greener pastures” and “making their fortunes” in this land of opportunity? If this is my audience, do they even care?
Funny, mass amounts of immigrants make up the bulk of the population in America; almost everyone left somewhere to come and “make it” here. Different reasons propelled each ethnic group that migrated here, but the one underlying reason, regardless of which group, seems to be the promise of something better.
In the process of “making it” we all lose important parts of ourselves: an accent, a-difficult-to-pronounce-name, the foods with which our clothing used to reek, the culture that used to emanate from our very beings. We lose these parts of ourselves in an attempt to blend in, become one of the majority. Sadly though, (or would it be fortunately?) for most immigrants, we can never quite complete that process of blending in.
Just when you think you’ve perfected the pronunciation of a word, or got the meaning of some idiomatic expression, some person somewhere comes up to you on the pretense of making conversation and asks, “so where are you from?” or my all time favorite, “what are you?” I love to give people like these hernias because I calmly proceed to say casually “the Midwest, Ohio!” Of course, they don’t get the subtle hint and so they continue to probe: “no, I mean where are you really from?” At this point they are practically beside themselves with frustration at you, oh no, not themselves! They know they are right, you look different, you sounded different just then, you must be different!
That’s when I kick myself for ever leaving my country, where I was not “different,” to “seek greener pastures.” What most people do not realize or refuse to acknowledge is the fact that this country, America, truly only belonged to one group of people, and much like my country, colonized by the British, these original owners were sacked and maltreated. America today is made up of centuries of people from other places; people who looked and sounded different back then when they first arrived, some brought in by force, others driven by the search for a better life, others escaping persecution; these very same reasons continue to bring immigrants in today.
So if we’re going to be so darn fussy, about who is “different” then shouldn’t we all return to our original homelands? But of course, there are quite a few Americans today who cannot trace their ancestry back to their original locations, so where does that leave them? May I suggest: Ambassadors for peace, embracing and extending warm welcomes to all new immigrants?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )