December 2nd, 2011. We drove through the dark and the first tendrils of sunrise, the mama Kilimanjaro uncovering her scarves to wish me a happy journey. My flight is canceled, the flight attendant corrupt, and the airport is empty except for a static filled TV channel and two women gesturing with their hands as they talk. Jafet and I sat in near silence as we drove to the lonely airport, come again, have a nice journey, in breathy words, eyes crinkled at the edge.
I left my new roommates as they slept, a sheet only for fear of the blankets, Sue in a white satin eye mask and earplugs, walked down the coiled metal staircase, and said goodbye to my home in Tanzania.
I thought of the blacksmiths crafting swords with leathered sooty hands, of the night guard, Joseph, of Ester who works at the equipment shop. I though of my children, my children, their laughs and tears, both of which I shave shared with them. I though of Aika, her elegance and power and tenderness and tiny freckles on her cheeks. I thought of the waiter at Union cafe, a falsetto in his voice, of the other volunteers and their kindness, their arms willing to contract in maternal gestures when an exhausted and feeble girl knocks on the wooden door in the middle of the night. I thought of Brenda, her spunk and the cuts on her arms, in the crease of her elbow, and deep voice when she tries to sing Waka Waka. I thought of those climbing, the summit night at an end, with the orange glimmer on the horizon milked into the sky slowly.
I wait to check in, a packet of cheap cookies and a nearly empty water bottle in hand, raincoat stuffed in the bottom of my backpack, and I can't say goodbye to Africa.
I sit in Dar, a man holding a dirtied white paper glued onto plastic, a picture of a man with black lettering under. Written in English, when he comes to my chair to show me, the eighth in a series, it talks of nothing, a letter addresses to a royal highness. His eyes don't make contact but stare above my left shoulder, blank. I shake my head, not sure the response, and he passes by, and I wonder. He limps, and there is a little pool of spit gathered at the side of his mouth. He holds his left arm with his right, a bend and unmoving hand, a dolls, it would seem. He wears a Kennybunkport shirt from 1989, and one of his tan plastic shoes lies discarded below his chair.
The roof of the outdoor airport is three stories up, and rain blows in, misty, coming through the cracks too. I sit facing forward in maroon metal chairs, connected with other seats. The people siting near come and go, children to covered girls to Indian men with large cell phones.