The last night I was in Sierra Leone I danced until the wee hours at Paddy’s Bar with a boy named Peacemaker who has no hands. While we danced he kept his long-sleeved windbreaker (which he didn’t need for warmth) hanging down at his wrists, as if he had been in such a rush he forgot to finish taking it off. Later, when we got a drink at the bar, he would slip the jacket back on and shove what would have been his hands in his pockets. I knew, because I had seen him hustling and hanging out on Lumley Beach, that his hands had been hacked off my the rebels in Kallabah Town, in the eastern part of Freetown, nearly four years ago. Amazingly, Peacemaker threw a mean Frisbee. His dancing, unlike many of his compatriots, did leave something to be desired, though.
When I left the bar that night he asked me when I was coming back (“I don’t know, a year, a month, five years, I don’t know – but I will be back”), how I was getting to the airport (“no you can’t meet me at the helipad, because my friend Toufic is taking me across to the airport by boat”), and what it was like where I was going (“very very different from here, with buildings taller than the highest coconut tree and so, so, so many people,”).
Bigga, my African brother, had asked me the week before, as we walked down the pure white sands of Tokeh Beach towards the stunning Number Two River to swim with my dogs and my newly adopted monkey, “will there be beaches like this where you will be going?” And I thought of New York City’s “beaches”, or what the streets would look like right now, and I had to stifle a giggle. I tried to explain to him what snow was (“like clouds on the ground that are colder than inside a cooler”), what it felt like to walk in it, and how they cleared it away. “Where do they put it all?” he asked. And, after the blizzard last week, I can finally tell him that they have no idea what to do with it all.
The day Alex died I fell four feet into an open sewer. In the process my camera broke (hence the degradation in images you see in the gallery), and – more importantly – the power cord to my computer busted (the only other person in Sierra Leone with a Mac power cord was someone I dated on-and-off again, and his possibly drug-fueled mood swings encouraged him to deny me access to charge my battery). That’s why you’ve heard nothing from me since then, and Christmas and New Years and all those other days when important things happened have passed unnoted and unheeded.
The next day after being submerged in sewer-rot, I discovered that all my money in the country had been stolen (an inside job mostly likely by the housecleaner plus our “security” guards), I became very malarial again, and I got fired from my job managing the guesthouse.
I felt like Sierra Leone was desperately trying to expunge me from its shores. The only other sign I needed was a blinking, neon one that said “GO HOME NOW.”
That’s when I started to plan my departure. In fact, it took more than a month after that to leave, due to my inability to separate myself from all the people and places I had grown to love. And then the airline I was booked on folded, and I was left with no flight, and, and, and. I kept finding excuses to stay. I didn’t really want to go. I love the country, truthfully. I was filled with overwhelming sadness, the kind where you have to turn your face to hide your eyes when you couldn’t explain to someone that you’d probably never see them again.
It felt like walking out in the middle of a movie. You never get to find out what happens next, how the main character fares, if anything gets resolved, if there is, ultimately, a happy ending.
It felt like leaving someone you loved still, but knew you just had to go anyway, that it was the right thing to do, the necessary thing.
And I’m struggling here now, with this blog, because there is so, so, so much more to tell. So much that went on that I’m afraid to put in writing. So much that I can’t encapsulate. And then, there’s tons that happened that I did encapsulate but I never got to post because of my broke-down computer.
And, oh, happy day! These, these you will get to see. So although the truth is that I am sitting at my Mother’s house in Boston, underneath more than three feet of snow munching popcorn and watching a year’s worth of lost reality tv, I will keep on posting posts from the last two months in Africa. Posts that I didn’t get the chance to post, and posts that I was afraid to post for one reason or another. And photos, and personals, and fashion, and more! (Though I have seriously slacked on advice and questions – so sorry.)
And, I will try to write the rest, the hard stuff, the stuff that goes on between people that you just can’t explain in words. As they say in Sierra Leone, I can try.
So what for me, now, you might ask? What does the future hold for Vanessa Without Borders?
Hold your horses. I’m getting to it.
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