Sunday, December 29, 2013
Internet Café, Kotoka International Airport (ACC), Accra, Ghana
Her flight departed at 4pm. She told her host family she ought to leave for the airport at nine. Best to make a clean cut, she thought, minimize the lame-duck period.
No use going to church only to make everyone scramble in the breathless heat upon our 12:30 return, and in the frenzy and the parting and the grinding transition between emotions deprive all involved of the cool sanctity of Sunday morning.
When things were over, she knew to get out fast, cut them off like stubs of gangrening fingers it’s easier
She reminded herself
To stop feeling as early as possible.
She didn’t even look out the windows at Community 25 as she left. Wasn’t ready to face the “is-this-the-last-time” and the “what on earth is happening” and the “what have I done, loving these people and this place” and “dammit why does my heart go all bubble gum, sticking to everybody’s goddamn shoe.” She absolutely couldn’t look at the bright red umber earth of the side street that led to Jerry’s house, the last little road before the highway. She couldn’t believe he was gone. And by that I guess she meant that she couldn’t believe she had left him.
She didn’t want to look out the windows because that would be admitting that “this is the last time.” And that would mean that jogging yesterday was the last time she would smell the blueberry bagel smell in “the bush” along the hill of the old cocoa factory, where the Togolese migrants lived who consistently bonsoir’ed Jerry, Tetteh, Albert and herself at the precise moment that the desultory blueberry smell swelled into the air.
She hadn’t even looked back at the school – it had all happened too fast, and anyway how could she forget it – as Mr. Lomotey Nartey’s car drove them past the dusty football pitch, to Away. Tetteh had been sitting in church with the other dozen or so boarding students when she’d interrupted them to briefly, ridiculously, say goodbye, her chalky lesson of ecosystems, monoculture, biodiversity, slash & burn agriculture still spidering the black board from the night before.
Tetteh had leaned his head back from the chair and given her a sort of upside-down half-hug, embarrassed maybe, to express affection in front of the older kids, or maybe still numbing himself a little from believing she really cared. Too many white people had passed through that school for eight weeks, only to disappear forever back into the glitzy western ether from which they came.
* * * * * *
Dornuki and I passed the hour-long car ride that would have otherwise been very grim and very silent by tying one last colored friendship bracelet around each others’ wrists and hanging our heads out the windows in the whipping breeze, despite Madame Emma’s amused disapproval. The worst smell in the world – the acrid sting of slow-burning trash, especially metal and electronics – coated our faces as we passed the turn-off for the city dump. But within seconds our nostrils were reeling, intoxicated by the overpowering fragrance of ripe, heavy cocoa pods – the best smell in the world – as we sped alongside the Cadbury, Nestlé and Kingsland processing plants.
“Can there be a poison so bitter
Or a sugar so sweet
As the song of the Reed?
To hear the song of the Reed
Everything you have ever known
Must be left behind.”
– Jalaluddin Rumi, from “The Song of the Reed,” the opening of the Masnavi