Monday, June 15, 2009

The last chicken

You are definitely roasting your last chicken of the season, escaping the sweltering kitchen for the porch. It was a totally genius move, putting this mattress out here, affording the laziest twilight possible, like Roxy Carmichael lying in bed with her TV tipped to its side. The dirt-spackled mango tree curbs the potentially nauseating romanticism of this scene: potted hibiscus, porch, glass of water. The flies also help.
It took the whole year to figure out how to enjoy ex-pat 101, and oh, the excuses you’re going to have to make when you don’t really feel like reentering whatever it is that is awaiting you in the fabulous toubabudu, (aka Babylon). “I like hassles,” you once told Cousin Jay, who, of all people, needed no explanation for why you wanted to keep living in Africa, as if the notion of restaurants with monkey sticks* at the tables made poetic sense enough to justify the exile. There’s a restlessness you associate with Awesome America, a constant wall of red tape and telemarketers between you and simple peace. You can get thrilled, taught, fed, entertained, excited, but you can’t ever take a break. But repose in Gambia is inherent, automatic, assumed. If it all seems frighteningly catatonic, the karmic equivalent of an oxycodone habit, then it’s probably not your cup of ataya. All-night mosques and abrasive touts will no doubt stymie your mellow, however, and you might discover a sense of relief in the concreteness of your limitations and a sweetness in the lifestyle you’ve cobbled together despite your finite facilities.
Your little intercontinental tug-of-heartsting-war isn’t an exciting story. It’s probably mainly the result of perceived inabilities in one land and surprising aptitude in another. (Yes, anyone can learn to take naps in the afternoon, consider it confessed.) Goats will eat the entire weeks’ garbage outside your gate in the time it takes your electricity and water to come back on so you can take a shower, but in the meantime you are gloriously gooey from your second attempt at banana cake ala chez Colleen’s overproductive fruit farm. And here come the mangos by the way. So this is your home, for whatever lucky reason, though the blistering June heat makes you glad for the holiday to your past, for the friends/sushi/family/theaters/intellectual community/roads/bandwidth, but you’ll still be pining for the fruit from the dirty mango tree you missed the chance to gobble down while you were gone.

*These are sticks for scaring away, not necessarily beating, gate-crashing primates at up-country rustic dining establishments.