Last Friday I was at work, wiping down tables sticky with spilled milk and using a rag to brush off constellations of crumbs from the same cafeteria pizza they’ve been serving in public schools for the last twenty years at least. They’ve assigned me to lunch duty, which I knew they would, even if it’s not in the job description. I don’t mind. It makes the day go faster. This is life now.
Rewind to one year earlier when I was curled up on the most uncomfortable airport chairs imaginable trying to get some sleep in Madrid on an 18-hour layover. There are no cushions on the chairs, and the arm rests are fixed in place and close enough to the seats to render me the singular option of to contorting around them, determined to reach some kind of unconsciousness. I know that my music player only has a few minutes of battery left, so in addition to my Spanish sleeping arrangements, I know if I don’t drop off the edge soon before the music dies, the brain’s autopilot will be discontinued and I’ll start thinking myself in circles again.
Rewind again to the day before. I’m sobbing in a very ugly manner on a train somewhere between Rabat and Casablanca. I’ve just said goodbye to all the friends I thought I would have years to get to know. One good friend saw me off at the train station. The rest had either left already, or they were eating their last breakfast in the unusually fancy hotel we had been housed in for the past week. We had both done our best to make light of the situation, but the tears came anyway. A nice Moroccan man gave us each a dirham as a souvenir of our time. I already had a few left, not to mention several thousand CFA, but I was grateful nonetheless. I’m holding on to that dirham looking at the countryside tumble past. My luggage is sitting on the seat between me and the window, so I can make it appear as though all that land is falling interminably into my suitcase. I’ve become very good at packing.
Rewind one last time to the week before when we all find out we will be forced to leave West Africa after developing a love and reverence for the land and its people in only seven months.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. wrote a book about becoming unstuck in time, a concept which, since I read about it, has stuck with me ever after. While separated by some distance, all these moments are somehow part of the same simultaneous crash.
The word “evacuation” is finally and definitively delivered from our friend Tondi’s mouth. Crash.
The attendant comes to punch my ticket and help me figure out how to get to the airport, even though I’m in such a state I can hardly remember a word of French. Crash.
I wake from an unsatisfactory twenty minute sleep and notice that my drooling has left a mark on my new Moroccan bag which remains there to this day. Crash.
A bell rings to call in the next grade for lunch at a school in a town where I never thought I’d be in a profession where I never wanted to be. Crash.
Or perhaps more appropriately, ding.
Today being the 22nd of January means my Peace Corps service ended over a year ago and I am once again a listless drifter with no particular goal in sight. I will remain this way until April at least, when I will hopefully be accepted into a French work program. My primary mission now is to survive the next three months of feeling worthless. Hopefully writing about things will help. All the details will come to light eventually.
For now I’ll just be treading in some mighty metaphorical waters.