I went mining in my foot earlier this evening. I think tweezers were called for, but I chose the more rugged, traditional blade. Now on the back porch, laptop in lap and clean water in hand, I can finally put two thoughts together without the distraction of infection’s signature throb. The red, setting sun is turning the ointment globbed on my foot into a sangrial re-run of just twenty minutes ago when Knut poked his head in to look at my scarlet foot before trotting off in his own unaffected way. I’m afraid living with me the last several years has undermined his faith in our specie’s competence.
By the way, it’s good I can string thoughts together again. The Peace Corps gave me plenty to think about earlier when they sent me my official Close of Service date, July 30th—exactly three months from today. I have a stylish escape planned from Sierra Leone via Cairo, Luxor, Giza, Bangkok, Ko Phi Phi, Patayeh, and Seattle, but for now I’m more concerned about how to hold the door open for my replacement volunteer—whoever that might be—while I bow out. I have vague sketches in my mind of presenting a cola nut to the paramount chief, end-of-year events with the school staff, and giving away everything in my house that won’t fit in the two bags I’m taking stateside. Three months is a while still, but I had sad-stirrings when I picked up my little friend, Sunday, and thought about three months and one day from now.
I’m sure I’ll be ready to escape from the rainy season when the time comes though. Signs that the dry season is crackling its last are too obvious to miss. The mangos dripping off every tree are burning orange like feeble imitations of autumn leaves, and even tonight as the evening’s slow glow dies to my left, the phrenetic lightning of a faux-storm is flashing on my right. The rainy season always sends out feeler clouds, like a pipe gurgling before it spews out that first dusty water.
My nights have been hacked-up episodes of Masterpiece Theater lately with all the dreams the warm weather has been giving me. The fruit bats are having fun with my sleep too, knocking mangos down from the higher branches so the snik-snik-snap-womp of their falling wakes me up from old college classes, drags me away from flirtatious encounters on a sunset bridge, or interrupts a rehearsal for a musical I’ve somehow ended up in. I can’t complain too much though, I ran into one of the volunteers from my staj recently who was in Freetown solely to escape his own sleeping problems-
“Hey, what’s up? What brings you to town?”
“Oh… just had to get out of the village. Having problems with the goats.”
“…ya say, goats?”
Apparently the goats in that village engage in extreme nocturnal copulation just outside the volunteer’s bedroom, preventing any kind of meaningful sleep. Pens were built. Town meetings were held. Still the goats loudly found ways to carry out their amorous campaign of sleep-depravation. Apparently one can only take so much of a goat sex soundtrack before breaking. Move over Waterboarding.
So because nothing more normal than raucous goat romping has happened lately, let me explain how I battled with a beast the other night:
I mean, there I’m laying, my aforementioned cacophony of dreams keeping me busy, when I’m quite literally clawed out of slumber by Satan’s lap pet. “Is that innumerable sulfurous stalagmites falling on my shoulder?” Is my waking thought. “Ohhhh… good. I found the Headless Horseman’s gruesome head.” Is my next thought after clicking on the flashlight I always sleep with, hand-ready.
Cross a carnivorous squirrel with a dead rat, give it the face of a road-killed hampster, glue tufts of fur on its whip-like tail, then paint discordant gray and white patterns over its rotted body—this is my foe. Are those clusters of cutlasses? No, just hell’s teeth.
The ensuing battle is on-par with the fabled bear/shark showdown the world will never be fortunate enough to behold. Thankfully I sleep in the full nude, so I’m already wearing my Battle Suit. The Beast’s hiss is answered by my war shrieks, it’s infinite, boring eyes deflected by the pillow I hold up as a shield.
Not being able to climb sheer walls, I remain ground-bound as the Beast leaps and postures, dodging my hurled shorts and t-shirts I had the foresight to leave laying on my bedroom floor. Scrambling away from my onslaught, the Beast was fortunate enough to find an open window and escape, giving one last toxic scream before disappearing into the dark maw of night. “Victory?” is the trembling thought that eventually lulls me back into a fitful sleep.
And because the shower (I try every now and then) just opened up downstairs in the hostel, let me conclude this post with something completely unrelated. These are some wise words my principal used to advise students at a recent morning assembly:
“If you only knew the meaning of the word ‘Marriage’ you would never desire this! Be you ugly or handsome, marriage only makes you become more ugly. You are forcing your face into unnatural positions and beating on it trying to figure out where you will find food to feed your children, where you will find money to fill your debts. And then from all this worrying you get Hypertension! And then you die! This marriage has killed you.”
Not that getting married and having a pair of goats tied up outside was ever an end-dream for my life, but I’m glad I’m learning what pitfalls to avoid when I go home in three months.