How are you? How is your new wife? I saw the pictures on Facebook. She is very beautiful. May God bless your marriage, and bless you with many children. How is the family? How is dad’s foot? Mom did not sound so good last time we talked. I hope she is feeling better today. I sent some pills with Fallah, I hope you have received them. If not, please call his brother. Fallah should have arrived by now.
I’m doing well. Well, usual. I’m tired right now, but promise is promise. I actually like this. I like the discipline. The sense of obligation makes me ignore how tired I am, or the lack of time I usually complain about. Besides I feel like writing to you is the only literary thing I get to do these days. Remember how much I liked reading? Well, I don’t remember the last time I picked up a book. After working 12 hours straight all I want to do is plop myself in front of the television and forget. Only biology pulls me up, and to the kitchen. After that, it’s off to bed—few hours of sleep and off to do it all over again. I have only two pairs of clothing, my work cloths and pajamas. I trade one for the other, every 6am and 10pm.
Today Syndikho got home earlier than usual. And with him in the apartment no one can stay sleeping. That is nothing new. But today was especially hard. He lost his job. At 2am his bosses shut down the machines! They gave all the workers a piece of paper that told them where they could pick up their last checks, and asked them to get all their belongings. Then they had police escort them outside to their cars and off the company property. That’s how it is these days. Most of the companies that hire people like my roommates and I are moving to Asia. Those that stay are falling off like coconuts in a hurricane. What are we supposed to do next, move to China? China is too far from Africa and all my eggs are in this basket. I’m tired. We are all tired, tired of running with no end in sight.
Poor Syndikho, he and some co-workers decided to postpone facing the world. They stopped by the first bar sign they saw and took their rage out on liquor bottles. When he finally got home, we couldn’t tell if he was crying or laughing, but he was hurting. And not even because he had his head in the toilet. All he kept saying was “Seven years. Seven years, man!” like we were not there through it all. “What am I going to tell my wife when I call her?”
I wished I could console him, kept him company longer. But the clock was ticking and I had to catch the bus before we cried the same tears. I have been in this country for 15 years and I still feel like a transient. I’m afraid to hold on tightly to anything for fear that as soon as I do, it’d slip away.
So I take the bus. I sit in the back and look outside the window. I dream of tomorrow when I can be assured of something, anything, as long as it’d help me believe that when I wake up in the morning the sky would still be there. But they tell me there are no guarantees in life. At first I didn’t believe them. But what if they are right? What are we really fighting for? If there are no finish lines why are we sprinting so fast?
The funny thing is, when I sat down today, I didn’t intend to tell you about Syndikho or the fear we keep between phone calls and fieldtrips to Western Union. Those are the secrets we forget when we hear your voices, when you say we are lucky and we say yes we are. I wanted to tell you about work, how on the way an old woman asked me to smile and I just bared by teeth to her; how I cut up nearly one thousand pieces of chicken today; how I nearly sliced my finger, but my hands were so cold the knife couldn’t break the skin. Please tell your new wife not to prepare any chicken dishes for me when we meet. All I want is goat from the farmers, and fresh fish every evening when the fishermen return from the river.
Ok, enough of that. Let me get to bed. Give my best to everyone.