I close my eyes and feel the unbelievable heat; we're going no more than forty miles an hour and the desert sun, riding on a tide of the wind, rolls in from a broken window; I'm sitting in the undesirable seat. Climbing up the steps, forty pairs of eyes met mine, that single seat staring at me from the back of the bus. My mouth widened to a grin and I clumsily stepped over passengers, seat by seat, nodding, offering small acknowledgements: “Hi, hello, good morning, how is everyone, sorry for the inconvenience, excuse me, thank you …” Finally, settled into my seat, a seemingly detachable and well-worn cushion, I looked up to find a gaping hole in the floral paneling above. Such misfortune could only come from African speed bumps and longer necks; I thank my mother for smaller genes and the engine rattles to life; I relax into the charm of my Bolga bus. It feels good to come home.
Familiar landscape greets wandering eyes – red dirt, tan grass cracked and worn from sun; barren and beautiful, leafless trees stretch out from the ground like lightning, they are limbs emerging from slumber. It's been six months, but feels as though no time has passed. The same townships, the same monuments, the same colorful houses with roofs of thatch and tin; square walls, round walls, mud and brick and dung. The same sun, moving through skies of lingering Harmattan sand, will soon be perfect for sunset trysts with naked eye - a muted orb painted colors of fire, isolated and hanging as if from string, framed in unchanging grey until it sinks beneath the flat horizon. Those same sands, sometimes floating, sometimes whipping, through the windows of our bus quickly dry my skin and knot my hair, flurried greetings that form instant wrinkles where my smile dances again and again.
Even for a weekend, returning home somehow feels refreshing, rejuvenating; a lightness descends. I’m amazed to find I am heavy enough to touch the ground; I fully expect to leave the earth and meet clouds above. Distance and time heal, release tension and resolve shadow like a light in the dark. I am truly happy, completely unburdened despite recent tribulations; I want to laugh and dance and hug everyone in sight. Maybe they won't remember me, maybe they won’t care, but that doesn't matter – I’m home; I remember; I care.
It’s easy to forget how important these moments become. There was always something to smile about at the end of the day; triumphant returns solidify old truths. Heat isn't unbearable because it makes the breeze sweeter; children are simply children, not enemies – curiosities are reasonable, my bright skin baking under the light of our great African sun. I forgot the moon could get so bright, making flash lights unnecessary; I forgot the sky could be clean enough that thousands of lights are visible from millions of miles and years away. I am never millions of miles or years away and my return is triumphant; I feel free.
I am home.