I sat, silent, amazed at the beauty. I have been overwhelmed by the grandeur of this island nation, the beaches and the mountains and the sky. I have been shocked by the contrast between rich and poor and with the rush of hunger and anger. But this…
Last night. 54 volunteers were told that they are going home. That we are going home. That the plane is coming at 5 am. They yelled and sobbed and laughed and drank and danced. I wanted to be sober, untired for each moment. It has been long since I wished I was born with no eyelids, with no need to sleep. The moments here shine like dew in moonlight and I would not miss a single one. And so I stood apart, took vigil.
I gave myself excuses. There are rebels in the hills, this city is under threat and we are locked down. What if they come, who will speak? Who will be able to? But my excuses sound hollow, they taste like bitter copper and cannot stand. I am grown old in age and protectiveness. This is my group. And so I watch as the selves my brothers and sisters put away 10 months ago came out. The light we have to shield in the presence of another culture poured forth and it is so bright. There is a scene in a play called Our Town by Thorton Wilder. Our young woman Emily has died and is seeing the life she left behind. She asks the stage manager who stands aloof in his omniscience. “Does anyone realize life as they live it? Every, Every minute?” and he answers, “Saints and poets maybe. . .they do some.”
I watched as people cried and clung to each other one minute only to spin and stomp and scream the next. I wonder if they know how beautiful that connection is. How miraculous it was for them to come, unknowing here, to give up all just to try and help. No one can see that from the inside, leave it to hind sight and those without. I dipped in just a little, too greedy to resist. But I am too far gone, and see the shadow as well as the lights. I watched the exits and followed those who wandered out, making sure they made it to their rooms instead of braving the beach or staggering out on the forbidden roads. I provided a shoulder for those inconsolable and a bag for the angry to punch. I walk with them and remind them to lock their doors.
Sometime during the night one of my sisters staggered up to me. She has put on lipstick. Her hair is conditioned and smells of apples. She is a person I met almost a year ago but she is more. I remember that we walked once skipping stones into the water and she told me of her dreams, her wish to help. I remember her so angry that she slammed her fist into a wall and crumpled at the knees from the pain. I remember her dancing with children and how she smiled. “Do you think they know how much we love them?” She asked leaning on the table heavily. This is an outsider question and tonight I am an outsider. I shrugged. “Those fucks” she swore turning on an instant shaking the table “Those fucks!” I hugged her- I connected again. I held her up for a long moment as she breathed into my chest.
More people found me; sought me out in my sober corner. Raised a glass and told me the truths that people drunk on emotion cannot hide. They say that I helped them, that I was there for them. They remind me what I keep forgetting. That I am here. I am a part of this, brother, volunteer, author, mentor, liar, jerk. I am a part of something larger than myself. And I wish I had told my sister. I think. No. I believe that they do.