Wait. I’m not supposed to be here, I think to myself as I place a jar of red wine on my naked stomach. Red wine was a distant luxury something I thought I would be enjoying further along on my journey. A hot bath hadn’t even been conceived as possible for the next 6 months or so. So then how was it possible that I was immersed in a scorching hot bath and with wine?
“I think it’s best if you stay at your mom’s friend’s house just until we get the test results back. And after all that your family has been through this week…..” The doctor closed his eyes and put his head in his hands.
I watched my stomach rise an inch above the water and then exhaled. Deeply. It sank again, bringing the jar with it. My once cold red wine, becoming warmer. I am currently on solitary confinement until my TB tests come back negative.
Last night after the funeral I crawled into my mom’s guest bed with my black dress, black tights, down jacket and scarf still wrapped around my neck. I pulled two huge down comforters up to my chin and drifted asleep thinking of the last 48 hours.
The night before I left Borneo I sat on the floor of my friends’ long house celebrating the birthday of Holly, his 5-year-old daughter. The entire staff at ASRI -the NGO I was working with- ate rice and dishes full of roasted, boiled and baked pig. We laughed and toasted the week we just experienced and joked about being so tired we couldn't eat; 90 or so patients in 4 days had received free cataract surgeries. I had been living in Sukadana and working as a photographer and writer documenting the various projects that were taking place in an area with an incredibly high illegal logging rate.
I was on the go the moment I got there. On the back of a motorcycle trying to locate illegal logging sites. On the floor of the house of many widows, while I drank hand-picked, hand roasted and hand crushed coffee, nodding politely and quickly taking the occasional candid portraits of her and her family. I was researching the impacts of environmental devastation on human health and the emotional and psychological impacts on a society by being disconnected from nature and their cultural heritage. I had many more islands and many more months in the field. There was no moment to pause. And that was fine with me. I wanted to keep going. I wanted never to stop.
"Can you believe what happened in Connecticut?" I swallowed my bite and gazed at the wooden floors extended beyond my crossed legs. "What happened in Connecticut?" I asked and why did my Indonesian friend know about something that happened in Connecticut I wondered. "And how do you know about whatever happened?" I nervously laughed. "We saw it on the TV in Katapang this morning. A shootings at a school in Sandyhook. I think 20 children have died it’s horrible Katie."
I sat there for a minute playing with my food with my hands. Katapang was a town two hours away and she probably saw it on the news in one of the TV's sitting in a local warong, a place to get a quick bite to eat. Sandyhook was where my brother in-laws sister lives. I got up from the floor and walked to the front of the house. I leaned over the side railing and stared at the rain hitting dozens of flip flops piled up one against each other on the wood slotted boardwalk sitting in the swamp. I quickly dialed out of country and to my moms house. Nothing could have prepared me for what she said next.
My sister and brother- in- law lost their nephew in the recent tragedy here in Sandyhook, CT. I've traveled for four days. From Borneo to Connecticut. Last night I sat snuggled in bed with my 2-year-old nephew reading him books before we both went to sleep. "Quinn, what color is that?" I asked. He looked up at me smiled and said, "Purple!" "That's not purple! You know that color! What color is that?" And his giggles exploded across the room as I pulled him in closer and giggled with him. My mom peered her head around the door and gave me her stern eyes, "I know mom. I'll calm him down. Ten minutes. He'll be in bed. Promise." And she said, "Right," whiling laughing with us. When she left the room I pointed to the color yellow and asked Quinn again, "Bug, what color is that?" I've called him Bug since he was born. "Purple!" He said filling the room again. I've experienced a lot of joy in my last chaotic three months of travel but nothing matches the joy I felt the other night with my nephew leaning his warm body into mine as we shared inhibited laughter.
I still can't believe I am home wrapped up in blankets this morning with the pre sunrise sky as dark as night around me. But I am home. And there is nowhere else I'd rather be.
Scarlett got up and spoke at her sons’ funeral. “Please do this for me. The next time you have an angry thought please replace it with a loving one. We cannot fight anger with anger. We must fight anger with love. This happened because of anger in someone’s mind. We must replace it with love in our hearts.”
I don't know what happens next. A friend had this to say in a letter she wrote to me and one I opened on my flight home, "Why ruin a perfectly good question with an answer?" But here is my shortened answer to a longer more thoughtful response. My journey, her journey and your journey has not ended, nor has it just begun. It continues.
I want to say wait. Stop. Hold on one second and let me catch my breath. I know I’m not the only one who wants this.