(Photo credit: Sara Hillstrom)
Living so close to the sun, a body moves slowly for self-preservation. Lungs expand with effort, making efforts to make less effort. Thoughts persuade the blood that we are cool and calm, we are cool and calm. Slowly is the way. We move with intention. And, we know that we are not alone.
Students polish their shoes, iron their trousers, keep their hair appropriately shaven. They wake early. They trek to school, and they submit their notebooks for marking. An absent teacher becomes a time for gossip and game-play. Afternoon comes, they scatter and put feet to paved road, stone road, dirt road. Exchanging coins for cakes, peanut flour, oil, whatever it is that was demanded of them before they left in the morning. They wash, eat, attempt homework, retire, wake. The process repeats.
The ones with bicycles strap impossible amounts of pineapples, green bananas, whatever is ripe and ready, to spokes, seat, handlebars; then strap more onto every inch of that first layer of fruit. The process repeats. The ones in the market receive the fruit and divvy it accordingly. They arrange it each morning; they store it each night. Burlap tarps unfold, from them dust shaken thunderously. The buyers know the prices as well as do the sellers. Little dialogue is exchanged. There is no need for questions when each knows all the answers. The process repeats.
Dark clouds blow in, arriving with all the speed and roaring of the trains absent from Rwanda’s hills.
We sense the signs and know what is coming, natural alarm system. Sudden wind announces itself with a whistling. Eucalyptus leaves in long bunches and purple jacaranda flowers tumble off branches and dance loudly on aluminum rooftops. Dust lifts off roadsides and into faces of unprepared passersby. The ones who cannot afford to be soaked pick up their pace, jogging, running full-out. Those who were saving 300 francs by walking throw it away at the nearest motorcycle taxi, flying toward home and shelter. They are chased by the chilling, humid wind, raced by rain.
The rain comes. It pours, pounds, patters. Town stops moving.
Collectively, unanimously, for now, town stops moving.
For now, all are united in lack of action. Brains think less. Lungs make less effort. The creaking, overburdened bicycles swerve onto patios, off the stone roads. The students stand under the thickest foliage. The teachers know that their learners will be late. They watch stories on their smart phones. The buyers take shelter; the sellers sigh.
Bodies squeeze into spaces under awnings, below balconies, at the entrances to businesses they do not frequent except for in this moment to wait. Callous sun is replaced by cool gusts, wet wind, a downpour. Like time, the rain is uncaring of our wishes, uncontrolled by our will. Finding relief in the control we do have, we put our patience into practice. Collectively, quietly, we stop moving. We wait.
We press next to another for indeterminable duration, accepted, knowing that we are not alone.
(Photo credit: Sara Hillstrom)