Wednesday, June 3, 2009

things that could go wrong

Last night was the third night in a row that a mosquito enjoyed a feast on the wrong side of our net. I do not know how that happens. Yesterday I awoke to a welt on my forehead. So last night after I felt tiny stings dotting my arm, we turned the lamp on and checked every inch of the net. I killed one, an empty. No blood. But I had bites up my right arm. That meant there was another, the one who got away. In the middle of the night, silly ideas seem reasonable.

"Look under the bed," I said, "Maybe they're breeding. See if there is any shallow water."

Justin looked at me - a split second of are you serious? - and then dangled his torso over the edge of the bed. He sat up. "In that corner," he pointed to my side at the foot of the bed, "the net does not touch the floor."

"Oh, come on." I had half expected a report of a piano bar with a card game.

He shrugged. He rolled over and turned the lamp off, fell asleep.

I laid awake. I closed my eyes and thought of all the things that could go wrong. In the middle of the night, these are fun things to count.

Yesterday the shipping company came to our apartment to weigh and measure seven boxes of our stuff. We wrote my parents' address and phone number on the tops and sides of the boxes. We wrote "O'Hare" on them. I made sure that Jose was going to affix proper labels so that the boxes go to O'Hare first. We'll pick them up there when our flight arrives. I didn't want to be charged hundreds of dollars more for an accidental delivery to Wisconsin. My parents' address and phone number is probably futile anyway since if any box is actually lost it likely isn't lost at all and no call will be made and all our stuff will make its way to a side street market. Then a man smaller than me maneuvered all the crates onto the truck while I watched.

So I thought about our stuff. I thought about Justin's bike, prayed that it wouldn't get mangled in the shipping. It's an expensive mountain bike but more than that, on his rides he's explored a lot of Colombia most people never see if they just visit. In a taxi out to Marty and Ilsa's last Saturday, Justin pointed to various hills and distand cell towers. "I've been there. And there," he said. So the bike is a vehicle of memories too.

And I thought about dengue fever, fingering the fresh welts on my arms and shoulders, the bump on my forehead. I used to have this view of God as this entity who would pile tragedy on my life and sit back to see if I could take it like Job. I used to think of what I didn't want and then figured that was probably what God wanted for me. Rather bleak. Missing promise. So last night I laid there thinking Of course I'll get dengue. What else could possibly happen in my last two weeks in Colombia. Oh yeah, we could get mugged. That hasn't happened yet either.

Although our apartment has been robbed. Maybe that counts.

So I laid there listening to my husband and daughter breathe deep sleep breaths and I had this bleak vision of God and my life and a list of unknowns as long as my welted arm. And then I remembered something Justin and I talked about while I was fixing dinner.

"I hope our stuff gets there," I said.

"Yeah." Justin was holding Claire, getting ready to give her a bath.

"You know, I was just looking for that red bowl when I remembered it was packed, gone," I said, "And I just realized I can live without it."

"I was thinking about that too," Justin said, "while they were loading the truck. What we can live without."

We talked about keeping a loose hold on stuff. Maybe it's this lifestyle - moving and traveling internationally - that we can see our family enjoying for another five or ten years that brings the understanding: it's just stuff. Boxes get lost. Luggage doesn't arrive. We can live with that. Two years ago when we were preparing to move abroad, I felt almost euphoric dropping box after box at Goodwill. I felt lighter. But it's easy to get heavy again. That's when you have to load all your stuff on a truck and sign a paper Jose gives you and realize that if you never see those boxes again, it'll be okay.

Our conversation dived a little darker. Transatlantic flights disappear. We talked about the Air France tragedy and all the grieving families. What we'd do if we were on a plane about to crash. I know that sounds morbid. It is. But here is what we know now: if we were together knowing our last moments, we'd look at each other and love each other and hold our baby and let this life go. We cannot hold this frail life we have too tightly. It is a gift and, for our time, one to enjoy.

And when I finally fell asleep, it was knowing that.


DC Running Mama said...

I think about death often. My husband thinks it's morbid, but I think it only makes you more aware and alive. And, it is just stuff...but there are some things that really would pain me if I lost them...all of the notes I have collected that my grandparents have written me through the years, pictures of trips and friends and memories, and, well, I don't really care about the rest! wierd thing I do...I always bring my running shoes and a running outfit...because that is the ONE thing that I really care about in my suitcase!

Clare said...

i've thought about death a lot more since having a baby. i think i could do a 101 list about THAT...
bittersweet getting ready to leave, i bet! can't wait to hear how you like kuwait!