Thursday, May 17, 2012

perilously close

Our first year here we were looking out the window. This was before a block of apartment buildings went up last summer and before paved roads started setting the real boundaries of the neighborhood. A stretch of sand was the afternoon place to meet for a game of cricket or soccer before going home; we'd watch the men show up in twos or threes and take teams, begin playing. The men were mostly good about not taking up space on the tracks cutting through the desert, or moving out of the way when a car approached. One evening near dark, a gigantic pickup truck tore across the sand. It didn't stick to the bumping curving tracks. It ripped straight for a game of cricket and zigzagged after a man who ran and leaped and narrowly escaped.

I started crying. I wanted to know where we'd moved to that people here would make a sport of chasing down another man.

I just got home with the kids. We parked near the gate instead of across the street in a sand lot. I opened my door just as a white car sped behind me on the road and swerved toward two men carrying bags of groceries from the bakala. The men were maybe ten yards from me and ran toward my vehicle. The white car slammed on its breaks and made a quick turn, then revved toward us. I thought Okay, they hit us broadside, I think we'll be okay. The white car couldn't gain enough speed to kill us in the car, but the two men, the two men were standing in front of Grant's door. Maybe they thought it was the safer bet, to be near a parked car instead of too open. The two men hopped and dodged and in the moment before the white car swerved to miss them and us, I saw the driver laughing.

One of the men pirouetted and I saw him, his arms out, each hand holding a plastic bag of onions or flatbread. He was laughing too. Maybe a nervous reaction to the last minute swerve, to living the afternoon. Maybe a play at the charade of this really being a game called Car Chase Me.

When we moved to Kuwait, a few people said to us that the Middle East is safe. Such a safe place to raise kids. Such a safe place because the laws are strict and the punishments are hard. I moved to Kuwait expecting a reverence for civility and a respect for kindness to others. That is here, but not in all corners, same as any other country in this world. I get angry hearing about men who aren't given water in the heat. I get angry hearing about maids who try to kill themselves, falling from windows or dashing into traffic, asking that they please not be sent back to the house where they lived. I get angry watching a young driver laugh at the fear he spikes in two men on their way to cook lunch.

Sometimes I hold that anger and I think What am I supposed to do with this? Really. The temptation is to think that it wouldn't be like this in _____ or _____. No one there would speed through a cricket game and swerve to hit men playing an afternoon game. But someone there would do something else to another person and that would spark anger and sorrow in me.

When the white car was gone, I opened my door. The two men had started walking again. I called after them. "I'm sorry," I said, "I'm sorry that happened to you." They shook their heads. They didn't understand. "Are you okay?" I said and the one man nodded. They turned and walked away. Maybe they are okay, but I am not. I am holding a lump of anger and wondering what I am supposed to do with it.