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.


Anonymous said...

I rarely let the kids ride bikes around the loop, because there are some guys who like everyone to know how fast their big trucks can go around the curves, and how hard and fast they can slam on the brakes. We ride the wide, paved shoulder of the county highway to get out of the subdivision, and most drivers will go into the other lane, rather than give up their law-given right to maintain 45mph for a few seconds. Once I saw a lady nearly run another car off the road on a curve because she wouldn't slow down a bit for bikes riding the shoulder. It is stupid and it makes me angry. Cement mixers are the worst.

Kate said...


That is horrifying. I am so glad that you guys are safe. What a cruel game.

There have been a few stories in the news here lately that I cannot shake from my mind. People allowing others to do awful, awful things to their children. Too horrible to even type. You wonder how people can do such damaging things to each other.

Closer to home, yesterday we were at the park cheerfully watching trains and drawing on the tennis court with chalk. A group of very potty mouth 13 (or so) year old boys come up and start playing basketball. I hear them bragging about selling drugs. And I don't think they are joking. I wonder what kinds of things these young boys have already been exposed to, what their families are doing all around us that would allow children so young to have access to this kind of stuff. You know they have older, much more dangerous, people around them doing who knows what. We promptly went over to the swings, far away from the basketball court.

So, sometimes, no matter where you are, you just have to try to keep your kids away from these influences the best you can and if you are in an uncontrollable situation just pray and make peace that it may be your time to go and you can't do anything about it.

I'm glad you guys are ok. Hope the rest of the week is much less eventful. <3 Kate

Steve said...

I love the update here. Very personal, and shows your fears, angers, concerns. No words of wisdom, but glad you shared.

Lets us know a little bit about you. :)

As nice as the world has progressed with cars, and nice suits, and cute outfits, and whatnot, we as people have not evolved much. We love some people, and get angry and sometimes hate others who seem to be doing horrible things.

I don't do lazy well, and it makes me angry with just some people who live in my house.

Best of luck and thanks again. :)

Monica said...

I always felt this sense of injustice, and you're right, of course you're right that these types of things happen everywhere. I think in the end I just could not live with it happening in front of my face. The overt, blatant racism and classism was too much for me to stomach. I know you know, I just felt the need to say it again as I felt the bile rise in my throat after reading your account.

I always felt the ONE thing I could REALLY do was to influence my students, particularly Kuwaiti boys, by being very blunt and upfront about the way we as civilized, learned human beings treat those who are less fortunate than ourselves. I disagree with PP about the fact that we as humans haven't evolved very well. I think there are many, MANY of us who know the right ways to treat others and do so on a regular basis, and we must be a force for good in our corners, wherever they are. I would love to read more writing from you. I know you're busy, but... :)

christy said...

From my chair here on the edge of Amish country...I have to say I do think Kuwait is worse. Not because nothing bad happens here, but because fewer bad things happen here, and the guilt associated drives them into the darkness. In Mahboula, the evil is thick even in the afternoon sun.

I'm interested in what you learn about the anger. How to handle the pain of seeing terrible things? That's a question I've been mulling for months.