“Are you afraid to walk?”

Her expression betrayed a little amusement. Not quite mocking, it was friendlier than that.

“We walked before,” I countered, “but we were told that we shouldn’t.”

She spoke quickly to a man sitting on a ledge at the Cape Hotel, where we’d spent the evening eating and using the internet, and he got up and began walking down the hill towards the street. “He’ll take  you,” she said, still smiling as she walked toward the reception area. Then, as if she’d thought better of it, she turned and invited, “or you could wait and walk with me, I live near there.”

“That would be wonderful,” I beamed back at her.

Another quick exchange with the first man and he returned  to what he had been doing before, while I waited for her to return.

As we walked to the convent through the poorly lit street, people stopped to greet Sis Marta and she stopped to exchange pleasantries as she passed. And between greetings she shared some a little about herself.

Her name is Marta, Sis Marta, and she works at the hotel. Dressed from head to foot in white, I couldn’t gauge her age at first. She could have been my peer.  But she was older, she buried a 26-year-old daughter in early October. Her third and final daughter laid to rest in addition to one son. This weekend marked three months since her daughter’s passing – the reason for her white clothes. She is left with only three sons now, one far away in America.

We were quiet for a few meters. Sis Marta gently pulling me toward her as UN trucks barreled through the darkness with no regard for other cars or pedestrians. Motorcycles whined as they passed us intermittently. We walked, at a moderate pace, falling in and out of small circles light as we passed under the few streetlights.

It seemed lighter somehow. And shorter. The walk, in general, was just different than our previous furtive trek home. Last time, screaming foreign in the speed of our gait, our day packs slung over our shoulders, our skin and hair, last time we knew we were conspicuous, potential targets. Our “otherness” screamed NGO, yells money, hints opportunity.

But Sis Marta was home. And with her, we were privy to belonging; invited into the bubble of protection that ex pat status or money can’t buy.

Sis Marta left us at the convent gate with her phone number and instructions on how to find her home a block or so away. “Everyone on this street knows me,” she said, “just ask for me and they can show you my house.” And then she walked on, the light and life of the street trailing in her wake.

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1 Comment on walking home

  1. LaDawn says:

    I “see” what you are saying.

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