Saying Something

Last night, we watched It Might Get Loud and I thought about art and what it means to struggle and then about important things like sentences and how pretty a black suit can be when set against a backdrop of grass so green it verges on neon. I thought about what it meant to play a guitar so hard your fingers bleed. I have finished (another) first draft of the book. I am taking a few weeks off, to give my brain a break, to try and get some distance, before jumping into heavy revisions.

Oliver has been impossibly cute these days. In the mornings, while Jesse showers I sit on our sink so we can chat before he rushes off to work. Oliver picked up on the pattern and now sits on my lap. Gracie sacks out on our bed (which is nice when I’ve already made it up, but poses a dilemma if I haven’t—do I move her to make it up? Oh, but she’s just so comfy!). I sit between our sinks, and Oliver sits on my lap, and Jesse showers, and we talk. The other day, I was getting ready to go somewhere and was putting on makeup while talking to Jesse. Oliver sat on the sink and meowed at me until I finished and sat down, at which point he quickly climbed into my lap and immediately began purring and licking his paws. He’s on my lap right now, as I type this. Making up for the fact that he was on the kitchen sink this morning, checking out the pan I’d left soaking from last night’s dinner, trying to see if he could find any morsels to supplement his diet-food breakfast.

I dreamed of Congo again last night. Jesse was there too, and we were eating Mama Lily’s cooking and I was showing him how to brush his teeth without using the tap water. Yesterday, I was thinking about electricity, how I have it whenever I want it, how it felt to sit around a living room with flashlights and candles, talking in the dark, about candlelit dinners that were born out of necessity rather than romanticism. Only ten percent of Congo’s population has access to electricity. That kind of blows my mind. And even the ones who do… Every day, we lost power at least once, and our compound had a generator. Bishop goes for days without power. He loves ice-cold soda. He apologizes to us when he has to serve it warm. Some days, it’s not war, it’s not rape, it’s just this—it’s just Bishop, looking embarrassed, handing his guests bottles of warm soda.

For days, I’ve been trying to write about Haiti, but it keeps coming out Congo. I have a friend who is tirelessly campaigning to get tents to Haiti, and she asked me to blog about it, and I’ve tried, I really have. I care about Haiti, and we’ve given money to relief efforts. But it’s not the same. Congo is more than a cause now. But what is it? I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. All I know is that I can’t write to you about Haiti right now, not with any real conviction or passion, you’d see right through me, you’d know my heart was saying Congo all that time, and while it makes me feel a little heartless, a little guilty, not to have enough room for both, what I really believe is that everyone has their Congo, whether they’ve found it yet or not, and we’ve all got to latch on and fight like mad to do something.

And there it is, the man who plays guitar until his fingers bleed, because he’s trying to say something. Something about life and about art, the way we couldn’t paint without dark colors, and there is a beauty about Bishop and his bottles of Coke and Sprite and Fanta that I will never find the words for. But I will not stop trying.

(If Haiti is your Congo, here’s one way to help: The rainy season starts soon.)

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