More than half a year ago now, I came first to this new city. My seventh capital of the world to live or study in, I think? It is strange to me, that a year ago I came with my brother on a trip, thinking perhaps he would find work here after graduation. It never occurred to me that I would come, instead. Now I walk past every day where I celebrated my birthday last year in novelty.
How is it that a person can love so much in this world, carry so much heart for so many very different places and people?
I am so exquisitely happy in this place. Hearing every day languages of home. Walking beneath buildings of familial architecture, stepping once more into the paths of people whom as global expatriates you know your whole life. The fashion, the art, the galas.
But I find my heart equally close to breaking as to bursting, from sorrow as from happiness. Only the sorrow is so much more difficult to share or even visualize. It is sometimes hard to embrace the wonder of my life right now when worlds I know feel like they are on the brink of chaos. Or have already fallen into it, fighting and despair and confusion. When I am reminded of how fragile life is, when countries can implode overnight. When places which (or who, because to me they feel like people, like family) have bled into my being are bleeding again and I am far away but the blood calls. Countries to my south, countries to my east, all north to my heart.
And then you add the single stories. The rape of every person woman man child, rape of country. The kinds of rape and violation that make you sick in public on the floor and it is nothing, your waste is nothing, to what you responded to, what is happening. Even stories outside of my countries, stories like the kidnapping of hundreds of girls, enslaved as wives (is that at best or at worst?) and taken away from education that they risked everything for. I just risk debt for my education.
I went and toured an opera studio workshop here in DC, and one room was full of clothes, racks of shirts and dresses and pants hung and freshly laundered. Shelves of shoes, boxes of props. Clean and waiting full of promise to be stepped into and I stepped instead back into my mind, my memories; to walking through Birkenau and Auschwitz with the rooms of piles of shoes piles of hair and glasses and suitcases labeled with names of the dead. Of the people I met who survived, who walked like ghosts the streets of the cities I grew up on and stopped me to tell their story, this old story over and again. I stepped instead of into opera, the schoolhouse in the countryside of Rwanda, where I studied, where I witnessed room after room of white limed shattered limb fractured bone bodies. I think there were some 17 rooms I counted but I tried not to remember that too specifically. And then a big room there, with clotheslines every which way, draping ornamentally, awfully, bloodied torn bulleted clothes of women men and children. But I kept on touring an opera studio, which was wonderful and amazing in itself! and reveling in the fine arts instead. Instead of what?
I think of these worlds I love. I think of how fragile ideas are and how hard we have to fight for them and sometimes against them, of how much is often sacrificed and how only sometimes we come out whole.
I work hard in myself for these worlds I love, to let them stay together, to find a history that works for them all even when the cultures clash, even when the different histories I have imbibed and come to embody over the years are so different as to make this almost impossible. But I like to hope that if somehow one person can come to hold the world, maybe one day the world will also be able to hold itself. Maybe more of us will come to reshape our world and fit the pieces so beloved to someone, together.