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Sip. Flip. Sip. Flip.
Now you can beg for food. I see the man on the African street cold, skeletal, sad amidst the running children in the market. They do not notice him, nobody notices him. Even those who notice him do not notice him.
I’m at my kitchen table. I toss the dog a piece of my breakfast.
A response: Don’t do that, he’ll go away eventually. He’ll only get worse and beg more often if you feed him. Just ignore him, sweetie.
I sighed, a typical morning reprimand. I wondered what else I would do wrong that day.

Sip. Flip. Sip. Flip.
I was sipping. (coffee)
She was flipping
the pages of her calendar book back and forth. She couldn’t survive without it. It was her life, her whole damn life kept neatly in a calendar book and my life too.
All my deadlines were in the book and I didn’t want them to be. First my deadlines in the book, next my applications in her hands and soon my whole goddamn future.

There was the old man, and there were girls on the African street too, taking a walk to the market, careful to watch who was around them, careful to watch the time of day, careful not to wish to badly to be back at home where they were safe. Wishes were a weakness. Wishes lead to pursuance of education and freedom and that was not okay. The girls had to make some sort of meal for the family. Family: A unit in which a man had his wishes and his wife was to help him and their children were subject to everyone’s wishes but their own.

Sip. Flip. Sip. Flip.
Sip coffee at my table.
Sip water that wasn’t there.
Sip breast milk from the third child in four years.

The African girl, she was seventeen.
The American girl, she was seventeen.
In some other time and other place, they might have been friends, but this day, not now.
And, he said, “Its time to marry her. This man I like, this man will bring wealth to our family and give you great sons, prosperous men,” some bullshit like that.

That’s what he told her, but this is what she knew, and this what she told herself everyday:
You will get sick with AIDS
You will be hungry and poor.
You will be able to do nothing for your family when your husband hoards his income from yourself and your children.
Your daughter will be sick too and AIDS will kill her in infancy.
You will never be educated.
You will never be free. ,

And, he said, “Its time she moves away, learns responsibility. We’ll help her go to a college, make sure she’s looking for work and keeping in touch. We’ll watch out for her and keep track of her friends. We’ll take care of her,” some bullshit like that.

That’s what he told her, but this is what she knew and what she told herself everyday:
You will make no decisions.
You’ll never do what you want.
You’ll never say what you think.
You’ll be a lawyer or a doctor.
You will never be educated.
You will never be free.

And, Mother said, “If you decide on this place sweetie you’ll have more internship opportunities and Doctor Blanche is coming to dinner tomorrow evening, he’s an old friend of your fathers. He’s absolutely wonderful and would love to chat with you about school. Of course, he’d accept you at your first request! What do you have to say about that?”
And, the girl responded, “Have you ever thought about Africa? How can a girl possibly survive there? Its really a miracle how she can get along. I couldn’t do it.” This conversation continues. It’s a lucky conversation, a lot of places would not except it in their culture, in their home, a banished conversation it would be.
What, what do you mean sweetie?
I mean those girls shouldn’t deal with that kind of life. I worry about it.
A sigh, a roll of the eyes, a response: You have more important things to worry about.
But, that’s what I’m worried about. That’s what more people should be worried about.

Sip. Flip. Sip. Flip.
Another response: You’re being ridiculous.

Sip. Flip. Spill. Shriek.
An Outcry:

All over my calendar! Look at this! Do you have any idea how important this book is?! Oh my whole LIFE is in here! All our plans, our deadlines!

Your plans, your deadlines. Not mine.
But, I was the fortunate one. I got up and left.



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