I might have just gotten tired of being strong.
I’ve been through so much physical pain in my life that I thought putting a bullet through my abdomen might hurt less. I have been so sick and felt so alone. I’ve been so broken, so shattered a human being that I thought it better to cease to exist. My physical strength has been tested so many times. I have felt like my body has been run through a meat grinder. And I have made it through each and every time. Those who know me personally, know what I’ve been through. But even still, somehow that physical pain does not stand up to the pain I have experienced since moving to Nairobi.
I moved to East Africa last May 2010. I bid my American life farewell. I ran like hell. I left my family behind. I let my best friends go like a fistful of feathers loose in the wind.
I made my way. I hurt, I cried, I was furious. I loved, I laughed, I was euphoric. I was innocent, I was wise. I lost, I gained. Mostly I gained.
I don’t know what it is about this city, Nairobi, that has ripped me to shreds. I ask myself over and over what is different about this city from Stone Town and Kampala. I had more of a footing here when I started than I did in both Stone Town and Kampala. There were people to support me, I had a home to retire to, and comforts that I could only dream of in those other two cities.
I have felt more anonymous here than in anyplace else. A beating heart inside a warm body within a sea of forms chiseled from stone. Agitation, tension, aggression. I instinctively pick these feelings up in the air and internalize them. In Zanzibar I had to be on the offensive from the moment I set foot outside my front door, but here I feel groundless, and the feeling is worse. As if the rug has been pulled out from underneath me and I have remained frozen in mid-fall, bracing myself, preparing to hit the ground– but never actually hitting it and never actually regaining my footing either.
I have never had to handle so much uncertainty and so much disappointment in my life. Until very recently I did not know where I’d live, how I’d earn money, and which humans I could count on in my life. I was perched precariously on the edge of a widening rift between where I thought I’d be in five months in this cold new city, and the actuality of a life in limbo. It wasn’t all disappointment. There were incredible moments, places, and people. I have never been happier, actually. Delirious delicious joy. The kind that makes your heart pound through your chest. I’ve been so happy here that I was afraid to blink and miss a moment. Which is why when things went badly, each and every time one of those incredible things was taken from me, I hurt like I never had before.
The problem was, I could not hurt in this city. There was no room for weakness or fragility. The Maasai tribesmen claim that they slice the Achilles tendons of every newborn so that they will grow up and run like no human can. I think this is impossible. But I still wore my hurt like open wounds on my most vulnerable parts.
My hurt is raw and my strength has worn so thin.