10 meters

You see her as she is walking to her bed. Passing a bamboo basket with a single mango and lime, she notices just a second before you do the hole chewed through the lid. “Fucking rats” she says to no one in particular.

She momentarily considers getting rid of all her possessions in anticipation of rats consuming them anyways.

She tucks herself into the mosquito net and as she spreads out she melts in as her bright yellow shirt sinks into her golden sheets. [flash back to a politician handing her a shirt with a soap company logo]

She feels heavy as her feet release. Maybe if you were standing close enough you’d feel the heat as the scratches all over her legs burn. She turns her attention to the sensation in her hands. She is surveying the blisters resting on the uncharted section of her palms, and for a second a flash of confusion crosses her face. How could she have forgotten? “Oh right” she mutters as she recalls the endless hours of digging holes for cocoa tree transplants, bananas, and leveling land for rice. She walked away from the field that day telling herself not to worry- if the rice doesn’t grow, she’ll still eat.

Her feet fight for her attention as she plays around with their positioning to avoid dirtying a wound she noticed was infected and had just cleaned with disinfectant and applied antibiotic cream. You’re happy you weren’t there for that.

She opens her book, and she starts to read. You watch her as she reads as long as possible- the glow of the flashlight quieting the rats.

You swivel over less than ten meters. You see another woman tucking in her mosquito net as she climbs into her bed with her husband. Her grandchildren sleep soundly in their own bed behind the curtain.

She sniffs, bringing your awareness to the stench of the dead rat that she poisoned the week prior but has been unable to find.

She looks around and briefly entertains the idea of getting rid of it all, everything- or maybe that’s what the rats want her to do? She shakes it off- spite has never helped her.

If you were there in the morning, you would have seen her leave an hour earlier than the girl 10 meters away- and get home an hour later where house chores awaited her. She, too, feels heavy as her feet find rest. Her mind wanders to her work that day and you’re taken there too. Cows continuously running in circles to soften the land before transplanting- galloping, stopping suddenly, running away- zebu’s haven’t changed since she was a child. But with so little rain this year the ground dried up only 30 minutes into working it. The rain was supposed to come 3 months ago. What will she do if it doesn’t come? She worries, but she knows what she’ll do tomorrow. She’ll sell her zucchini tomorrow- she didn’t dip into the harvest tonight.

Her ears catch a sound, and you too hear the girl 10 meters away start playing music. She wonders if it’s to block out the sound of the rats. Tomorrow she’ll buy the girl poison.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Deborah Black says:

    Another beautifully written piece whose details give great insight into your living conditions and your adopted culture. Your fortitude in facing the challenges continues to amaze me, and your admiration for those around you shines bright.


    1. Thanks Madame! This night was really not much different than others but I was quite startled when the thought came to me. The message is subtle and I am glad you enjoyed the post!


  2. Your writing is so moving! What a great emotional picture you have painted with this post. I hope that you are able to get your cats back to solve the rat problem, and that the rain comes in time. Love your new photo.


    1. Thanks mom! I thought about adding more content but the bare boned draft seemed to convey all I needed. Love you!


  3. mjthestar says:

    Love this Alyssa! It takes humility to come across such momentous lessons. =) hang in there


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