She is strong; you can see her sturdy bones protruding from her body. The shape of her skeleton is easy to make out. This makes me chuckle because as students, we would sit on grass across from each other and write the latin names of various parts of our skeleton on pieces of paper. When the paper didn’t satisfy, we would write the clinical words on our skin with permanent markers. For days, our chests would read sternum.
She laughs easily. She has the laughter of people who go through life without ever getting jaded. The lack of accumulated taint resulting in her gentle being. So, she disarms the onlooker. The light in her eyes, the innocence in her smile, discourages all from bringing any harm to her. She is the congenial definition of easy going.
Her beauty is non-conventional. Large brown eyes underneath half moon eye brows. Her legs and arms stretch her olive skin making it long and lean. In her adolescent body, she looks like a joyful summer vacation. The one where you learned how to surf, or rock climb, or skate board even… So weightless, when you sense she is not happy, when there are rare shadows in her eyes, you feel someone has messed with innocence, misplaced joy, destroyed a beloved memory. So her beauty comes as much from symmetry, as it does from the feeling it invokes within you, the feeling of naivety.
She came back the other day. She came back from Guinea-Bissau, where she lives now. All of us, although raised in different lands, greeted her as we would greet a shared childhood. The four of us standing in a circular rectangle and somehow, she in the middle. There was her lover, an optimistic maternal woman, adorned with immense patience. Then me, the frantic one with opinions, opinions, opinions oh endless opinions wrapped in explosive expressions. And our fourth, solid, wise, trustable and against her own convictions, stripped of judgement.
The coming together of old friends and her the glue of innocence. We walked into the safe house of not having to explain your self and simply be. The smell of cashew nuts made its way to our nostrils as she spoke of the forest, her new home. She showed us photographs, introduced her new friends. But eventually, conversation led to where it always leads to with old friends. Worn out jokes were taken out of aged shelves with the same gusto of their first telling. “Yes” she shouted “she really did tell our professor she writes poems addressed to her own boobs.” Familiar sounds rose in the warm shelter of laughing. Bystanders indulged us four women. Squeaks and gasps for air mingled as stories of how we met were forcefully pressed onto acquaintances. Wine became sweeter than usual. Arms were linked, glances became stares of knowing, eyes met with acceptance. There it was. Home coming. Belonging.
She is one of the undying children. We all have them in our lives. Those that manage to exist with the ease of a happy ripe mango. Going from room to room, shining, somehow spared from the weight of existence.
I told her “This will not make sense to you because I know you are much stronger than me but, I feel as though I must protect you.” She did not like that. She said “What the fuck do you mean protect me? I don’t need no protection.” We laughed and we waved away my sentence.
But I wanted to say to her, she came back from Guinea-Bissau. There were the four of us sitting in our homely circular rectangle. She in the middle. Stretched out on grass, we talked of phalanges, fibulas and metatarsals. With glee, we talked of various human species and our own evolution. And in that discussion, we went to somewhere in our childhood, delighted to have discovered cartwheels, lemur piles, illusion. In our amateur scientific interest, we were laughing at the round world together with regained incorruption. I wanted to tell her then, it is she who protects me after all. I wanted to write it on my sternum. I wanted to say, the ease with which she moves through this world is my minder. That, and our mutual belonging. I wanted her to know, that is what I meant by protecting.
*The featured photograph is by the artist Hellen Bersacola taken in Guinea-Bissau. To see more of her art work please follow this link.