Another day, another commute.
In the cold, my bike starts, then flounders.
Again, again. More false starts.
Finally, it turns, rolling, rumbling, and I rev.
The road is rough, and auto-pilot is not an option.
Boulders, crevasses, heaps of buffalo dung,
There is never a smooth ride.
A woman, at the moment of imminent impact,
Plucks her plump young child from the center of the muddy road
And with newfound attention begins inspecting his scalp for nits and lice.
A group of children, huddled ahead.
One sees my approaching white skin.
The huddle is exploded, their voices,
Climbing and clambering over each other.
“HI!” “HI!” HI!”
And when I am 20 feet past, a solitary “How are you?”
Or sometimes “what is your name?”
Or an unsolicited “I am fine!”
A regurgitation of English phrases
From classes based on memorization.
Then, massive lumbering black beasts with wide, sharp horns.
Buffalo – the newborn calf coated in a soft, brown fur
Hurrying alongside the dry, hairless hide of her mother.
I look into the huge, deep, black eyes, and see a void,
As she is driven by a leathered old man with a whip.
A man stands, tall and proud,
Shaking a woven grass plate filled with rice seeds,
As the western wind luffs away the husks into a messy pile.
He sees me, then looks back at his work.
Then he peers quickly back at me again, quizzical.
Just beyond him, a group of three women,
Ancient, wrinkled, peering faces,
Note my foreignness as I whizz by.
One black, one white and spotted brown,
Flat irises and comically oversized ears,
The pair of baby goats sprint alongside me,
Skipping, hopping with furious, uncontainable energy,
They leap onto a pile of stones,
To be used for some new home’s foundation.
A man bends over, reaching
With his blackened, greasy hands
For the handle of his tuk-tuk’s engine,
Frenetically spinning the fly wheel inside.
Until a spark catches, and a sequence of of black, perfect smoke rings,
Is spit from the beast, followed by a cumulus cloud of poison and an angry, shaking roar.
Fields of green and yellow wave lazily in the sun,
As a calf and his mother look up at my descent upon them,
Then, with a confidence that can only mean they know they are holy,
They begin to cross the road, at the last second veering into my path.
I swerve, and immediately a chicken shoots into the way of my wheel,
Hustling forward as I bear down upon it,
Refusing simply to go to the side.
Feeling two metallic bumps underneath, I notice in my mirrors the long metal rods,
Splayed out by some welding shop whose storage space somehow includes half of the road.
A 6 year old boy holding his baby sister are playing their daily hooky,
Staring into the arc of light, burning retinas to absorb the impossibly bright star.
Trotting away from a mob is a dog,
Presumably female and heated, trailed by an overeager, sex deprived,
Group of 5. Relentless, insistent,
They won’t take no for an answer,
And the people and other dogs only look on, unperturbed,
As she tires of the flight and surrenders to their needs.
Here comes an unsure young man,
Riding a bike far too large.
“Balancing,” swerving, twitching,
I am sure he will turn directly into my wheels,
As soon as I pass by.
But they never do.
And finally, the land.
My destination, every day, for 100 days and counting,
And 250 days before that.
My heart, my love and my hate.
The road is always rough,
The challenges too diverse to count,
Too foreign too quantify,
And auto-pilot is not an option.
My mind stretches and billows,
And, feeling the strain, I smile.