While Hanging From the Tailgate

I daydream about how I used to daydream on the trip between Bangui and Carnot nearly two decades back, in the western quarter of the Central African Republic, four degrees north of the equator. On transports we were crowded like cattle, jostled and lurching over the unpaved roads, choking on billowing clouds of orange earth, scorching under the brutal sun or freezing in the hours before dawn. No one knew how long the trip would take or what we might encounter: rain, police, herds of goats, flat tires, delays in towns where the driver inexplicably disappears.  For a while, I suffered.  But then I noticed that the Central Africans were trance-like on these journeys.  Women's heads gently swayed, their eyelids half-closed over their fierce gaze.  Children watched with wide eyes until they fell asleep against their mamas.  Men sat, their eyes slitted at the road.

They inspired me to daydream.  For hours I watched my mind wandering forgotten paths, foraging new ones. I reminisced about old loves, recalled the details of winter, contemplated the strange reality of being an American woman born in 1971 Omaha, Nebraska, the odd coincidence of finding myself again, smack in the center of a continent.  I must have dreamed about the future, about someday marrying a man I love, about having children, writing books, traveling the world.  But what lingers is the sensation of diving under a warm sea, swimming without goal or destination, without needing to come up for air, floating with the currents, humming with the wind, marveling at the clouds above until we reached our destination.

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