I left Senegal. My Peace Corps service ended on July 25th, and I've come to New York to study to be a doctor. I want to write about all this more soon, but I can't yet.
What I can write about right now is what happened this week. I knew my friend Maguette in Ndiago was pregnant, and I knew she was due about now. As often as I tried to call, it was four days before the call was able to go through. The delivery had gone just fine, and Maguette is mother to a new baby girl. She has decided to name her Aissa, my name in Senegal, after me.
And this is a little tiny beautiful thing, and I can write about it. I guess I wrote this to myself, but I think you'll know what I'm talking about.
There is a thin cord.
Do not let the thin cord drop.
Pull it closer to you, tuck it as close to your heart as you can, so that every beat and every breath reverberates along it. You will hear the sighs and sweet breaths and laughter of the people you love in your sleep, because they too knew to draw the cord to themselves and tuck it in deep. As the afternoon closes over the fields and the huts under their sky, they will wait to feel the stirring in their breasts that means you have awoken half a world away. They will retire at night knowing that you can hear and feel them, knowing that you will keep watch. This watching and being watched over, this waiting for that little tug, this restfulness and peace in knowing that they are safe and alive and loving you, and that from now on you and the people on the other side of this cord can never be alone: it’s how you know you’re alive. Do not let the thin cord drop.
It is thin because it’s not meant to be a burden or a restraint. It’s thin because you move around in the day, negotiating subway turnstiles and small desks in lecture halls. It’s thin because you have to study and learn and become a doctor, because that is what you promised as the cord began to weave itself between you and them. It’s thin because you can’t call every day, and you can’t see pictures of the new baby just now, and because maybe something will happen to the family that you won’t be able to keep them from, or grieve over them with, or try to understand with their help, because you are 3,000 miles away. Which is where they think you should be right now. So the cord is thin.
It is strong because they know you love them. And they know because you told them every day, with deeds and work and conversation and everything you had in you. And you know they love you, because here is this phone call you were finally able to make to them, and here is this new baby they’ve named after you, and and here is this cord you have woven together. And suddenly here is this afternoon when you’re in New York watching the season change and you’re in this small village in the middle of nowhere in Senegal, which could be anywhere, any family, any new baby, anywhere in this world, and suddenly New York and the shifting seasons and the world and all of it are just right here, in your heart, as you think about this baby. The cord could not be stronger.
You will not let the thin cord drop.