There is something exciting about the night. Light abandons life to hide with shadows that once danced fearlessly about on winged toes, softly grazing the quiet grass. Mystery absorbs the scene, stealing away fact stored deep inside the brain. This is the time thought provokes your heart and you dream of things unattainable in the common daylight. The sun retires to another region, no longer protecting your sense of security. All at once it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and everyone is thrust wildly into battle, a lone soldier. Crazy ideas spit at your mind tempting fear to seize control. The result of this: a body locked in terror, frozen without the hope of resilient youth springing into action. The taste of wild melts into cautious mouths, releasing a flow of once careful words. Nothing matters as it did before. In this black cloak of eternity freedom reigns.
The sky creaks as if it were a warning, the way a door’s hinges cry out for lack of oil. Clouds bulge and darken, whispering threats of their intent to burst. Slowly, the graying masses enfold the fading sun, suffocating the last glimpse of light. Silence submerges still air as the earth inhales and pauses. Time stops for a second, and then, as if it were rushing to resume its natural pace, races forward with the exhale. Water consumes the focus, blurring vision and soaking all not under cover in a coat of slick moisture. Droplets pelt the ground with the small pattering of tiny footsteps. Wind picks up speed, whipping the rain in a frenzy of directions. Whirlwinds of wetness strike at anything tangible. Then, slowly, the storm abates and realization is reached. Simply an evening shower. Bad weather must always pass.
I’ve seen hunger. I’ve seen it in the popped bellies of children begging in a Haitian village, asking for an extra shirt to add to their collection of one. I’ve seen it in the streets of Accra where scavengers prowl the streets with outstretched hands and scheming thoughts. I’ve seen it among the Ewe drums in Dagbe, where men sleep like babies upon concrete slabs and roofs are thatched with old straw. I’ve seen it in a one-room shack in the hills of Appalachia, the stench its own brand of security system. I’ve seen it in the grey trickle of water that was the life source of Dominicana. I’ve seen it in the fidgeting fingers of lost souls admitting addiction in Philadelphia. I’ve seen it in the eyes of strangers as I pass them by, their challenging stares eating away at me, absorbing some of my nutrients, my soul, as they whisper abruni. Do not tell me what hunger is. Do not tell me I could never understand. Those nights in Ghana, West Virginia, the Dominican Republic, Pennsylvania…I was a part of that hunger. I was the reaching fingertips, crusted with dirt and dried blood, I was the open mouths, dry, lips blistering in the hot sun, I was the stretched skin fighting to contain malnourishment, I was the hollow gaze that greedily gobbled the sight of privilege, I was the tattered cloth that clung desperately to coarse skin, the only fibers that would make that human contact. Do not tell me what hunger is. I’ve seen hunger.
Tar black coats your body in inky perfection. A night like this deserves a memory that lasts. That’s what you were thinking when you took your first sip at least. Things changed after that. Swig after swig, burning liquid breathed fire down your throat and into the depths beyond. Swirling frantically, thrashing within in a violent frenzy. Keep going, your mind is coaxing you, persuasion in the form of a seductive glass bottle. All you need to be happy is that one final sip. And just one more for luck, and then one more for prosperity, and then one more because damn it feels good to be alive. The night slowly fades, moon sinking like your battered eyelashes. You were stumbling to your bed, fumbling for something to hold onto before you collapsed on the floor. I remember your smile as it slid out of tune, giddy in the approaching dimness. Tossing your head back you took that one last sip. You crumpled before my very eyes, disintegrating into darkness.