Faces press against the window of my cab. I see a nose, the camouflage pattern of uniforms, the sharp glint of a gun. Soldiers, I think, and curl my hand tightly around the handle of my suitcase.

More men move behind the cab. They begin to speak in a jagged language, almost foreign to me after my two years living in America. A soldier shines a flashlight through the window. Its beam snakes across the shabby upholstery, touches my face, then travels on to the back of the taxi driver’s head.

It’s as though the light activates my thoughts. Stray, divided, unimportant reactions fill my head. I hope Mama’s present hasn’t broken. When I get to the youth hostel, I’ll take a shower.

“Step outside, ma’am,” says one of the faces. He speaks in formal, careful Katiku, probably enjoying his small authority. I fumble for the latch of the door, and when it finally swings open, it makes a sweet rusty sound like the gate in my mother’s garden that leads to the cow pasture. As I stand and my lungs fill, I find what it is I’ve forgotten. The air, the air. I’ve forgotten how old it is, how fragrant, how it travels across a long distance. The night is different too. Long and black, almost thick, it comes to drape my shoulders.

People on couch
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