I’m counting days, chanting them off under my breath. At the end is a snowfall, a mint hot chocolate, a game of Scrabble over tea and laughter. At the end are presents wrapped carefully, warm bread coming out of the oven, secrets whispered giggling in the dark when my sister crawls into my bed.
I’m counting days, chanting them off under my breath. I’m counting granola bars and oatmeal packets, matching them to days, eating almonds alone for dinner because the only options are beef with sauce and beef without sauce, eating almonds in the dark alone.
And then I’m walking alone at twilight, watching an open triangle above the setting sun, watching it trail pink across the sky, and then I’m not walking alone, I’m walking holding the sticky little hands of two naked toddler-sized boys smiling up at me, or they are holding my hands, my pinkies, and I’m so thirsty, even though I just drank a bottle of apple soda, and the old driver doesn’t see me in the dark as he drives by, but that’s okay, because it’s twilight in Southern Sudan and I’m not counting the days.
For a few minutes I’m not, until the dark, and the wide full moon so beautiful and clear that I stop to look at it on the way to the latrine, and the scratching sounds in the ceiling, until the heat before I’ve even gotten out of bed, and then I’m counting days again, chanting them off under my breath, knowing that they mark the end of something, of the person I thought I was, and a departure that I’ve never been happy to make. A departure that I may be happy to make, this time.
I’m counting days, chanting them off under my breath, grieving each one as it passes, and delighted that they are almost finished.