1:03 am April 3rd Liberia

“Where you coming from? London or America?” My Liberian English was embarrassing. Insulting. “I’m Vai. I’m from Cape Mount.” He laughed and scanned every inch of me, from my shoes to American-bought hair. “But where you fly in from?” “America. Yes.” He looked at the turnstile, the absent bags. “Don’t worry I take care of you. Give me your baggage tags.” I did as he said and he kept assuring me not to worry. As my bags came he gathered them quickly. “Your people outside?” I nodded. He moved toward me and whispered in my ear “they will search your bags but if you tip me well I can walk you through customs without having to open your bag.” I did not want them to steal what I had. Did not want to unlock my bags. But did not want to feed the infamously rumored “tip well” (cold water) system so easily, so early. “Okay,” I nodded desperately. As he promised he walked ahead of me with my two large suitcases. I was relieved to be out of there. Right out of the door were the two most perfect human beings I had ever seen. I ran into mom and dad’s arms and hugged them tightly. Aunty Teeta was there too and I kissed her impossibly soft cheek.  We headed to the car and I turned to mom again. My body was shaking and the tears just came. We cried for so long onto each other’s shoulders. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for leaving.” I shook my head because I could not speak to tell her it was okay. All that mattered was that I am here. The drive home reminded me of an old, familiar, country Texan road. Families were outside eating. People were out walking, riding bikes. Current was gone. The moon was close to the ground. Dangerously close. And the constellations were so clear and perfect that for the first time in a long time, my fear was gone. And I know I have done something very, very right.
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