And now this tent. Her entire world. And a centipede of black threads holding her foot to her body. And the pain returning.
Married late, she knew what was ahead. A kind of banishment. Too old to start over. A village tragedy. Trudging into old age. Eventually the old, mad, toothless Ibu. A charity case. A burden. A beggar.
She sits up, looks out over the ocean, rips the Protestant Cross pendant from around her neck and slings it into the mud.
Five days later
Wheelbarrowed to the camp up the hill. Another tent. This one bigger, dry and warm. A blanket. And, unbelievably, they were back. The pale giants. This time with a woman. Curious about her foot. Cleaning, probing, discussing. The woman had gently removed the bandage. The gash now a thin line laced around her ankle. It was said that the threads could come out in another seven days. She may even walk again. She smiled for the first time she could remember. But not because of her foot. She had smiled because the group of women who had lost their men and the group of women who had lost their children had come to her for help. They were to form a sort of Orphanage. She was to become a teacher. She was already holding another woman’s child to her breast. The child’s eyes were closed and she felt a connection again. As her milk flowed with each suckle. A connection to this place. But this time, not with the sky. But with the mud. Because she could feel the child’s heartbeat through her nipple as faint as a captured bird.
And the women told her that God, in all his wisdom, had a plan for all of them. There was hope. God would provide. Hallelujah.
She fought back a frown and nodded, yes.
But she was forming her own plan.
In this new home she would whisper the truth into the ears of the young. To never again trust the phantoms of the sky and some old white man sitting on a throne of riches up in the clouds. No. Never again. Because their world would always be blood and bone and jungle and the malevolent sea. And nature would scream again. Clearly.
Be ready, she would tell the little ones.
This is your home. No one else’s.
And your world will find no peace from hardship.
Your world is one of savage beauty.
And she would whisper this into their young bones.
She would tell them.
-Matt George, Sikikap, Mentawai Islands, Indonesia