Kuwait Was

Kuwait Was

My last morning in Kuwait I woke to the first call to prayer. Hussein, who works with his two sons providing gate security for our building, sings the first call. He has a morning voice. He clears his throat, hits off key. He wakes us during summer months before three in the morning. Sometimes I drift back to sleep but on my last morning I lay between wake and sleep, not ready for the day. I got up and ran the last kilometers I’d log on my treadmill, patted its control panel. I drank the last Caribou Coffee I’d have delivered to my apartment. Then I went through the day. A little scramble. A little still.

At points in each pregnancy, I wanted the baby born. I wanted the slow turning baby inside to be out and I didn’t want to wait the days she or he needed. And at points in each pregnancy, I wanted the baby to wait because I wasn’t ready for the squall of new life in my arms. This last year in Kuwait was like that, wanting the last day to come, wanting the last day to wait.

I thought the end of Kuwait would see the sum of many parts equaling a more complete me.

The last two weeks in Kuwait were full. I was tired. Our family was tired. We went from one visit to the next and found joy in those conversations, shared meals, but we were tired too. Our apartment was a mess of open suitcases labeled Wisconsin To Seoul, Wisconsin To Stay. There were piles of laundry, books, papers. The night we left, another couple came for our mattress. We left furniture I’d used well, a kitchen counter and my writing desk. I didn’t need to worry about leaving an empty space. Our nanny, Emy, and her friends came to clear out the place, taking what they might use or sell.

Be generous at the end, or try.

I was so tired at the end of that last day. We said goodbye to dear friends. We ordered pizza. Later, Grant and I sat at one end of the couch, he eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream Emy dished for him, me taking pleasure in the sound of his spoon clinking the glass bowl, taking pleasure in the fun he had eating ice cream after bedtime. He and I spent many nights on that couch his first year. I could see in the dark, the street light glow, could see his suck and swallow at my breast. After a couple of months he nursed efficiently enough I could drift a little, dream a little. I knew the time by the traffic outside our building.

Justin said it was time to go. He’d taken our luggage to the courtyard and then loaded the bus we’d take to the airport. And very suddenly I didn’t want to go. I looked in our kids’ bedroom, at the graffitied bunk bed. I glanced into our room, the left behind rugs, towels, lamps. It was the last moment that space belonged to me, with me standing in its middle.

See what you will miss, or try.

The night before we left Colombia I didn’t sleep. I lay awake sure we were making a mistake, feeling that in my belly. The crunch and ache of loss for a place where we had adventure, made a baby, decided the way of our life was to live far away from home.

Now we have many homes.

In the courtyard Hussein wanted pictures with the kids. Young Hussein shook our hands. Nasser woke to say goodbye to us. These men saw us daily, greeted us kindly, lifted the kids when they were little, gave high fives when they were older. These men left their wives and children in Egypt to work in Kuwait. That moment at the gate – you can’t hold on to anything. Yellow brick building, cement courtyard, palm trees out front. I boarded the bus.

There’s a window walled bowling alley near the apartments. I looked over as we left the neighborhood and saw a group of young men in white dishdashas sending bowling balls down the lanes. I was never able to pretend Kuwait was any place but Kuwait, except for rare late mornings in bed, looking out the window at a sky that might be anywhere.