Owen

(17)

I get busy that day. New plans have to be made for the clinic’s sessions with the village public. Around four in the afternoon Kasigo walks over and hands me a note.

“We got a call yesterday when you were not here. So I wrote down the message.”

I’m curious. I think it must have been from Rachel. Maybe she is going to visit me, for a change. Instead the message is from Agnes:

Rachel attacked while walking home last evening. She went to talk with Gamba’s parents to discuss their son, was harassed and attacked by two boys looking for money. She’s shocked but not injured.

Why did she do that, in spite of warnings? It doesn’t matter. I have to go and see her. I tell Kasigo that it is important and urgent for me to leave and not to worry if I am late tomorrow.

I ride my moped as fast as I can. When I reach Rachel’s cottage it is locked. I knock on the door. There’s no answer. There is no use asking the kids playing nearby. Frustrated I go over to Agnes’s cottage. She’s not there either. I rush over to the local Peace Corps office. They tell me Rachel has already left for the United States. Her problem with the local food and the physical attack was too much for her, and she requested an early release.

I’m back at my cottage, but cannot sleep. I take out my guitar and start humming Some Day we’ll be Together. I have no idea how long I am up. I sleep without changing my clothes. A week later I make another trip to Blantyre. This time Agnes is there.

“She really wanted to see you before she left,” Agnes says.

“I’m disappointed that she had to leave in a rush.”

“You can understand what she went through. It’s scary to have an incident like that in a foreign country. She was too scared to walk even to her school.”

We both keep quiet for a while.

“When did it happen?” I ask.

“About three days before I called you. She sent one of the kids to my cottage asking me to come over. She didn’t want you to see her in that condition,” she added after a pause.

“Was she injured or something? Any bruises on her body?”

“No. There was nothing visible. But the trauma of the whole thing, you know.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I’m really sorry. She left this note for you.”

The note confirms what Agnes has already told me. Her last words: I’ll really miss you. Thanks for everything.

I fold the paper and shove it in my pocket. I thank Agnes and return to my village. I was hoping our relationship would become something lasting and joyful in Africa and continue when we returned to America. But that was not in our stars. The only thing left for me is to immerse myself in my duties and complete the remainder of my service.

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