It’s been a bit of a slow road back from the tragedy at the Boston Marathon a couple weeks ago. You think that surreal week is all over and done with and then it hits you out of nowhere, “Holy shit, someone set off bombs in downtown Boston. Bombs!” It’s strange to try and wrap my head around that. I don’t understand how some people in other countries deal with that experience on a regular basis. And then of course the bombers’ faces are shown on the news constantly. And the politicizing and finger-pointing have begun to take over the media. It’s going to take a while to escape this.
It struck me during the weekend after the climactic capture and denouement that it was the first time I had ever forgotten about Mtuseni. Well, I didn’t forget about him, but he wasn’t paramount in my mind over those dark days. We didn’t even chat that week after discussing the incident when it first happened. I just found a receipt for a bottle of wine I bought the night of the bombing — which I don’t remembering buying or drinking. It was that kind of week, a sort of numb inner shock that didn’t leave room for much else.
But I’m back on the job with him now. I just completed the application for his visitor visa, so the next couple weeks will be a maze of logistics laced with hoping and praying. I so want him to come to Boston this summer! Send good thoughts to the bureaucratic and spiritual powers that be for us!
And Mtuseni had his own visitors the other day. His two buddies from school drove him home on Friday. I gotta meet these guys, as Mtuseni describes them “Poloko is a preacher. Big Boy is fat and plays pool.” As good a characterization via text message as any, I guess.
These three are thick as thieves, and I was happy PK and BB appeared on the scene after Mtuseni’s miserable, friendless first term at school. Poloko is a good study partner, and Mtuseni has passed on his former sports committee role to Poloko (who evidently isn’t living up to Mtuseni’s high standards). I think Big Boy provides comic relief. They both provided support when Mtuseni’s brother Moses died.
But I didn’t realize they had never been to his house. For various reasons, Mtuseni keeps parts of his life compartmentalized. Mom knows little about his life at school, and he keeps homelife under wraps at school. He doesn’t want his peers to know that he lives in a shack without electricity. Then Poloko and Big Boy drove him home, and as Mtuseni said it was a “game changer.” His mom got to see his best buddies from school and understand they’re not wild, and the boys got to meet his family and see where he lives. It’s nice when you feel comfortable enough to start dismantling the walls you build in your life.
But what really resonated for me was Mtuseni’s simple statement when he started telling me the story: “I was so happy.” He’s told me about feeling happy before, not often. And every time I hear this, my heart brims with so much joy and love. He doesn’t have an easy life; in fact it’s unimaginable to me on many levels. He never really complains, but I know his circumstances get him down. I’ve weathered those days when his anger and frustration are right at the surface.
All I want in the world is for Mtuseni to be happy and safe and healthy. So seeing those words coming from him on Friday brought me back to what’s important — and put a big, teary smile on my face after a pretty rough stretch. Yeah, happy.
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