Chelsi sat on the padded benches, eyes glued to CNN. It was playing a news clip of Johnny Depp and his partner apologizing to the Australian government and populous for having illegally imported their two lap dogs. If she had been thinking she would have thought, ‘oh yeah, this is what passes as news in America.’ But she was too distracted by the flashing lights and colors of the television.
Ginny walked out into the fluorescently lit waiting room through a door shoved in a corner. She was equally distracted but by a slip of paper she held in her hand. Seeing Chelsi now in periphery of her vision she looked up, “hey,” she said looking up. Her eyes too, instantly lifted up towards the flat screen hanging on the wall. “What’s going on? Did something happen?” her voice sounded subtlety worried, when Johnny Depp flashed again on the screen next to a picture of the two small dogs. “Ohh, pphhhff. What’s wrong with people? This isn’t news!”
Without looking away Chelsi tried to defuse the mood, “Ready to go?”
“Good, cause I was starting to get cold sitting in this air conditioning.”
“We just have to stop and get the remained of my money out of the cashier downstairs.” Chelsi stood up and they headed towards the staircase.
“How much were you left with?”
“Ahh, about a thousand kwatcha.” Chelsi’s ears heard the hundred dollar equivalent.
“Damn, use it to buy yourself something nice when you get home.”
“Well I still have to buy a bus ticket.”
“Nothing too nice then.” The women chuckled.
When they pushed open the door of the bank they were immediately blasted in the face with plume dust and hot air. “But I mean, how much will you really miss Solwezi?” Chelsi coughed out with a lung full of dust.
“It’s living in my hut, and Harrison. Man, I’m really going to miss Harrison.” They took a right out of the bank gates towards the bus station.
“Well, didn’t Chief Mumena tell you that you could stay? You said you were scoping out some house closer to the river.”
“I couldn’t stay in Mumena. When I talked to Mr. Kahokala and Harrison about… the politics and in fighting there are just too bad. I don’t want to have to deal with all that.” Ginny rolled her eye, Chelsi smiled.
“I am almost finished with my couch, or you can just sleep on my bed! We already make excellent bed mates! Daisy will just have to be relegated to the couch.”
“No, I have to go home. I have to see that my dad is alright. I haven’t heard from him in months, and now I have to follow-up with this medical thing…” She paused, looking both ways to see that it was clear for them to cross the street. Chelsi was great full for this, as she was too busy taking in her last few hours with Ginny to pay attention to the traffic. Deep down Chelsi knew that if she was going to meet an untimely death that it was probably going to be a traffic accident. More than HIV/AIDs, malaria, poor nutrition, diarrhea, stroke or snake bite, even a Zambian was likely to get got by a traffic accident; especially in Solwezi with no sidewalks, curbs, crosswalks or pedestrian rights. And Chelsi always figure that only about half a drives had licenses. After a crumpled looking minibus, packed with people sped by Ginny started her dash across the street. Chelsi reached out, grabbing her hand and allowing herself to be pulled across the street.
“I do want to come back though. I’ll miss the people. They’re just so much more friendly here. And the men. All of the beautiful men, who treat me so much better. In America they look at me like I’m old, used. I’m not even 50 yet! But here they look up to me because I’m older and a mother. In America, that doesn’t mean anything to people.”
“So, you’re going to go home, finish up your medical stuff, check on your father and come back and stay with me. Until you find a more permanent place.” They navigated the clothing piles, careful to not get to close to the road, or the minibus conductors shouting ‘MITEK, MITEK,’ grabbing peoples arms and throwing them into the bus.
“No,” Ginny sighed. “I have to find a job and make some money first.”
“Why? Can’t you just come back on your readjustment allowance from Peace Corps? It’s like what seven grand?”
“No! I have to use that money to buy a car, to get myself to and from my job and stuff.” She pushed back with a smile.
“Okay, okay, fine. So you buy your car, get your job, save some money. So you’ll be back by like what? October at the latest?”
Ginny shook her head with a smile.
They walked out on to the bus station. “Well, when you do come back you’re always welcome at my house… I stay just there,” Chelsi pointed in the general direction of her house. “And even if I’m not home, in the back of the house there’s a gap,” she held her hands about a foot and a half apart.
The afternoon sun cast their shadows long on the empty platform. “Thanks for staying and spending the day with me Chelsi.”
“Of course.” They crossed the doorway into the ticketing office.
“Good afternoon,” the woman sitting behind a boxboard desk greeted them. Chelsi walked around to stand at the side. A three year old girl stared up at her.
“Hi,” Ginny stood at the front of the desk. “I need a ticket for the morning bus tomorrow to Lusaka.”
“Okay, the 4:30?”