Sometimes on Saturdays, we sunbathed in the yard next to the dorm. Well, the girls who could tan sunbathed, and I slathered myself with 45 and sat outside to belong. Lora had the most amazing skin: she was California-blonde and blue-eyed, but her skin turned a rich shade of gold after two minutes of UV…I was jealous, but I loved her so much, I let it go.
All the rooms in the two-story dorm opened into a gigantic atrium kind of thing—it didn’t have a skylight, so I’m hesitant to call it an atrium—and occasionally when we were feeling crazy, someone would turn up their Petra or DC Talk to Danger and we’d dance like maniacal druids on the walkway that circled the second floor, ignoring any chance of permanent damage to our hearing. As if any of us knew how to dance. We were Christians, duh, so dancing was a sin that had been purged from us long ago. But we wanted to own it again, you see, like girls who have been robbed of an innocence, trying to recover by exhausting that part of us that resisted.
In a spring rugby game against St. Mary’s, my brother got a concussion. He came off the field with crossed eyes, spouting important facts like “Brown cows taste best,” and I walked him down the hill to the hospital for X-rays, crying the whole way. (He recovered in record time, and was pissed that the coach wouldn’t let him play the rest of the game.) I can’t recall ever being more frightened, fearing I would lose my only sibling, scared he would babble about choice cattle for the rest of his life. He still loves a good steak.
We had a band. Witness, it was called, if you can stand it. We firmly believed we were the sh*t, and perhaps we were in that time and place. Cerissa was a far better singer than I, but I would not admit it even to myself; identity must be preserved at all costs. We practiced 2nd Chapter of Acts and Boyz 2 Men songs as if our lives depended on it, not contemplating for a second that our missionary-boarding-school renditions might be anything short of perfection…which was, of course, great training for years of musical missteps to come. Can you believe I thought I was a soprano?
On choir tour before graduation, we sang at an orphanage. The concert lasted all of 22 minutes, but we stayed for hours, holding close those children who would not let us go. One tiny boy with a misshapen face and no legs latched onto me, refusing to relinquish the touch he had craved in all his short memory, even when it was time to change his diaper. He peed on me. The Kikuyu nurse laughed, murmuring “baraka” as she pried his fingers away to change him. Blessing.