from "Something Nice from London"
in An Elegy for Easterly
Petina Gappah

We wait for the Friday morning flight from London, as I stand with my mother, my brother Jonathan, and his wife, Mukai, and watch through the transparent glass of the observation platform. Our somber faces are out of place, surrounded by those that smile in anticipation, with mouths that laugh and fingers that point out to children, there they are, there she is, he is here at last; they arrived on time. My mother stares unseeing at the passenger below us who crane their necks to look up at the platform, anxious to catch a glimpse of a familiar face, arms waving and jangling with bracelets, faces broad with smiles. They have made an effort for the flight, the women in manicured wigs and weaves, their England clothes fitting well, their skin lightened by years and maybe even by just as little as six months of living out of the heat and stress of poverty. Those receiving them have also made an effort, or may it's not such an effort. They will have been happy to put aside their quiet desperation to wear the shining joy of welcome. For these passengers bring with them more than their loved selves, they bring something nice from London, the foreign money that will be traded on the black market and guarantee a few more month of survival.

To be so desperate for the returned of loved ones, not for themselves but because of the euros, pounds, or dollars that will assure the survival of the family for a bit longer--this is life in desperate times--in times of monumental inflation.  I found this beautiful and heartbreaking.


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