For years people would ask about my time in Kyrgyzstan, wished they had not chased
after money, spent and forgotten, but had offered themselves to something greater
than the desk they were sitting behind. I would sit, waiting, then list altruistic aspects
of my character and some tidbit, if necessary, of time spent in the Fergana Valley.
I learned how to fight in the Peace Corps.
Why? I cannot say.
What I do know is that I found myself
kneeling, dazed, praying to the next fist.
I was stationed in Osh, a forty minute flight south of the capital. I had
a decent sized apartment, a courtyard balcony where merchants,
signaling a false dawn, would call out their wares. Grabbing chipped
bowls, stumbling, I’d haggle for fresh milk, feathered eggs, and ladled honey.
The walls of my two bedroom apartment, off-white and pink,
hinted of an inverted wedding cake with ample amount of frosting.
The entrance retrofitted with a steel door. Its patio enhanced
with an ornately designed cage, indistinct birds stilled mid-flight.
My cake became the local flophouse for a number of volunteers. A typical
weekend would see it scattered by those seeking silence from village life.
We’d consume bottles of vodka with aluminum pull-tab tops, eat anything
NYC would cook, and hit the town, a discotheque, Planeta Osh.
My new friends were usually at my side. Big men. Tough men. Thor swinging fists,
faces blooming like local poppy fields. Extending a right arm, Jason would divine,
marking one with an index finger, bodies falling, legs without meaning while I dream
of wrapping you in my arms. Prayer is better than sleep, my lips still whisper.