By: Bethelhem Teame
I want to belong to something or somewhere.I need to. I have to. I think this is some deep thirst shared by all human beings. A gawking hunger of some sort.
To belong to.
‘Belong’ is such a powerful word. A power that moves the heart, the mind and push you into an action. It transforms one and changes one’s perspectives. Have you ever wondered about how some words own such a power in bearing the name and how they own the power of their meanings? Belong is such a word.
This is what the word ‘belong’ did to me…an honest testimony to its power. No matter how small or irrelevant it might seem to feel, I want to have a tie that keeps me linked and knotted to something or somewhere. I want to have that dirt road that takes me back to my shabby and humble cottage that my heart proudly announces as home. Otherwise, I have a feeling that I will be like this colorful balloon without a rope at its ends, a loose kite with no particular destination or start point to trace back. Floating, wandering, never landing……
I was walking aimlessly in Central Park, New York. Lost in thought, blocking the world outside with the blasting music from my earphones. The Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiato has gone cold in my cup, it also has lost its power to cheer me up or give the boost it usually offers at the first sip from my cup. I was asking myself why I bought that particular cup….maybe it is out of a habit…maybe I thought it would make me look cool to have a cup in my hand? ….maybe it makes me look older to have people see me with coffee in my hand (a lot of people have been guessing my age wrong since I came to America- it has both its pros and cons- but that is another matter). Here I am and I still haven’t figured out why for the life of me I have bought the Starbucks coffee……addicted? Maybe. That is a possible explanation. But one thing is for sure, I need to learn to calculate my every move and decisions in life, no more random or spontaneous acts ……here, if you didn’t plan…you find yourself lost in the middle of a large labyrinth and next thing you know (if you are anything like me) calling for SOS to every close friend you have around. Wait a minute, I don’t have anyone I could bother like this in New York. Maybe it is for the best. I could be so annoying sometimes, spoiled other times, eccentric every other Sundays perhaps….I am sure Mondays I am cheerful and positive. Weird!!! Anyway, getting back to the nitty-gritty ….be always careful and plan ahead….always have a plan B in hand.
So as I mentioned before while I was taking a stroll around, aimlessly….a lot of the passersby were greeting me despite my-‘get lost, I am usually nice but I don’t want to be bothered today.’-sign on my forehead and asking me some random questions. At first, I pretended I was deep into my music and ignored as many as I can….until I gave up and turned off my on-the-go playlist and decided to be nice. Yeah I could be nice….it is Sunday after all.
Most of them wanted to strike a conversation because they thought I was one of them, that I had something I share with them, or that we belong to a common something. Some of them thought I was Indian, some thought I was Sir Lankan, some Hispanic, others a mix, a half-breed of races…I answered all of them politely because at that particular moment I understood the power of belonging to something or somewhere and like hit by a blast of a piffany bolt, I fully realized that I am representing my people therefore I have to be on my best behavior. The moment of truth has finally came.
As I was telling people where I came from and explaining its geographical location, culture, community and as such ….I missed the place where I came from. For the first time ever, I kind of understood the culture, values and norms of the people whom I have put under a very big and heavy question mark for so many years. I think I needed to get far away in order to understand the full picture and get filled with the sudden feeling of a longing. Weird, huh? But it is not really weird if you think about it from this perspective, there is this Amharic saying that I recently have come to understand very well, ‘Be’eg yale werk ende medab ykoteral’ roughly translated as ‘the gold within your hand is often considered like a copper..’
That evening as I went out of the park and made my way home, I wanted to meet some people I can relate to and my eyes were no longer aloof and nonchalant as they were before, they were alert and active trying to pin down someone who shared a place of birth or origin or language or experience with me. I understood why the people in the park were so keen and intent on finding someone from their home. The hunger is there, the thirst is there…and subconsciously the heart teaming with your senses starts to search this thing we call belonging…to belong to…..
I was never this sentimental before….probably my friends are going to think that this article is not mine or that I am ghost writing for someone else. Some friends of mine are going to call to claim the prize on the bet we placed long time ago (an in-joke)….I am sure I am going to get some concerned phone calls too….but this was a piffany as I told you before…. I didn’t change…not yet anyway.
Now I am only corners away from my place, New York at this time of the month in the evenings is breathtakingly beautiful, Sundays have this special color and warmth that add beauty to the city…..but I am walking with a heavy heart realizing that I didn’t get to find someone from the place I call home on my way back from the park. Maybe I am growing old, maybe I am paranoid, maybe I am finally in love, maybe……I opened my phone and dialed the number I know by heart, I was well aware of the time difference we have with Asmara, but sometimes this heart of mine goes at a tantivy and never listens to a reason or logic of any sort and altogether ignores my mind. I dialed with inexplainable emotions playing a kaleidoscopes of feelings in my heart .
“ Ezi Eri-Tel eyu zdewelkumlu amil ayeterekben, bkbretkum xenihkum dewlu………”
“The Eri-Tel customer you are trying to reach is unavailable, please try again…”