Once, I was in an airport somewhere in Africa, waiting for my father to arrive. It could have been Uganda, Ethiopia, or Tanzania. The memory is not a clear one. I so often waited for my father at airports. This airport had big windows that looked out on the landing strip, so you could watch people get off the plane with their suitcases and their cardboard boxes and plastic bags. Nobody travels light to anywhere in Africa. Tourists carry giant backpacks full of tents and mosquito repellent and khaki outfits. Africans carry gifts for everyone they know, and some for strangers. There were no arrival gates. People walked down a ladder and onto the tarmac. They paused and set their luggage down. They took off their sweaters or wiped their glasses. I scanned the crowd for my father, but my eyes landed on a woman with brown skin like mine. She had long cornrows down her back. I noticed her because her pause was longer than everyone else’s. I wondered what she was doing. She got down on her knees and placed her cheek against the tarmac and then kissed it. She stayed there, with her lips pressed to the ground, for a good long time.

“What’s she doing?” I asked Anabel, who was waiting beside me, examining her lipstick in the little mirror on its case.

“Greeting the earth,” Anabel said, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. “She’s probably been away from home for a long time.”

With my cheek against the blue chair, I press my lips against the place in my wrist where my heartbeat whispers. “Hello,” I say. Up close, blue veins look like rivers trapped underground. Borders not yet burst.

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