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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roman

The long walk home

The wet ground made traditional cooking methods difficult. As a result, half-cooked pigs, semi-raw breadfruits, and raw rock melons with bottles of soy sauce and Tabasco sauce sprinkled in between lined the tables. Amazed to see soy sauce since store shelves were devoid of it since November. In abundant supply was Tabasco sauce. Corey and I seemed to be the only ones to purchase this product. Soy sauce bottles were empty when our family was called to the table, the only thing left, Tabasco sauce. Christmas turned Mexican that year! I cut pork from the pig and sprinkled it with Tabasco sauce before returning to my spot. Almost immediately I felt ill. Excusing myself from the celebration, I told my siblings I would return in just a few minutes.

Bowel problems had normalized their way into my life over the past year, and to me, the feelings I had were controllable. But, by the time I reached the edge of the road, the severity of the situation had changed. Slowly making my way back, I proceeded with great caution. The powerful storm spared and embarrassment from interactions with other people. Clinching my butt cheeks tight enough to hold a dollar bill with each punctuated step, the five-minute walk turned in to a twenty-minute death march I was unsure of surviving.

Once home, I realized I left my key in the maneaba. Out of desperation, I broke into my house. Gripping the lantern, I tried to light it. My matches were soaked. I grabbed a dry pack from my medical kit and removed the lantern’s glass casing. Striking a match, the glass cover fell and shattered. Bloodied from the glass, colonies of mosquitoes feasted on me. Making it safely to my pit latrine became my focus. In fear of crabs that frequented the pit at night, I relinquished all dignity and squatted. With an overwhelming sense of gratitude, I relished the fact that I was safe and home, thousands of miles away from home.

Uriane came to check on me the next morning. “The children came to see if you were alright last night, but they said that you were sleeping.” I nodded and proceeded to tell her my story. More people gathered as I recounted the narrative, and everyone, except for Uriane, seemed to have a good laugh. “Why didn’t you let your sisters choose the good meats for you? You are so skinny; you look sick! You need to eat more to get stronger and look better!” She was upset with me. Then, out of what I can only describe as love and frustration, she huffed and walked away. Like an I-Kiribati son, I laughed and my heart smiled.

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