08.21.19

The Next Day

The day’s humidity had grown tired as the night air emerged with surprising crispness. If the day could change from sweltering heat to chilly wet, breathing in this new land would be intentional, difficult, slow.

But already morning’s dew was evaporating into revived heat as the sun rose to bake the earth and all on it. The small band stirred slowly to life, rubbing chafed ankles and wrists where manacles held fast through the night.

A little ways off they heard the water lapping against the sides of the shore and anchored boats. They dug their bare feet into the tan soil. Solid ground replaced months of the ocean’s tossing and rocking.

The Twenty took in fresh air, a strange earthiness to noses now accustomed to sickness, sweat, feces and death. The bowels of the ship had been filled with moaning. But as the sun rose new sounds rang: wagon wheels lazily loping over dusty roads, farm animals scurrying to begin their day, human chattering in strange tongues.

Nothing was familiar. Everything foreign.

The Twenty surveyed the people of the land. They dressed differently. Their loin cloths covered not only their loins but also their legs. White blousy shirts with ballooning sleeves topped their torsos while wide brimmed hats tented their faces from sun and heat. They had no toes, only shell hard blocks for feet.

Before the new day could stretch and yawn, the Twenty were separated. Men with pink faces and shuɗī eyes apportioned the lot, keeping them shackled. In ones and twos they dwindled to none, disappeared behind wagons, marched through piney wilderness, or led into wooden dwellings belonging to people with pink faces and alulu eyes.

As they were separated, they looked back with terror. Where are you going? Why are you staying? What now?

The Twenty spoke. “Orukọ mi ni Adetokunbo. Duro. Duro! Orukọ mi ni Adetokunbo.” Later, “Ebi n pa mi. Omi. Omi.”

The people with the pink faces and búlù eyes clattered in strange tongues. They never said the names of the Twenty. They never stopped dragging, pushing, or pulling them. They never offered water or food. They simply kept driving them like cattle. When the pink people grew tired or frustrated, they spoke louder in strange tongue or drove the Twenty harder. All day.

August in Virginia never hurries. It sits idle and watches. So the day wore on. Soon, separated and confused, thoughts of obibi visited the Twenty. Every day ended with thoughts of obibi. Every day ended without any promise of obibi again. Thus August 21st turned into 400 years of making obibi and learning to breathe in a strange land among the people with the pink faces and alulu eyes.

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

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