On the Road.
What a world. How did I get there? How did I get here?
Now I walk down a busy thoroughfare outside of Atlanta in an oxford-striped tunic, navy leggings, and teal loafers.
A small group of American women jogs past, skorts riding high on their thighs.
I want to strip down and join them, bouncing on the balls of my feet at the intersection.
I could do that, right? I could do that.
Could I do that?
I went to the Kingdom of Chimera and something happened to me.
I can only liken it to getting the top of my head blown off with a shotgun.
In the downtown neighborhood of a city in Chimera, sitting at a fast food joint, I listen to the story of a French-born sub-Saharan who recounts her strange story.
She had been homeless in Chimera for a year. Previously she had lived in Paris. Her accent was excellent, so when she told me she had lived on Kleber and gone to a Grande Ecole, I was ready to believe it. Her carriage was that of someone who could at least mimic that identity.
She told me she had been gang stalked in Paris, where she had been living alone with her baby.
“They accused me of insanity, but the judge was involved. The police were involved.”
The story was incredible and yet–there was something about her that made me think it was true.
Before my own curious trip down the rabbit hole, I might not have believed it.
After our lunch I had another date, this time at Starbucks. This was not with someone who had been stalked but with an anti-trafficking worker.
She was there with a small group of Portuguese people who spoke no English.
Never mind; I could understand what they were saying.
Something about an evangelist and evangelism.
The organizer looked about ready to tear out her hair.
“Sssshhhh!” she hissed.
She looked at me desperately.
“These people won’t shut up,” she stage-whispered. “Missionary-this, missionary-that, evangelism, blah blah blah. They’re going to get this anti-trafficking project shut down!”
I grinned at her and asked how the work was going.
I understood her frustration. She was from a large missionary agency, just like the one I had been with before I was asked to leave.
I was a bull in a china shop, chomping at the bit.
At a certain point, the association with the agency seemed to hold us back.
I had wished it were possible to operate in Muslim nation with the security of an agency, but in the end I almost lost my mind trying to keep it all together.
“You’re not one of them,” one brother had said to me.
“I question the wisdom of remaining in a situation of such adversity,” commented another.
And there I was in the middle of Chimera trying to make sense of something that made no sense at all.
A watershed moment was when one of my beloved Saudi students came through town and wanted to get together for lunch. I saw him, with some Campus Crusaders tagging along.
I was warned by well-intentioned colleagues that he probably was coming for one thing.
I had started to get spooked. I could no longer distinguish between real and imagined danger; I was reliant on others for a grasp of reality. I saw my Saudi student as a predator; I saw him the way they did.