Monday, February 13, 2006

The Beginning

I’D BEEN TAPPING MY FOOT in the temple waiting room for five hours. My “appointment” was at 3, and I’d watched half a dozen others enter and exit—in dashikis and geles; hugging and prostrating, laughing and singing; arriving well after me and leaving long before. Earlier, it was unseasonably warm, but by this time January was reasserting herself, pushing through the door like an evicted tenant gathering her belongings. By the time Bale called my name, the temple was practically empty. If it had been summer, I would have heard crickets. I was a lone pot of hot peppers ready to boil over.

“BalĂ© will see you now,” smiled the attendant, draped in white, in some accent that hinted of a Spanish colony.

I couldn’t be mad at her, but I could be mad at him. When I crossed the threshold into the temple room, I saw Bale seated cross-legged on the mat and it suddenly occurred to me that I should be bowing or bending or kissing the ground—anything but what I was doing, which was standing before him.

“Alafia,” Bale said as he rose to embrace me. “Thank you for being so patient.

“Have a seat. Please. What can I do for you today?”

The voice in my head said, It’s not day anymore; it’s night.

But the voice in my mouth said, “I came to get my name.”