I look to the west and see a huge cloud of sand approaching. I sigh, knowing another dust storm is on its way. The dust storms always bring a cough to our children, even inside. I can imagine what the sand will be like. It will be like a swarm of angry bugs that attacks us and our crops. It seeps into corners, through tiny holes in the walls and roof that never stay covered. Our lives are covered with dust, the lives of my children and me. The thunderstorm that always follows the dust storm is a blessing. It clears our throats, and waters the crops. Indeed, if not for this water, we would starve, for the angry bugs that are dust would kill our crops.
I silently crave for my wife. She always comforted me when I worried about the dust storms. “Don’t worry,” she said. “The water will soon come.”
I wish she could say that again.
She died a year ago while giving birth to our third child. I still feel the guilt of her passage. If we had moved to the city, she would still be alive.
She had been trying to convince me to move to the city for almost a year before her death. I refused, claiming that rural land was what the children and I were used to. I would not relent, and we did not move from the farm.
I wished we had.
Our third child had been soon to enter the world. The child’s arrival had been premature, and there had been no time to bring my wife miles to the nearest hospital.
I have driven from my memory the details of what happened that horrible day. I only remember there was blood. Horrified, I had looked to the newborn child, only to discover that it, too, had not survived.
I feel convinced that had we moved into a city, my wife and the child could have survived. With all of the fancy technology there – it is a wonder that anyone ever dies in such an urban place.
Even now, a year later, I feel intense guilt about having refused to move to the city. My sense of belonging was not worth her life. I hate myself for my own selfishness, my refusal to think reasonably.
As the dust storm approaches, I hear footsteps approaching. My son, an enthusiastic four-year-old, runs up to me. He notices the cloud of dust.
“Daddy, what is that?”
It isn’t that the boy has never seen a dust storm; rather, he has just recently began to comprehend the natural functions of the world, and the power of these functions. He has probably seen dozens of dust storms since he was born, but he hasn’t questioned what they were until now.
I consider giving a false, optimistic answer, but in my sullen state, I tell the truth.
“It is a big wall of sand coming towards us.”
“Is that good?”
“No, it is not. But afterwards, a storm will usually come, and water will fall from the sky to wash away the sand.”
“So everything will be fine, then?”
I look at this boy who, at the age of four, has helped me realize that life can go on.
“Yes,” I say. “Yes, everything will be fine afterwards.”
And it will. Because for the first time, I realize that I can continue. Although my wife and child have been taken as if by the sand, I can proceed as if rejuvenated by water. Just like the crops, I have not been permanently damaged. My child has given me the strength to overcome.
Age 13, Grade 8
The Dalton School