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Wednesday, 3 August 2005

The Comfort Of An Egg

The cold season lingers. The hot season tantalises, making a brief appearance in a blast of afternoon sunshine, but by nightfall the temperature plummets and breath is still visible in the morning air.

I want porridge, something hot to sit in my belly and spread its warmth through to my rigid fingers. But there is no water. No water in the tap inside, no water in the tap outside, no water in the drums outside the wash-house. I could use the last litre of drinking water, but that seems unwise.

Then I find some dirty water in the end of a bucket and decide to boil an egg. Standing next to the flame I listen to the egg rollicking against the sides of the saucepan. I lift the egg out of the pan and put it in the pocket of my fleece, where it keeps my hand warm.

The fleece is something my mother gave me in the last minutes before I left for Zambia, over one year ago now. I hate it. I hate it but I need it and I'm so thankful she thrust it into my bag when I didn't have time enough to seek out my own before departure. It's old and pilled and far too big for me, but I have no other warm clothes and it has kept me from hypothermia throughout two cold seasons.

It is, I think, also, the fact of having to wear the same thing over and over again with no variety. But then, that is what everyone else here must do. The egg slowly cools down, and in the office I reach into my pocket to retrieve it. It falls to the floor where it cracks. I pick it up. In rolling it has gathered red dust into the crevices. I make a pile of eggshell on my desk, then eat the egg. It tastes good.