I went with David and Solomon to the railroad tracks again last night. The tracks are just outside our neighborhood on the road to Chomatown and they lead to the right in the direction of Lusaka, to the left between the market and mainstreet and out of the city towards Livingstone. During the day the tracks are the pedestrians’ highway, the quickest way for the communities outside of town to reach the local trade center and the most enjoyable walk due to the lack of exhaust in the air from the trucks, unlike the paved sidewalks running alongside the roads. The tracks bustle with business all day without rest. Men carrying sacks of coal or maize to the market, women with their children clung across their backs and some freshly milled meal teetering on the top of their head, children running and playing as they end their school day heading home half undressed out their proper school code trimmings, drunks stumbling across the ties trying to catch up to a muguwa who just passed and looking to beg for a few thousand kwatcha for another day’s supply of spirits to was away their broken stature and plight imprisoning their mind, meanwhile their daughters must sell their bodies just to afford Mealy Mealand school enrollment fees. Yes, the tracks see the full measure of this nation’s, even this continent’s, bleakly hopeful present. By nightfall, the tracks are worn, weary from the traffic but never the kind of traffic it was built to serve. The railways see less trains than ever before due to the closing of many of the mines in the Copper Belt, and with fewer trains comes an even dimmer outlook on the economic future of the people. The tracks welcome the dark, they welcome the peace, they welcome the serenity that can ease the mind over such draining and saddening thoughts passing over them each day. The tracks are the heart’s beat that sustains this world in its cyclical life of struggle, hope and perseverance for the days when change is no longer idle chatter’s toy but a true presence across the land that has finally been redeemed. So when the sun sets in the distant African rolling hills and paints another masterpiece of tangerine, rose, violet, and then finally washes it all over with the deepest of navy hues; only then do the tracks find solitude.
Now, when they have been tucked in for a much needed night’s sleep, I accompany King David and King Solomon in search of the nightly sanctuary from our won day’s events and find an audience with the tracks. Pay no attention to time when you enter the sanctuary. Leave all worry and tension and over-bearing passion at the railroad crossing’s arms, checking that which is dangerous and selfish there so as not to encroach on the reverence of the coming solitude. The slow and calculated padding from the crossing to no particular ending destination provokes the opening up of spirit of the hour, the regular prancing of our feet from cross-tie to cross-tie drums in rhythm with the restful breathing of the tracks, in time with the heartbeat of the people of the land. The arrival upon the indefinite theatre for the night’s play has no markings, nor does it have a particular distance; for all that signifies a sufficient place to end is the spark of real conversation. David, Solomon, and I chat on the way, yes, but about nothing in particular. However, when our words turn from whim to reality, from any other conversation to true dialogue, we have found our night’s sanctuary. Our lady welcomes us. She spreads her metal arms wide enough for us to just rest our heads on one and dangle our feet over the other. She cradles our bodies with the cross-ties at our sides. We three kings, welcomed into our madame’s court, rest and enjoy each moment as if it were the only moment, as if we were the only ones anywhere, and mistress who has suffered so much over the course of another tedious day is happy to listen. Our words turn into fingers of masterful dexterity as we begin to turn ideas end over end, toss them around and up and down gaining more and more truth by peeling back the casings our society has wrapped around it, hiding, masking real form and brilliance and between the three of us we create such a show but having no witnesses but our resting lady and millions seated in the cosmic audience, twinkling above in their heavenly balcony. The grandest topics are our toys, the most complicated is passed down the line until our fingers are satisfied, or another more striking toy is set on the shelf before our youthfully desirous eyes. Meanwhile, our lady quietly holds us, just listening, just resting. If only our knowledge were as well travelled as hers, what a spectacle would take place! The spirit of the night wets our lips and relaxes the thoughts so that we play freely and without reserving inhibition. The fire, held in our very hands, smoothes the air as we light up our imaginations, still examining the subject of our minds but not breaking the silence that has now settled among us. Such moments call us back every day, when the sun stumbles lower and our lady sets her first brushstroke on another stunning African sunset; she is beckoning us to come and lay in her arms once again. We are her lullaby and she is ours. And as when we came, we set our feet before us, one and then the other, keeping time with all life around us, treading softly in order to maintain the tracks’ slumber. She has another day ahead, full of pleasure and sadness, hope and disappointment. The least David, Solomon, and I could do is allow her to enjoy such sanctuary as she grants us. We gather what we left at the crossing arms, those guards of peace; but only do we take what is necessary, leaving behind forever that which is foolish for any soul to carry. What a night. Now we will rest, for tomorrow she will be calling her three kings back to her chambers under the stars one more time.