“The Sunny Side” by Ryan Gahris (Ethiopia)


Sitting just to be still, unknowingly, atop an ant hill — the spiders above were spinning their silk. Ahead was an untilled meadow, overgrown and waist-high with nettles. Hiding away microscopic marvels — things just being things. Left to be and compete for the simplest of needs. Predisposed to balance between extremes. Day and night. Hot and cold. Dry and wet. Here and there. But, who really cares?

As I stared, my eyes unleashed the anti-abyss — the negative imprint of a tired mind, out sick. But once a lone cloud lured my vacant gaze, it bulldozed through the invisible maze. An ink blot set against a blinding blue blaze. Morphing to mirror my revolting cynical state. Inching closer, as if it had something wise to say…

The wind whipped in advance to trigger a chill. Every hair was raised to a static standstill. The elevated scent of a patty in the hay; sun-dried, cracked and indistinguishable from clay, alluded to the prospect of better days. And so I remained, suspended in that comfortably numb place.

As the blob began to beat back the sun, instincts raised my threat level to, ‘RUN!’ But when a spike of light struck I couldn’t hold back a laugh. At the fact there is a sunny side, even for something that came from an ass.

So I sat back as the chaos came quick. The blackness above, seeming to twist out a grin, unleashed the heavens upon my flimsy thin skin. Soaked through, I did not flinch. Until, I felt the first pinch. The ants had rebelled! Decided to mutiny upon my ass, and bit with the wrath of hell! So I jumped up and spun about in a drunken ballerina-like fit. Cursing the ants and everything I thought to be insignificant!

That is, until the darkness cracked. The abyss gazed back. And lightning shattered the earth right where I had sat.

And now the smallest of things, those once-thought insignificant beings . . . are welcome to bite my ass or bicker about the brass tacks of grass. And I’ll listen for those inaudible whispers. Search for the wondrous nothings hidden in plain sight. Feel for the nudges from nowhere out of spite. And appreciate the humility of things far from our cares. Until the day I become the soil, the abyss, the light and the air. An insignificant yet miraculous foundation, for the next piece of the puzzle, to see the sunny side of shit in times of trouble.

Ryan Gahris (Ethiopia 2019–2020) served as a Community Health Volunteer in Sele, Tigray. He was one of the unfortunate PCVs who had his service cut short by the coronavirus.

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