I jumped out of the van to push it because the Kenyan hillside road we’d been navigating was turning into chocolate pudding and our van was skidding through it toward a cliff on the right and the possibility of an abrupt end to my group’s idyllic journey around the African countryside;
so I jumped over the knees of friends in the middle seat and through the van door behind our small Kenyan guide who now felt responsible for the absurd danger we found ourselves in;
and as I helped him push the van up the hill I realized I wasn’t really strong enough and neither was the scrawny guide but we did it anyway until he spotted a Caterpillar-yellow construction tractor passing us on the way home for the day and he shouted to the tractor driver in Swahili and the tractor pulled the van so for a couple of minutes I was walking against the van to catch my breath as its wheels slurped and spun up the hill;
and then the hillside road grew flatter as dusk settled over us for the day and the van was picking up speed;
and the guide yelled over his shoulder at me before leaping through the van’s open door toward my relieved friends;
“bad animals around here!” he shouted and slid the door shut behind him, and then the tractor and van and my friends were suddenly not there as the darkness became final;
and staggering toward a tall forested bend in the full throated darkness I could imagine a dozen pair of wild animal eyes studying me from the thick forest;
and then I was stumbling around the bend and the van was waiting, filled with the most beautiful lights I’ve ever seen and beckoning me to feel safe again.
This is how my life goes: always filled with surprise and danger and desertion yet eventually with people who care when I need them the most.
And I’ve never eaten another bowl of chocolate pudding.