[Originally published July 1, 2011.]

- - -

At the airport the young man heard far-off drums echoing in the night. He imagined the young woman in the plane sitting still, hearing whispers of a quiet conversation near the rear of the fuselage. He glanced down at his father’s wristwatch—12:30. The flight was on time.

The plane’s wings were moonlit and reflected the stars. The moonlight had guided him there, toward this salvation. He had stopped an older man along the way, hoping to find some long forgotten words, or perhaps an ancient melody, for such an occasion. The old man had said nothing at first, and instead stared cryptically into the sodden earth. Then he raised his head and turned slowly.

“Hurry, boy. It’s waiting there for you,” the old man had said.

The plane was almost gliding. The young man looked at the wristwatch again. His head spun from whiskey and soda. She was a damned nice woman. It would take a lot to drag him away from her. It was unlikely that a hundred men or more could ever do such a thing. The air, now thick and moist, seemed to carry rain again. He blessed the rains of Africa. They were the only thing left to bless in this forsaken place, he thought—at least until she set foot on the continent. They were going to take some time to do the things they never had.

He stood on the tarmac and watched as the plane came in for its landing. He heard the sound of wild dogs crying out into the night. The man thought the dogs sounded desperate, perhaps having grown restless and longing for some company. He knew the feeling. The crying of the dogs reminded him that he would need to do what he knew was right now that she was here. Of this he was as certain as Kilimanjaro rising like Olympus above the Serengeti. He had traveled and sought to cure what was deep inside him, what frightened him of himself.

The plane landed and stopped. He hurried. She would be waiting there for him.