Story time is back at its regularly scheduled, weekly programming! (Insert NBC joke here)
Today's publication is from Roni, who is an aspiring actor living in Manhattan with plans finish pre-med requirements at City College. Here is an excerpt from his novel, Lunar Rainbows.
There are few places in the world where you can see a lunar rainbow. For one thing, the climate requires certain conditions. The moon is key and it must be near to or at its peak of ripeness. The sky must be quite dark, and the moon must be less than forty-two degrees high. As moonlight shines down, there must be adequate water from rain or other sources that will refract and reflect its beam back into the abyss of sky. Once these conditions align, prepare yourself for amazement. Like a photo that slowly develops in a tiny bin of liquid, glowing shades of reds, blues, greens, and yellows creep up and float into your imagination. In the quiet stillness of night, colors throb and hum to life, pulsing in midair.
We had come to Victoria Falls that night as witnesses to this wonder. We sat in a circle overlooking the commanding waterfalls and treated ourselves to a picnic. In the middle of the circle lay half eaten packages of crisp potato chips, a bag of square tea biscuits, nine green bottles of cold Zambian beer, an assortment of candies, and six different kinds of Cadbury chocolate. Ruth sat across from me looking like a movie star with a thin scarf wrapped four times around her neck and sunglasses positioned just so, resting high in her short, highlighted hair. She nibbled on a small square of milk chocolate with a layer of white chocolate that rested on top of it. Top Deck, it was called, and I was in the midst of a most deliciously proper British education. “I can’t believe you don’t have proper Cadbury in America!” she exclaimed. “ I don’t know how you live off of that Hersheys stuff. You poor thing. Though the foil wrappers are quite nice.”
Ruth, seven other people around my age, and I had been living in Livingstone, Zambia for three weeks by this point. We were part of an organization called Travellers Worldwide and we spent our days volunteering at local schools and/or orphanages in the area. I was the third grade teacher at a school in the Linda compound (or suburb) and had begun my time there most unceremoniously.
The blue taxi’s tires roughed up the dry earth below and sent chickens screaming in all directions as it stopped in front of the school. Tiny bodies with big white eyes that seemed disproportionate to their small heads ran towards my taxi window and peered inside, watching me. I opened the door and stepped outside, careful not to hit any of the children that surrounded the car. They continued to stare. A few started to smile and wave. “Muzungo! Muzungo!” (white man! white man!), one of them said. I smiled wide with ignorance of what the word meant, and breathed hard and quietly as a reassurance that I would soon become comfortable here. I walked under a rusty awning along the side of the old building, and suddenly, like an arcade game of Whack-a-Mole, small black heads popped up in ordered rhythm as I passed by open classroom windows – looking, staring, watching. I found an open door and walked inside a small gymnasium that had been converted into a classroom. The room felt cold, and dust particles lingered in spots of light cast through holes at the top where walls failed to meet the ceiling. Twenty to thirty children were clustered around long wooden tables on the right, left, and in back of the room. A woman with a stately stance and a few black, coiled whiskers that popped out from her chin approached me from the back. Smiling, she introduced herself as the third grade teacher, welcomed me, and handed me two pieces of chalk and some lesson books approved by the Zambian Ministry of Education. She mentioned something about needing to tend to her brother’s paralyzed leg and with that she was gone, leaving me dumbfounded and uncertain, carrying two pieces of chalk. I was supposed to be her assistant. I was supposed to watch and learn. Now I was It. I walked slowly towards her students, feeling the weight of the chalk grow with every step, and thirty-two Zambian third graders shot to their feet like a band of brothers, steadfast and ready for their commands.
Over the next several weeks all of my emotions were put to task. Florina was shy and timid, a result of sexual abuse at age nine. She began to understand her times tables in my last week of teaching. Gift’s enormous grin masked the existence of an STD that cowardly hid its face. He was a troublemaker in the beginning, but by the end he sat and listened to Cinderella like it was God’s gift to mankind, violently shushing the others to be quiet. Monday, the 16th was frustrating and disheartening, Tuesday, the 17th was pure joy. On Wednesday, the 25th I laughed until it hurt and on Thursday, the 26th my only reaction was to cry. Such was my life as a third grade teacher during the months of June and July. I lost my voice and learned not to scream, they marveled at Snow White and I taught them to sing “High Ho.” Every day I gave a lesson and every day a lesson was gained.
By now the sun had set and more and more tourists stationed themselves near the edge of the lookout, their cameras locked, loaded, and ready to go. My “torch” lit up the circle that was once replete with food and, sucking on hard-boiled sweets, we braced ourselves for what was to come. Silently, we stood holding our breaths as if any sound might disrupt the event and end it for all time. The stars came out. The moon beamed brighter. And, suddenly, in the vapor in front of us was the faint outline of a rainbow, slowly awakening to mystify us all. As it became harder and harder to see the people around me, the rainbow grew brighter and brighter, unfathomably clear in the harsh darkness, yet unmistakably true. Soon, it formed an enormous half-circle that began where the waters broke over the cliff and continued for eternity into the gorge, hundreds of feet below.
At Victoria Falls, certain conditions are required. The moon is key and it must be near to or at its peak of ripeness. I flew to Zambia with no assumptions. I did not plan for a brother’s paralyzed leg, which led me to man a classroom. I did not plan to teach my students to sing “High Ho.” However, two pieces of chalk are not simply placed into one’s hands. Conditions coincide, colors appear, and, without realizing it, a rainbow materializes, living and breathing in the thunderous roar of a waterfall.