I lusted after my father’s Kindle since he bought it a year or two ago. Whenever I flew home or flew to school or did any sort of traveling in general, I entertained the exciting delusion that I could read five books by the time the trip was over. Whether it was a daylong plane ride or a weeklong road trip, I crammed my backpack with many unhappy books that know they’re nothing more than dead weight. But if I had a Kindle, I would’ve had room for other things in my backpack. Things like toothpaste.
I now have a Kindle. A Kindle Paperwhite. I pre-ordered it a month or so ago. The week after it arrived, I carried it with me everywhere, as you do with a new instrument of technology. But as my dad says, they’re only good for reading books. I felt rather silly opening the Kindle during dinner at the mess hall to realize there was no reason it should be there with me.
After the initial excitement wore down, I actually began to read on it. Nothing for school, because I already had the physical books—weird phrase—and they are better for quick referencing. Several texts found themselves sucked out of the proverbial cloud into my little friend. Poetry by Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and John Donne, the ESV Bible, some Nietzsche, Dickens, and sets of essays by David Hume, Mark Twain, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Those are just the freebies. I bought Ron Hansen’s Mariette in Ecstasy, which was only three bucks, and just an hour ago the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of the Brother’s Karamazov. For a romantic like me, the possibilities are endless. I could be reading Nietzsche right now!
“The man who has seen the rising moon break out of the clouds at midnight, has been present like an archangel at the creation of light and of the world.”
It dragged out a memory that occasionally surfaces in the swamp of my mind. I was in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip with my youth group. Our group primarily worked with a Montessori preschool in an extremely poor area. Later in the week we visited a school that was a long, bumpy bus ride away. I was drained. The part of me that normalized the poverty around me so it didn’t overwhelm me was disintegrating. In my journal from that day, June 16, 2010, I wrote that when we arrived at the compound, the kids “came out and looked around, then grabbed the hand of whichever teen they deemed was theirs. And the one/two that I had would not… let… go… Her palm was unpleasantly moist and she was trying to get her friend to grab my other arm. She acted as if I was a trophy or something.” I wanted more than anything else to leave, and I hated myself for that.
We played catch and the hold-the-parachute game with the children in a large field until it began pouring rain. A torrential downpour. Many of us huddled together under a small pavilion where some of the young girls braided their new gringo friends’ hair. I spent my time trying to avoid the younger children that were intent on stealing the balls we brought with us. I looked down at one of them, into his eyes. His eyes were yellow, his pupils brown with fuzzy edges. Two little moons breaking out of the clouds in a dark brown sky.
In his eyes was the image of God.
I couldn’t stand to look at him.
I turned away from God.