The night I arrived in Georgetown, America/US of A

It was a muggy night at the height of summer.
It was hard to believe that only yesterday my mother and two older daughters saw me off at the airport.
It was decided by all that it was too early, dawn the color of ink but noisy with building traffic.
It would be a mercy to leave the youngest daughter asleep in the air conditioned room.
Being so young, she might cry too heart-rendingly.
Being so young, she might not understand the reasons for all the leave-taking.
Among our kind, leaving is long drawn out and very complicated; rituals like a dance of hesitation punctuated by tears.
But I digress.
It was a muggy night and the Washington monument shone; obelisk, moonlit needle, both familiar and unfamiliar in its translation from books to a page on a hot summer night.
The cab driver glanced at me in the rearview mirror and said, Traveling alone, Madam?
I gave him the address of the university written on a card. Yes, I said, stating the obvious.
I rolled the window down in case I needed to scream.
You are brave, he continued. You must be here for a reason.
I did not know what to say, though I thought it was too early an invitation to probe at the filaments of my misgivings.
A breeze riffed through the trees and the surfaces of water answered.
I was brought to my destination, and I alit and paid my fare.
I had a pouch full of coins with which to make my first long distance call once I located a pay phone.
But it was after midnight and the university was silent.
I dragged my suitcases along the cobblestones and stared at the letter of instructions in my hand.
The site for Residence Hall B had a construction billboard and idle machines instead of the door to a lobby where a receptionist might be waiting.
Three college students rounded the corner and I showed them the letter.
They did not know what arrangements might have been made for the transfer of Hall B residents to some other place, but they took me to another residence hall where there was a light in the lobby and a receptionist at the desk.
She made phone calls. She offered a drink of water. I waited and watched the clock.
It was near three in the morning and someone came to get me.
I was taken to another block of flats within the university.
The door was opened for me. I was told another resident had checked in earlier and they had put her in my bunk. I think she was from Italy.
I suppose some other arrangements could have been made, so she did not have to be awakened and moved somewhere else.
But what could I do?
I set my luggage in the hallway and found the bathroom.
I washed my face.
I was so tired I did not know if I changed out of my clothes before climbing into the top bunk as instructed.
A scholar from Zimbabwe was asleep in the lower bunk.
I don’t remember how long I slept that first night.

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