Awake since 2am -- I never sleep through the night anymore. For once I can pair a reason to my insomnia: a woman I was trying to save died, and I woke up with her name pacing doggedly back and forth through my head. My brain is still trying to solve a problem that has solved itself, and all the reasoning in the world won't coax it back to sleep. Reading is generally preferable to trite tossing and turning; at random intervals I walk my book over to the kitchen to eat from the pile of aging figs in my refrigerator. Briefly I considered my cornflakes, but that's for dinner. I have to match my cornflake supply just so to my milk supply; excess milk goes off quickly, usually before I have a chance to get more cereal. I test the weight of the milk box to see what's remaining, then test the weight of the cornflakes. More pointless problem solving at zero dark thirty.
Weeks ago at the hospital I started to cry while my FSN and I waited for the Embassy driver to fix a flat tire. "She is going to die here because I can't do my job." What I secretly longed for her to say was that I'm good at what I'm doing, that this was a situation of the woman's own making, that we had done everything possible. The FSN watched me silently for a bit while I pressed a handkerchief over my mouth and nose to muffle the noise. "Sometimes there are obstacles," was the eventual reply. She had learned this word from me when I had delivered her present from India: a little carving of Ganesha. "He's supposed to help remove obstacles in your work," I'd explained. Now I wish I'd gotten one for myself.