Karen woke up late the next morning, not sure at first where she was or what day it was. After lying in bed for a while she realized she had made the jump to her future and should probably get on with it. She got up, pulled on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt and headed to the kitchen in search of coffee. There was a note on the table from Ian.
“Off to work, help yourself to whatever, will be home around five.”
After some digging around she was able to find some coffee and bread to make toast. At least there was electricity.
Ian told her they often had rolling blackouts because the infrastructure could not meet the demands of a growing country overloaded with people.
She turned on her computer and started making notes.
What to do with the rest of my life:
Write a best seller
Become a field reporter in Africa
Join the Foreign Legion
Get to know Alex
“Knock Knock!! Are you up yet?”
It was Sara from next door.
Karen jumped up to greet her, happy for the interruption.
“Yes, I just got up. I was so tired, I slept late. Who is this?”
“This is Greg. He is two and terrible.”
“Hi Greg. Come in. Can I get you some coffee or something else?”
“No thanks, we just had a snack. We are on our way to a play date but I wanted to stop in and see if you were interested in going to Women’s Coffee Morning tomorrow. You could meet some people and get out for a bit.”
“Sure, I would love to, what time?”
“Why don’t you come over to my house around nine and we can leave from there?”
“Sounds great, see you then.”
Ian was, in fact, not a spy. He was a Foreign Service Officer who mostly did program management. It was not a glamorous exciting job but he liked it. He spent much of his time running around meeting people, introducing people to each other, and trying to build relationships. This particular morning he was about 40 miles away meeting with a village Chief outside his house under a shady tree. Naked children were running about and most of the villagers were squatting or standing around having a look at the pale-faced visitors.
On this day the topic was water. Cholera had started showing up around coastal West Africa and Ian’s job was to try to educate people in order to contain it. Cholera was transmitted through contaminated water, food and human waste. Most places in the area did not have running water or toilet facilities. People used open fields or open drains, streams, and waterways for sewage. The symptoms of cholera were diarrhea, vomiting, leg cramps, and in turn dehydration. It was often fatal if not treated. Treatment could be as simple as replacing lost fluids with a mixture of boiled water, salt, and sugar.
Ian and his team were there to tell the Chief that, in order to avoid an outbreak in his village, they needed to boil their water before drinking it, wash their hands with soap after defecating and before eating, peel or cook their food before eating, and dig holes for outhouses. In this way they could have a more sanitary environment and people would not get sick.
It was tough going. Nobody was sick, yet. What was the motivation?
He would have to go back many times and work with smaller groups. Eventually he would get through to them, or at least to some of them. He had done it before. He just had to be creative about it. He thought Alex might be able to help and made a note to discuss it next time they met.
Alex taught journalism at the local university and had been involved in PR campaigns all over the world. He went to Africa on a two year contract hoping to do some good instead of promoting toothpaste and mouthwash. He was 33 years old and recently divorced so he had another motive to get away from it all. He caught his wife in the middle of a torrid affair with a colleague of his. Ugh. He still cringed every time he thought of it.
He was a highly successful PR man for one of the biggest agencies in London. He was working on a campaign that would bring in a lot of money for his client and wanted to be focused and do a good job. Therefore he had not been aware of what was going on in the rest of his life. He worked long hours and had meetings on the weekends. He knew he had been neglecting his wife but she had not nagged him lately so he figured everything was all right.
He was out for a drink with a client on a Friday night and it hadn’t gone so well. The client was not happy about the latest ideas being thrown around and wanted Alex to come up with some new ones. Alex was getting tired of his prima donna client who was never satisfied. He just wanted to go home and relax for once and catch up on his personal life.
It was still fairly early so he decided to pick up some pastries for breakfast so he and his wife could have a lie in the next morning with coffee in bed. As he was leaving the bakery, he noticed it was a starry night and the moon was full. He smiled to himself, things were looking up already.
As he entered his flat, he immediately knew something was wrong. There was a smell or a sound that alerted him. He called out, “Julie, you there?”
He heard them in the bedroom, scrambling around. He ran and entered the room. They were both grabbing their clothes, trying to make themselves presentable. It wasn’t possible. They were beyond being presentable. He was in shock.
“Julie? What is going on? Matt, that is my WIFE! What the hell is going on?”
“Sorry, Alex. Took me by surprise. It just happened. Sorry.”
“You are never around, I was lonely. Then I met Matt at the market and we just clicked. I felt alive for the first time in a long time. I am leaving you Alex.”
Alex felt as though he would faint, he made it to the bathroom just in time to catch the vomit in the toilet. He lay down on the bathroom floor and closed his eyes. How did his life get so screwed up?