By Haley Newman
He told me I could sleep in his bedroom while he was away. Because of the ceiling fan, it was the coolest room in the house. The walls were blank. The air mattress where we’d slept together for five nights was still in the middle of the floor, right underneath the spinning fan.
He had five button-up shirts, a few pairs of cargo shorts, and one pair of pants with dirt stains on the knees, hanging from a thin metal pole. A small pine desk was covered in dirty books and yellowing papers. On the floor was the camping pack he’d used to carry PowerBars and water bottles when we hiked up Mount Debwah to see the sunrise together.
When he left, he took his L.L. Bean messenger bag, his laptop, and a Haitian painting (a wedding gift for his sister). He wore his Chaco sandals, which, as far as I could tell, were his only pair of shoes.
When I was alone in the house a few days after he left, I shuffled through the things on his desk. There were three books: Graham Greene’s The Comedians, Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking (with a bookmark in “The Origins of Dairying”), and a thick peanut manual. I read a few chapters of The Comedians and flipped right to the “Sugars, Chocolate and Confectionary” section of the food bible, but didn’t waste any time with the peanut manual. Runners, Virginia, Valencia, Spanish. To me, a peanut is a peanut
The stray papers turned out to be last year’s tax return and a bunch of factory handouts: peanut sorting methods, roasting temperatures, the dangers of aflatoxin, spring farming timeline.
Underneath the papers was a tiny yellow book, about the width of a business card. His journal. Maybe that was what I thought I was looking for.
He’d started writing in August of 2008, right around the time he arrived to work in Cap Haitien. The last entry, December 29, was almost seven months old. Between the last page and the back cover was a folded New York Times article with the headline, “Racial Barrier Falls in Decisive Victory.”
Most of the entries were boring reflections: a broken roaster, poor production, high aflatoxin level, Tè a fatige. A few times he mentioned the monotony and loneliness of island life.
There’s one entry that I remember vividly: November 4, 2008.
When I hear the news, I think of Chrislande.
Nothing is the same without you.
I wish you were here.
Without you, nowhere is home.
When I finished reading, I closed the yellow journal and put it back on his desk where it belonged, under old papers and the thick peanut manual.
Now, whenever I think of election night, I see a little yellow journal, peanuts, and a ceiling fan, all of them spinning over my head.