"You"

I had known Bill's mom, Dawami, for three hours when I asked her if she had friends in Atlanta.

"You," she said.

of

I had known Bill's mom, Dawami, for three hours when I asked her if she had friends in Atlanta.

"You," she said.

We'd started the afternoon as strangers, stiff and shy, sitting around with her husband, watching Tanzanian music videos about the coming of the apocalypse. When he left to rest up for his night shift, Dawami got chatty. She said she wanted to practice driving. I offered to take her, and we piled into my car. Dawami crept the three blocks to the dilapidated Thriftown grocery, signaled just in time, and pulled into the parking lot beaming.

Now, flushed with success, she was bent with me over the Swahili phrasebook I'd picked up at Borders on the way to her house, laughing at words like "babysitter" and "spinach."

"I stupid in Swahili," I managed, and she cracked up.

"Please, speak more slowly," she teased, and we laughed at that, too. Beside the sofa, where we sat, Igey was perched on a red inflatable ball, watching Nickelodeon. That's when I asked her who her friends were.

In Tanzania she had had friends, she explained, but "Atlanta one-and-half year no friend. Now you friend."

She grinned, and I thanked her, and put my hand over my heart.

And though I've since learned that she does have one or two other women friends here - they're African, so she calls them "sisters" - and though we've since had extensive conversations, with and without a professional interpreter, about journalism and what that means, I worried then, and I still worry, about the scope of her loneliness, the immediacy and completeness of her trust in me, and how to deserve that trust. Starting today, and for the next year, this project is my attempt to be worthy of it.

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