Fiction in response to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
By Grace Muresan
Every day, I walk 8 miles for water. To the well for a bucket, and back home again. My legs ache until I can’t feel them, my mouth is so dry I can’t talk, and by the time I pass the fallen tree a mile from my home, I feel like I can’t walk any further. The pot of water I carry is hot and muddy and tempting, but I know this is all our family gets for today. I can wish for a car, but everyone knows we can’t get them. There is maybe one secondhand car dealership 40 miles from our home, but one of those cars costs more than everything my family owns. I can wish for a closer well, maybe one for every town, to save me from the treacherous walk, but there is no money to build them. I can wish for cleaner, closer water every day, hour, minute, second of my life but there will always be no money or resources. Scientists say that 345 million people suffer from lack of water. What will they do about it? 7 million of those people live within 200,000 miles of me!
Every week my mother and I walk more than 12 miles to the nearest market or farm for food. My stomach growls the whole way. I try to ignore it, but we walk in silence that magnifies the hollow feeling. Hunger makes anything taste sweet, but the food sometimes makes people sick. Twice it happened the nearest market was fenced off, and we had to walk 20 miles to find something to live on. If there were closer markets the neighbor’s baby wouldn’t have died. There would have been food that we could access. I wish that someone, somehow, would build a grocery store nearby, so we don’t have to starve like this for days on end. I know that 800 million people are in the grip of famine. I have probably seen, heard of or passed 1 million of them in the streets I frequent.
Once a month, I visit my father’s grave. He was a good man. He worked hard for our well-being, walked to a farm 5 miles away to work every day before dawn and ate one meal a day so we could eat more. But once, he ate bad meat when there was nothing else and died of Ebola. Every night in my dreams I see his face, sweating and covered in rashes, weaker than a newborn fawn. They could have saved him, if there had been a closer hospital. I wish there had been, but there are no resources, no workers, nobody out there to give us medicine and teach us modern healing. I learned that 3.4 million people die every year from just water borne diseases right here in South Sudan. I’ve probably passed a lot of their graves.
Every hour someone tells me to wait. Wait for what? For water, food, shelter, medical assistance, everything I need to live? Scientists are so worried about innovating to get to outer space or to build brand new cars or smartphones for the rich kids but what about us? I don’t care about convenience, just give me food and water. Give me a bed to sleep in. Give me a place to go when somebody is dying and I don’t know what to do. Please innovate to give necessities to everyone before conveniences. Don’t leave us wishing forever.
But I of all people should know that wishes never come true.