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  • Kimberley Pittman-Schulz

Hummingbird Feet & A Village Girl Near Binkolo

"We are infected by our own misunderstanding of how our own minds work."

— Kevin Kelly, former editor/publisher Whole Earth Review

A colleague steps into my office. “I’ve been thinking about how you are doing? You were in West Africa last year, weren’t you?” I look up and nod. She continues, “I bet you’re glad you weren’t infected by that e-boli.”

For an instant, I think two thoughts at once. Have you ever done that?

One mind remembers how my mother thought hummingbirds have no feet because she’d never seen a hummingbird perch, and how in flight, the delicate feet and legs tuck up like landing gear. A simple mistake.

Ebola and e-coli, begets e-boli. A simple mistake. I sense myself smiling, which must be confusing from across the room.

Another mind remembers a teenage girl in a village near Binkolo in northern Sierra Leone. She was wears a ripped white shirt, partially exposing one bobbing breast, a dark nipple peeking and hiding, peeking and hiding as she runs toward me, speaking fast in Temne (the local language), arms flailing, smiling hugely, all the little children around her, laughing. The elder says in his limited English that she is "infected in the mind." She wants to touch my skin, feel my hair, and reaches to hold my hand, which she first turns up palm up, then palm down, comparing to her own.

No mistake. Remembering the touch of her hand, I feel a sudden love for that curious girl and wonder if she is okay.

Do I share this story that flashes across my synapses faster than my colleague brushing lint from her trousers? Who say’s I’m not infected, and in the mind, too?

“Yes,” I say. "Thank you for asking."

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