This story is published in collaboration with Significant Objects.
I was an ambassador once—of a small African nation. All of us diplomats, that is our dream: to be an ambassador. At least once, at least for a little while. Many of us get a little Eastern or African nation for a year or two. We are eager when it happens because our life’s goal is complete. But it isn’t so special after all. Soon it’s over and we continue on. We are diplomats again, and our time of glory is reduced to a sentence we can say in passing at a party, “Oh, I was ambassador there once, for eighteen months.” Or at a meeting, “Well, when I was ambassador, as I recall, witchcraft was still a powerful force in the north. I knew a man who believed his daughter had turned into a tree.”
Or when entertaining one’s wife’s friends, “That flute? Oh yes, when I was ambassador, the prince of the country rode two days on a camel to present it to me. Don’t know where he got it. They love plastic, you know. Who are we kidding. Plastic was the real revolution.”
Deb Olin Unferth is the author of the novel Vacation, the short story collection Minor Robberies and a memoir, Revolution. She is an assistant professor at Wesleyan University.