What if I had been born in a different country to different parents….
I have a strong imagine in my mind of a young boy, maybe five or six, the same age as I when I saw him.
I was driving by with my parents in the car on the way to a family friend’s house in Rabat. I was sitting behind my dad in the back seat of the old jeep, can you call that little thing a seat? We were past the bazaar and in an older part of the city, Omar lived there.
I don’t know why we were going only I remember being so excited to sit on the floor and eat with my hands.
The lamb and couscous were delectable, but the image of the boy is stronger, sharper, more poignant, utterly surreal for a 5 year old girl from the US; a boy dressed in a small dirty Arab outfit, no covering for his head, no cup, no plate by him to satisfy him, no emotion on his face, save hunger and acceptance. Hunger not simply for food and drink but life, love, acceptance of him and his worth have meaning and quality.
A smallish boy with eyes so old, I still have not seen similar in my mirror. I don’t look for those eyes, afraid I will find them. Knowing if I do, I am lost; lost not only for the moment but to society, friends, family, and all that is human.
The sun was high, not noon but still scorching in the Moroccan summer, as it is wont to be. I was in the jeep, with the top up but the sides are open to catch the breezes, I wonder if there was a Beach Boys song on the 8-track, or simply I have put one there in my rememberings. So in appropriate, yet, Hotel California is a place in which you can never leave once you enter, so perhaps more meaningful now that I know more of the meaning of the lyrics.
I remember it was hot and the smell of the bazaar was pungent, sweet, sweat and refuse mixed together, heavy in the steamy afternoon. I had sweat on my back although protected from the high sun and the beating it was pounding on the earth and the boy.
I wear clean clothes, drink clean water, have food to eat (too much) and have family, friends, purpose, drive, ambition, life. He was alone, utterly and completely. When our eyes met and held for a moment or two, as I turned, leaned out and watched him as he followed my progress down the street - he was not alone. Not then and never again.
We did not stop; I doubt my parents even saw him, the waif and unwanted.
There is much of that in all countries, not simply third world, I know it is here, too. But he, this boy has been branded upon me. I pray for him often, although I doubt he is of this earth any longer, I pray he is a happy adult with a lovely wife, children, home, food, water, and clean clothes. But, I feel in my soul he is not here. I believe he stays with me and helps me in some deep and unknown way.
This one boy, sitting alone and unwanted was not alone after that moment, he is with me. I don’t remember details of yesterday but I can see his dirty face and dark skin, the tear stained cheeks. He had more dirt on the right hand side of his face and on his clothes, like he had been cast to the ground and landed on that side.
He had made no effort to wipe himself off; he sat alone and chained to his door.