Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Desperate Circles

There are some images from Ghana that will stick with me and haunt me forever, images of Gracie lying on the floor, crying because the malaria hurts so badly. Images of John, lying in the sun with flies all over his face and with feet and hands so swollen he couldn’t walk. Images of Kelvin and Ama Foli rocking themselves to sleep as a way to provide themselves comfort because they don’t get it from any other source. Images of Happy grunting to try to communicate her needs because she abandoned words a week after entering the orphanage, also images of Happy standing in her own waste, screaming maniacally when anyone came near to clean her up. I will forever be haunted by the “orphan stare” as we called it. They all employed the orphan stare, they would be normal, happy children one moment then the next moment they would stare and be unresponsive. It was as if they were stepping out of their childhood skin and stepping into a more mature, wiser skin which could see their own tragic past, and hopeless future. Another image I will never forget is my first experience with a young boy with whom I developed a very close relationship with. His name is Kwame.

7-14-08 Day 30
“Today, we arrived late to work, so all the kids had already gone to school and there was just Happy, Gracie, John, and Lydia left at the compound. There was also a new boy, Kwame his name is. I walked into the common room and saw this new boy I’ve never seen before with cuts on his face, and cracked and bleeding feet he was walking in a circle, impervious to all those around him. While he was turning his continuous circle he wailed the same Twi phrase. I did not understand exactly what he was saying, but I could tell he was desperate. My heart was wrenched. It was painfully clear that he was calling for someone who wasn’t there – someone who used to be there, but for some unknown reason has vacated his life. I don’t know what his back story is. I don’t know if he was found on the street, found by the police, given up by his mother, or given up by the hospital after his mother died. I’ll try to find out tomorrow. I want so much to scoop up this child, take him on the plane and give him a fighting chance in this ugly world.”

That day I couldn’t get the image of Kwame walking around in circles, desperate for that one thing that was most important to him, his mother. I later learned, from the aunties, that the phrase he was repeating over and over was a plea for his mother to come for him. Kwame had been at the orphanage a good week before he would even let me approach him. We started taking him with us in the mornings with the disabled kids. First, he would come with us as long as we didn’t touch or play with him, and then he let me hold him and play with him (but only me.) Soon, his actions became the same as those of the veteran orphans. Occasionally, though, he would break down and start to cry for no apparent reason. This is when I would pick him up, put him on my back like the Ghanaian women, walk around the cement soccer field, and go sit on the big water tank. I would hold him while he cried, humming some of my favorite songs until he cried himself to sleep. As he slept I would cry, although not always on the outside. I would cry for the injustice of his situation. I would cry for Kwame and his pain. I would cry for all the other orphans who had gone through this same process of grieving and forgetting. I would cry for my own mother who does not get the love and respect she so deeply desires and deserves from her own Kwame – me.
The other day my parents and I had it out. Our discussion wasn’t over my sexuality as it usually is, but the overall theme was that my mother was feeling disrespected, put upon, and ultimately unloved by me. I put up my usual wall, picked something to stare at and fixed my eyes on it while I listened to their argument. Finally it all became too much for my mom. She broke down and cried. I stormed off saying spiteful and mean-spirited words as I walked away. After a couple minutes in my room I decided to come back (something that is new for me.) I knew it was important for me not to leave the conversation as it was. I went back downstairs and listened some more. It became starkly apparent that my mother had it fixed in her head that I don’t care about her. Suddenly, the image of Kwame walking around in desperate circles popped into my head. I broke down and bawled. I don’t cry often, but when I do it’s not pretty. My shoulders shake, my face contorts, silent sobs come out of my chest and rattle my whole body, breathing consists of sharp intakes of breath from my snotty nose and restricted throat. All of this occurs until I put up that emotional wall. It’s as if I’m telling myself “Ok, that’s enough now. You’re done crying.” One time I went through this process with Bond, and he noticed that I was putting up that wall of emotional resistance. “Don’t put up that wall. Let it out. Let it out.” He told me. I found it so difficult to not cut myself off and cry for as long as I needed to. I simply could not do it. I tried, but I couldn’t.

That haunting image of the little boy walking around in circles, desperate for comfort, desperate for someone to please say “This isn’t real, this is all a dream. You’ll wake up tomorrow to your usual Bofrut and pure water, desperate for his mother, simply would not leave my head as I grieved over my jack ass behaviors towards my mom. My metaphorical Kwame was trekking that same depserate circle in my head - desperate for comfort, desperate to show that yes, I do love her, desperate to convey how much she truly means to me, desperate to make her understand that I care A LOT. I couldn’t tell her all of this that night. I put up that emotional wall, and along with stopping the crying, it stopped my ability to communicate. Maybe I’ll give her this post. I don’t know. Maybe I can show her how much she means to me through my actions. I don’t know.

A skiddish Kwame on the first day he let me hold him.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A metaphor for something, I'm sure...

Once upon a time there lived a boy who goes by the name of Raymond. Raymond, was a sweet, charming and charismatic boy. “You’re the best boy in the whole wide world. I will love you forever. One day you will grow up to do great things.” His mother told him this every day. Since Raymond was a good little boy he believed everything his mother told him. “I will, momma, I’m going to grow up and do great things.”

Raymond had lots of friends who also thought he was a pretty cool kid. He never had to worry about whether or not he would have friends to play with at recess. All the boys wanted to be just like Raymond, and all the girls wanted to be close to Raymond. “Walk home with me?” Suzie asked.

“I like your coat.” Said Tommy, “My mom is going to get me one just like it tomorrow.”

“George and I rock paper and scissored and I won, so I get to sit by you at lunch today.” Charlie told Raymond.

One day at school a new kid arrived. His name was Michael, and he was the talk of the school.

“Did you see his back pack? It had Diego on it!” Walter said.

“I heard that his mom packs him two Go-gurts in his lunch every day. I wish my mom would pack two Go-gurts. All I get are these lousy fruit roll-ups.” commented Suzie.

Now, Raymond loved Go-gurts, but his mom refused to buy them. Raymond decided that he needed to become Michael’s best friend so that he could have one of Michael’s go-gurts during lunch.

Raymond caught up with Michael on the way home from school. “Hey Michael, wanna come over to my house? I got the new Bolt game on Xbox 360 and its super cool.” Raymond said.

“Sure, I love Bolt.” Replied Michael.

They played Xbox until Raymond’s mom said it was time for Michael to go home. “Michael, you should sit by me tomorrow at lunch.” Suggested Raymond.

“Ok, thanks for playing with me. I’m glad I have a friend in this new town,” replied Michael.
Raymond knew that Go-gurt was as good as his. You see, Raymond understood people very well. He knew what to say and when to say it. He always got what he wanted.

The next day at the lunch table Michael and Raymond sat by each other. “Oh man, I love Go-gurt.” Raymond informed Michael.

“Me too, they’re my favorite. My mom always packs me two. Since we’re friends you can have one.”

“Oh boy, Thanks!”

So, Raymond took Michael’s favorite snack that day, without considering how much Michael loved his Go-gurts. Raymond continued to share his extra Go-gurt with Michael with the hopes that Raymond would continue to be his friend.

Raymond got sick of Go-gurts after a while, and decided that Michael wasn’t as fun to play with anymore. Instead of everyday, Raymond sat with Michael every other day, then only on Wednesdays, and finally he never sat by Michael again.

Michael felt so bad. He felt like he had done something, or said something to make Raymond not want to sit with him anymore. If only I didn’t show him that scab on my elbow, then he would still be my friend, Michael thought.

A couple weeks later, a new kid arrived at the school, his name was Harold. “Did you see his shoes?” Asked Suzie. “They are real live Air Jordans!”

“I heard his mom packs him a package of s’mores Poptarts every day for lunch.” Announced Ben.

Raymond LOVED poptarts and a package carries two, so he decided that he would become friends with Harold so that he could enjoy his favorite treat every day at lunch time.

This time it was easier for Raymond to become very best friends with Harold, and Harold loved having a new friend. Harold shared his poptart with Raymond every day, but Raymond soon got sick of poptarts. “I don’t want to be your friend anymore, you bug me.” Raymond told Harold.
Harold felt so bad. He felt like he had done something, or said something to make Raymond not want to sit with him anymore. If only I hadn’t told him about my sister’s bra, then he would still be my friend, Harold thought.

There was soon another new kid at the school named Brad, and he had two Fruit by the Foots in his lunch every day. Fruit by the Foot just so happened to be Raymond’s favorite snack at the moment, so he befriended Brad, then got sick of Fruit by the Foot, and stopped being Brad’s friend.

Brad felt so bad. He felt like he had done something, or said something to make Raymond not want to sit with him anymore. If only I hadn’t farted really loud that one day he would still be my friend, Brad thought.

All these kids grew up. Michael, Harold, and Brad had each shared their favorite thing with Raymond, and they had all been dumped and ignored when Raymond was done using what they had to offer, but somehow this made them all stronger. Michael grew up to be a famous R&B Singer. Harold grew up and became a doctor. Brad grew up to be a very successful lawyer. However, Raymond was too busy cycling through best friends to ever gain the depth and discipline of his former best friends. He ended up alone, sad and bitter. If only I had a real best friend, thought Raymond as he kicks three cats off his rat infested easy chair. With a beer balanced on his large belly, he yells out answers to the questions on Jeopardy (never the right answer), and scratches his bald head when his balls need a break.

If only, if only he had been a true friend,
maybe he wouldn’t be so gross in the end.