Yesterday, 4 children ran away from the hostels, among them, a 7 year old girl who is still missing. The search party looked until nightfall, but could only find her footprints, circling theirs. They gave up at 8:30 PM. It rained last night, and I lay under layers of sheets wondering about that girl in the rain.
Today, the young boy I've been helping, the one he says that he's 19, the one that cleaned my yard, the one that I'm trying to get back into school, the one who hangs out with 8 year-olds and comes up to my chest in height, who looks like he could be 8 himself. He came over and asked me for condoms. Then he told me he was 24, and that I was 25. And that he was hungry. I gave him condoms and told him to find food elsewhere. I asked him if he was having sex. He nodded. He said, after the sun goes down, he has sex in the huts. I said who with. He shrugged, I don't know, he said. I told him to look for a girl who is not young, a girl his age, a girl who he cares about. He said yes. yes yes. I told him to always use a condom. To always ask. Not to rape. Yes, yes yes. I asked him if he knew how to use a condom. Yes. I asked him if he knew what i was saying. He said yes. Then he told me again. He was 24. There are no girls in Xade that are my age. He said. You are 25. I said yes. He said, I'm hungry in sects. What? I asked. I'm hungry, he said. In sex.
I stood there, leaning on the screen door, classical music wafting out of my house. The screen door squeaked as I tried to hold it still against the wind. Who takes care of you? I asked after a short pause. He looked confused. Who do you live with? No one. He said. Your mother? Yes. Your sister? Yes. You should find someone to talk to about these things, an older man. Yes, he said. Serala? (his uncle). Serala is in Ghanzi. He said. I turned my head to look away from him. How old are you? 24 he said. You told me you were 19, then you told me you were 16. What year were you born? What's that? He asked. Your birthday, when is your birthday. Ninteen... Nineteen Ninety One he said. And this year is what? I asked. Two Oh One... Two. He nodded. So you are... nineteen. I told him. Yes. He said. How old are you? Nineteen, he said. Ok...
We stood there, the screen door squeaking, and then I turned my head away from him and stared at nothing, thinking about what my neighbors have told me about his drunken mom and his younger siblings. Wondering if it would be the right thing for me to cry, or if it would be the wrong thing not to cry, for him, for the girl, for the future. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him, bending his back over my porch railing. For a moment, he no longer resembled the young boy who I've been giving jobs to and talking to, trying to mentor. He was an old wrinkled man, just like the many old wrinkled men in the village. No shoes, tattered clothing, the smell of tobacco, alcohol, and smoke clinging to him like body odor. Bent over. With no name, with no age. Soliciting me for sex. 6 in 10 are HIV positive. I realized that despite all of my half-ass attempts to change his life, this young boy who knew barely any English was going to turn into that old man, was already that old man.
Despite my feeble attempts, young children are still going to run away from here and men are still going to resign to stay here for the rest of their lives. I hadn't tried very hard, I hadn't tried hard enough, or there was nothing I could do anyway. Me, this naive girl traveling around the world and throwing money at problems because I'm too afraid to really care.
Oh yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;
That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy'd,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;
That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.
Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.
So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
LIV, In Memoriam A.H.H., Tennyson