“Jennie. I have an owie,” she told me as I emerged from the latrine. Lately, in the mornings, she’s been waiting for me outside of the latrine.
“Ok. Come to my house, and I’ll clean it,” I told her, hoping I could clean the wound quickly and send her off to play. My fever was about to break, but I still felt like crap.
“Jennie. I want some bread,” she said as she sat on a chair in my house, waiting for me to clean her owie.
Great. She spotted my bread. I thought. I’ll just ignore that request for now and clean the wound.
“There are two owies,” she updated me, pointing to a new slice on her finger and then to the place where she lost her toenail – the wound I’ve been treating daily for some time now.
“How did you get this one?” I asked her, pointing to her finger.
“The latrine door,” she responded. Our latrine doors are pieces of corrugated metal nailed onto a wooden frame. Classy, right?
“Ok. Let’s get this clean,” I said as I began cleaning her sliced finger.
“My mom died,” she stated, matter-of-factly.
Aw… finally you’re talking about it! I rejoiced inwardly.
It has been almost a year since she came to live with us. At first, she didn’t smile. She didn’t play. She wouldn’t talk. She cried more than anything. But if you picked her up, she would cuddle into your arms like no other child I’ve ever held. And she would stay there for hours.
“Do you think about that a lot?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she replied as I put the bandaid on her finger and began cleaning the wound on her toe.
“When did she die?” I asked her.
“Before,” she stated simply.
Some silence passed between us as I scrubbed the dirt off of her toe and squeezed out a bit of puss. She was very brave – flinching a little bit, but not crying out. No matter how often I advise her to leave the bandaid on, she always takes it off and runs through the dirt.
I broke the silence after a few minutes, “Did you see it?” I’ve always wondered what her eyes saw that day.
“Yes,” she replied, and I understood why she’d gone through so many months of trauma.
“How did she die?” I asked, already knowing the answer, since I was the one that handled all of her casework when we brought her to live with us. I was just so glad she was finally talking about it.
“My dad killed her.” No child should ever be able to say that.
I put some antibiotic cream on her toe, wrapped a bandaid around it, and looked up to meet her eyes, “Would you like some bread, now?”
“Ye-es,” she smiled.
I brought her a bread roll and told her, “God really loves you, you know? You’re not alone. I’m so glad you’re here with us.”
She took the bread, but before taking a bite, she looked at me and said, “Hold me.”
So, I held her. For a long time.