Written February, 2010
The one class that I had on Tuesday mornings (in addition to Bible, of course) was finished, and I hopped down three flights of stairs to the main floor. I paused when I reached the bottom of the wide, tile stairway to call my mother and notify her that I could now be collected. A group of third and fourth grade girls bounded past me as I listened to the phone ring, and I kissed one on the cheek and waved to the others as they skipped up the stairs to their classroom. The last of the bouncing girls disappeared around the corner, and my brief phone call ended, I tentatively jiggled the door knob of the big green door that led out of the church.
It was locked.
Gathering my backpack, I slipped quietly through the sanctuary, where assorted college students were studying, praying, or talking together in hushed tones. I gently let myself out the door on the other side.
The wide door clicked closed behind me, and I sat down on a cement bench to await the arrival of my mother. The sun was shining brightly and it felt wonderful after having spent two hours in a cold, sunless classroom. A little veterinarian building across the dirt road from the church, had three dogs in residence; I could see their paws in the space between the broken concrete ground and the bottom of the gate, and their barks rang out down the bumpy road.
I opened a packet of crackers and munched as I sat in the sun, my gaze wandering from the potholes in the road, to my own dusty knee socks, and then up at the huge church rising behind my back.
After a couple of moments, two girls appeared on the other side of the locked door to my left. They were in a lower grade, but I recognized both sweet girls. I watched them struggle with the door, and I wondered for a second if it really was open, and I had simply not tried hard enough to get it open. But no, it was really locked, and when the faint rattling on the handle stopped, and the pair stepped back, I motioned for them to go around and exit the way I had. They nodded and disappeared into the sanctuary. Soon, the door on my right clicked open and the two stumbled out into the February sunlight.
I remained seated, my book bag propped between my dusty black shoes, as I greeted them both. The taller and olders of the two was Alicia. She was Rubi’s younger sister, and I saw and exchanged greetings with her frequently throughout the week. Like her older sister, her round face was framed by short black hair, which she pinned back in a different way each time I saw her. While a little shy, she could not contain her joyful spirit, and she could ususally be found smiling. Her top teeth were short and protruded slightly, as they might if one sucked one’s thumb very much and her bottom lip had a tendency to pucker out slightly, though not in a pouty way. These features gave her mouth, and indeed, her whole face, happy, open look that invited those who interacted with her to open up as well.
I asked where they were going, and Alicia told me that they had been sent to get some food stuffs from the nearby Casa Hogar. I nodded my understanding and waved as they turned from me and began to make their way down the narrow steps to the gravel road. But before they got to the road, almost as soon as they turned from me, the smaller girl reached over and took Alicia’s hand. The act was natural and sweet and seemed to be very commonplace to the two of them. Alicia accepted the proffered hand and the two shuffled down the dusty road, hand in hand.
I was suddenly overwhelmed with affection for the two young girls walking down the road, their matching black skirts blowing in the wind as dust swirled around their scuffed school shoes. I smiled as my heart swelled with a kind of squeezing emotion… all because they held hands.