While we shuffled through a dark hall, our eyes temporarily blinded by the sudden darkness of the underground basement, power out in this part of the massive building for who knows how long, I thought of what our translator said in the car on the way here: “But you will tell when you return to America. You will share the need for parents like you for children like these.”
And I knew then in the car, and I knew even more now as I heard my heart pounding in my own ears, that I did not wish to do that.
I did not want to do that because I did not wish to open my eyes. I did not want to do that because if I fully absorbed what the conditions were here, I would not sleep a wink in the months from then until I could bring my child home. I did not want to do that because after she was home, I wanted to be at the end of my journey and not left trying to discern what the beginning of the next one should be.
He pointed to a large painting of a mother and child and said “You should take a picture of it for the baby…” and I said “yes, definitely. Maybe tomorrow…” but I already knew I would not take that picture. I already knew that to do so would only remind me that here there are no mothers. There are no babies being held. look away, Stephanie.
When we walked the baby up to the fourth floor, her home for the 18 months of her life, I glanced through the glass window and saw feet in cribs. I knew I did not want to see. look away, Stephanie.
On pick up, a line of silent children were marched from one room to another and my eyes locked with one who’s face was bruised and scratched and I knew that I didn’t want to know what happened. look away, Stephanie.
The tiny marks I began to find all over her body, in places where veins travel underneath the skin. Dozens of them. I knew I didn’t want to know why they were a permanent part of the landscape of her young body. look away, Stephanie.
Of course, he was right. I would come home and I would share the need for parents like me for children like her. And while it is so frustrating to have my stories and struggles met with skepticism and disbelief, I recognize it for what it is, too. It’s so much easier to look away.