It’s a safe place where I live. Vanilla condominiums. White fences. Tree lined streets. Every dog here has a license and a leash.
It was good to come back here and settle into “real life.” It really is my life, but until I was away, I didn’t know how much it looked like a movie set. Now as September looms and the rain returns, memories of last year fall into my mind like the raindrops that bring them. Some beautiful, some painful, but one especially haunts me. I’ll call him Dimples.
One year ago this week, I landed in Ethiopia. My arrival coincided with their monsoon season, but “what’s rain” I thought to myself, “I’m from Seattle.”
Now with each raindrop that falls on my manicured suburban lawn, the memories are creeping back. It must be an affliction of seasonal memory, or perhaps I’m finally able to process the most life-changing experience I’ve ever had.
With the rain, I hear his voice; “See my dimples, aren’t they cute?” the little boy, who even in the rain kept watch outside the orphanage. Just him and his soccer ball. The other kids sat inside and watched Orthodox church services. Dimples was on a mission. He was looking for a mother. This orphanage houses about fifty children under the age of ten, all with HIV or AIDS. Like all orphans, they’re eager to find a mother, but some are especially eager. Dimples was no exception. I felt a pang of regret that I wasn’t there to bring him home, but a younger, healthier, girl. I wished I could take both my new daughter and Dimples.
Over the rain, not even the compound guard heard my taxi pull up, but Dimples was right on top of it. He got the guard to open the gate, and the blue Fiat pulled in. I was surprised to hear his voice so clearly over the rain pounding on the cab and the metal compound roof “see my dimples?” He asked eagerly.
I was stunned by the eagerness in his smile, and yes, his dimples. Over the rain, I could hear that his English was perfect. A rather damning clue that he’d resided at the orphanage for a very, very long time, as their school is excellent.
After returning home, I learned that in five years, Dimples has never been considered for adoption. If it’s his age, or his medical status, I don’t know. But certainly, not his smile. That smile would win the hearts of the cruelest of people.
At roughly eight years old, his two greatest priorities seemed to be soccer and finding a mother.
Our autumn rains used to feel like a comfortable warm blanket, wrapping my cozy little community up for winter. This year the rain brings grief, and that sweet little voice. I walk to the mailbox, instinctively grabbing a headscarf to protect against the rain—a habit I must have acquired in Ethiopia. On my mind is the dimpled boy with the soccer ball.
Will someone bring him home? Will he find a family? I must be the only one who thinks of dimples in the rain.
Yes, conjo lej (beautiful child) you have beautiful dimples.