Treats by Tuere T.S. Ganges
They wanted us to adopt them. Poor mothers in Sunday's Bests, over-rouged cheeks and modest hats pushed their little girls wearing frilly hand-me-downs towards us strangers visiting Haiti on a missionary trip. The churches doubled as schools and soup kitchens and the bigger ones had rooms for children without mothers to dress them up and parade them when they knew visitors would be at the service.
Sophine didn't need her mother's nudging. She propped herself next to me and told me I was pretty. "Thank you," I said, putting my arm around her and squeezing. Her eyes drowned into wells above her cheeks and she pouted her bottom lip, "I'm ugly." My heart breaking couldn't be heard over praiseful singing, so grateful to God were they that the Americans could attend. "No. You are beautiful." I held her tiny chestnut face in the palm of my hand as if it were life and hope teetering on the cusp of existence.
She was, as were the other girls who'd linked arms and surrounded me, all wanting my attention, all wanting to be my daughter. I smiled at all of them, "Beautiful," and hoped it was a universal word that I wouldn't need my French dictionary to translate. I pulled a can of mixed nuts out of my bag, and gave them to Sophine. She dipped a tiny, ashen hand and grasped all that she could and turned to the closest girl on her other side. She poured the nuts into that girl's open palm and repeated the process until all of them had a share of the tasty treasure. And then Sophine dumped the remaining crumbs into her own hand and shoved all into her mouth leaving salt and peanut skin in the corners.
She puckered her lips to give me a kiss and I giggled at the mess she'd made like I giggle at my own children's milk moustaches and spaghetti dribble. She viciously wiped her mouth on the back of her hand and kissed my lips quickly before settling into the curve of my side as though she'd come from it.
I could not adopt Sophine. I could only speak to the congregation to let them know that I cared and that I was grateful for their hospitality. Sophine held my hand all the way to the car the church had provided for us and I gave her a bag of candy wishing like crazy it was more. This time, she took the first piece and placed it on her tongue and smiled as though she'd tasted love. Sophine ran off to share with the others and I left feeling as though I'd received a special treat.
Tuere T. S. Ganges writes in Baltimore. She was a June 2009 recipient of the Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Foundation Scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work has won prizes at the Philadelphia Writers Conference; and has appeared in The Shine Journal, Flask and Pen, Milspeak Memo, Mythium Literary Magazine, Wigleaf, Fiction Circus, and a Pushcart Nominated piece in Referential Magazine.