When I came into
I made my way to the tiny room where twenty younger children clustered around a heater. I shed layers of clothing in the over-heated space where the staff tried to compensate for the chilly winter outside. We read our stories, and I carried my boxes of books to the garage where the older children were finishing their hot meal.
The somber mood was gone. They laughed and joked and enthusiastically grabbed the books on sharks and crocodiles I had brought to replace the beloved snake books that went back to the library. One fourteen-year-old lifted his leg high to show me the eight-inch seam rip in the crotch of his trousers. The white of his underwear showed beneath. He pointed to a chubby teenage girl who has recently joined the group. “She did it,” he said with a laugh. “She wants me.”
“Remember your mothers and fathers,” Nomlhanlha had said. All these children are orphans. Most of their parents died of AIDS although AIDS is not usually a criterion in these programs. A needy child is a needy child. “Remember your mothers and fathers.” No doubt this kind of sexual joking was the cause of her lecture and yet the joking goes on. Adolescents are so sure it won’t happen to them
“Remember your mothers and fathers.” But will they?