Honors English 1
5 September 2017
Lost and Found
I step out of the cab that I picked up at the airport, and a wall of heat slams into me. I toss a few pesos in the metal tin hanging off the back of the seat, and I hear them clatter against the bottom.
The man murmurs “Gracias”, and departs. As I drop my duffel bag and backpack on the road, a dust cloud rises into the hazy sky. I wave the dust away and see that I stand in front of a small shack with jagged holes cut into the adobe, acting as windows. A curtain hangs in place of a door. A piece of cheap plywood hanging next to the curtain reads, “Casa de Maria”. The sign indicates that I am in the right place to see Maria Ramirez, the head of the orphanage in the poor, violence-riddled sectors of Ciudad Juárez. She is supposed to tell me how I can help the children in the orphanages maintain hope. Pastor Kiernan chose me for my joyful spirit and ability to make people smile. However, now that I am here, seeing all of this poverty, I feel my positivity waver. Nonetheless, I take a deep breath and move towards the house.
I reach the door, and suddenly realize I don’t know what to do. There’s no door! Should I yell, walk in, knock on the brick next to it? What if no one’s home? I consider my options and finally decide to yell into the house, “Hello? Is anybody home?” There is no response and all I hear is the taxi moving further down the street. I yell again, this time in Spanish. “¿Hola? ¿Hay alguien en casa?” Still nothing. As I lean towards the thin curtain, however, I think I can hear a baby cry. I pull the curtain to the side, and peek into the house. It smells musty, like it hasn’t been aired out in a while, peculiar, considering the windows are open to the outside air. I call out again as I walk down a short hallway, which opens into a large room that appears to be the kitchen. I look upon a chaotic scene. Dishes are strewn on the dirt floor, one is shattered, a chair is tipped over backwards, and a tattered moccasin lies in the middle of the floor. The disarray makes me uneasy; I remember scenes like this from movies I’ve seen, and they don’t have happy endings. Something must have happened here, but what? I hear another cry which seems to be coming from somewhere else in the house and instinct urges me to investigate. I tiptoe around the corner, though there is no one to hear me. As I step into a small bedroom, I look at my surroundings. Against the back wall is a plank with some threadbare blankets on it, passing for a bed. A cardboard box sits next to it, supporting a Bible and a glass of water. Along the side is half a dresser, nothing more than just a pile of wood and some knobs. There is a cradle in the corner, and it catches my eye. I peer over the edge, and discover a tiny baby wrapped in a thin, pink blanket. By the looks of her bright red face, she has been crying for a while. She whimpers, and I reach down and stroke her cheek. She blinks at me through tears and begins to cry again. The baby’s mother must be the owner of the moccasin and since she’s not here, this tiny human being’s life is in my hands now.
My thoughts race. What? I can’t take care of a baby. I don’t even know how to hold a baby! I don’t want to hurt it. Not it, her. What happened to her mother? What do I do? Where do I go? Why me? As these thoughts scurry back and forth, tears run down my cheeks. This poor child will probably never know her parents, and there’s nothing she can do about it. The baby startles me out of my grief by starting to cry again, so I reach into the cradle and pick her up. I hold her close to my chest, and sway back and forth, the way I’ve seen other women do, trying to soothe her. She calms, but still whines, and I realize she must be hungry, and I have nothing to feed her. I turn, and retrace my steps until I am outside; then I begin my search for help. There is no one in sight. I start to walk toward town, looking for someone who can help me. I know the general direction from my drive in from the airport.
Before long, the baby’s cry becomes desperate, she is wailing now, her hunger intense. I start to panic, and quicken my pace, disturbing the dirt and creating dust clouds with every frantic step. I bounce side to side as I walk, so it looks like I’m ballroom dancing. This time it doesn’t work, and the baby just cries louder, demanding food faster than I can supply it. I stop my bouncy walk, clutch the infant to my chest, and break into a cautious run.
Eventually I make it to town, sweaty and covered in dirt and tears, but relieved to have resources in the form of people, buildings and businesses. I see a large building, a church I presume, and I go up the steps and inside. I find a young woman with olive skin and long, dark hair who looks up when I enter.
She looks up at me, inquiring, “¿Este bebé es tuyo?”
I shake my head and say, “No ma’am, she’s not mine, I found her in an empty house. I believe something awful happened to her mother.”
She nods, changing to English when she realizes I am American. “Oh no, here, let me take her.”
I hand the baby to her, relieved of my tiny burden. She tells me that there was a young woman who was abducted earlier that day from her home and they found her body a few hours ago in a ditch. This woman must have been the baby’s mother. Tears stream down my face, not only for the baby, but for the woman, who would never get to see her daughter grow up, never see her take her first steps, tie her shoes, dance at her quinceañera, or get married. The woman from the church goes to get the baby some milk and some water for me. I collapse onto one of the pews, overcome with exhaustion and emotion, and I fall into a fitful sleep, my dreams haunted by thoughts of orphaned babies, grieving communities, and how I will ever be able to complete my original mission of delivering hope in the warring Ciudad Juárez.