Love me?

by

A stark contrast from the wealth and abundance that we experienced at the farm, we transitioned to a place where children do not have parents in the Meknès orphanage.

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From left to right: Tofaq, myself, Zouir, Samid

It’s nicer than I expect. We walk into a courtyard with trees growing inside and benches placed under their shade. I look above and see the open hallway that leads to the dormitories, which we don’t get the chance to tour through because we are swept up into the mass of children looking for attention.

From the moment I walk in, younger boys ages 9-15 are leading me by the arm, by the hand. Their hands are warm, some hands are covered in cracker crumbs from the snack they just had, and others are clammy and squeeze me tightly. They shake both my hands in introduction and tell me their names with big excited eyes earnestly hoping that I will remember for more than the three seconds after I repeat it back to them and then forget in the chaos of learning twenty names all at once.

“To play?” “Tennis?” “Facebook?” “Photo?” Their words unattached to sentences and yet conveying so much: a need for attention, for love, wanting to do everything possible in the short time we have together. Most importantly, needing confirmation, in the form of my name written on a piece of
paper or a photo of us that they pantomime is intended for keeping in their pocket always with them. Confirmation that they can find me on Facebook. Confirmation that they mean something to me. Confirmation that our time, fleeting as it was, carries memories and the prospect of seeing one another again.

In an unexpected twist, the children at the orphanage made me feel more needed and loved than i have ever felt. A reality that was disorienting when I arrived expecting and hoping that I could give the gift of love to them. The constant touching, hand holding, hugs, even kisses on my cheeks communicated a deep love for me, likely one of the few women older than them, even if only by a little, that they have known in a loving context.

“I love you, I love you, I love you!” Tofaq holds my hands and face in an emotional goodbye that says, “this is so hard for me I will miss you so much.” But a tear-less goodbye that says, “this is not the first time I’ve had to do this.” This realization broke my heart and left pieces of it with those boys at the orphanage, who long for recognition, for attention, for love.

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