The last time I saw you was on Tuesday, March 10th. I remember you were very attached to me that day as if you knew it was our last. Whenever I put you down you would immediately start crying and your arms would be outreached for me to pick you up again. I held you on my hip, while I pushed Mohammed in the toy car. The two of you were laughing hysterically. It was the kind of laugh that has a domino effect, bringing joy on a cloudy day. I spent the majority of my time in the playroom with you and only you. I thought of nothing else and, as always, I got lost in your captivating smile. You would blow raspberries, and I would dodge the spit that came flying out of your mouth. You would try to pull on my necklace, but I would hide it away under my shirt. I would bring you to the mirror and tell you how beautiful and brave you were. You were so cute, and I just kept thinking that this could be the last time I would be with you — the last time to see you smile and laugh. The last time to watch you take wobbly steps, all because of a virus about to take over the world.
At the time, the coronavirus was spreading, and I feared I’d be sent home to America, preventing me from seeing you again. I spent every last moment with you. I even stayed an hour longer than normal. I remember this day so vividly as if it were yesterday. That morning I almost didn’t go to the orphanage because I was scared to go alone, but I faced my fears, and I am forever thankful that I did. When it was time for me to leave, I placed you back in your crib and gave you one last kiss on the head. My face began to get hot as it does before crying. I could feel tears beginning to form. You began to cry as I walked away. I walked faster and did not look back, for I knew that if I did, I would want to pick you up and take you with me.
During the taxi ride back I just kept thinking about you lying alone in your crib, waiting for me to pick you up.
Now, as I lie in my bed in America, my mind drifts back to you. The image of you crying in your crib, begging for me to come back, is forever etched in my mind. If I could, in a heartbeat I’d be back in Tangier with you in the playroom. Being home, I do not have many things to look forward to. In Tangier, I looked forward to a croissant for breakfast, my weekly visit to the orphanage to see you, and my time at the physical therapy office. I looked forward to waking up to enjoy another bright day.
As good as it feels to get back to my normal routine, I miss the spontaneous adventures to the Medina where I would always meet someone new. I miss the taxi rides with unfamiliar faces and broken conversations in Arabic.
When I reflect back to the orphanage, I worry that you and the other babies do not get as much love and care for as you did prior to this pandemic. I can picture you all in your cribs crying, so innocent and unaware of what is going on outside the walls of the orphanage. With the stay-at-home policy, reducing the number of volunteers able to visit, I fear that you are left alone for long hours of the day. I fear you are not getting the love you deserve, the love that I have to give.
Every night when I go to bed, I hope that when I wake up this nightmare will be over, and I will be back at the orphanage playing with you. I yearn for your sweet laugh and your everlasting smile that made me so hopeful. Perhaps one day we will meet again, my sweet, brave little one, but in the meantime take care.