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A Need To Know

My unchecked imagination is running in circles, playing out sad movie scenes again and again.

It’s 9pm, and I’m currently sitting by the window of my midway point. Just two months ago, I was living in a closet in Brooklyn. Now, for the time being I am staying at my grandmother’s home in Tennessee. In two months or so—if not sooner—I will be in Jocotepec, Mexico, working at an orphanage.

The orphanage houses sixteen girls and one boy; their ages ranging from two to eighteen. They all have different background stories and have experienced things in their young lives that I can’t dwell upon. My girlfriend, Erin, is a missionary of the Church of the Nazarene, and she has been at the orphanage for more than a year now.

I don’t speak any Spanish, and that has up until the past two days been my biggest fear about this adventure. What’s it going to be like as a stranger in a strange land? I’ve already lived in two NYC neighborhoods where my appearance stood out from everyone around me. In NYC, though, most people speak the same language. In Mexico, I’ll be the true minority, going through the immigrant experience. Will the clerk at the bodega scoff at me because I don’t understand right off the bat that this chocolate bar costs more than it is labeled? The language barrier is real, and I am not prepared.

Right now, however…I’m gripping a cup of black coffee and burning a cigarette down to the filter and blowing smoke out the window. This, for some time, has been coping mechanism during stressful times. I promise I’ll quit by the time I get on that airplane. Tonight, I’ve been staring at the computer screen, waiting for Erin to get on Skype. Actually, I’ve been waiting for two days now. Communication can be tricky when you’re separated by an imaginary line. This isn’t unheard of, and it wouldn’t really get to me on most nights. However, I found out that one of the children was going to have an emergency appendectomy early this morning. And, the thing is, I have these baseball gloves for us to toss the ball back and forth, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

It kills me because I know in my mind that an appendectomy is routine. But I can’t stop thinking about when Erin told me Friday afternoon that he was sobbing that morning and couldn’t really tell her what was hurting. How quickly a stomach ache can become something more serious… He colored a picture for me the other day and showed it to me on Skype. I’m going to have show him how to color inside the lines and use more than just a green crayon. He’ll get better though.

So, I’m just going to sit up until Erin gets back to the orphanage where she has Internet access to let me know how things turned out, or until these cups of coffee crash me. Me and these kids may not speak the same language (yet), but that doesn’t really scare me as much as this nervous feeling of just needing to know they are OK. That’s a new feeling I’m going to have to get used to.

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