The first time we met, t’was a dark and stormy night indeed. December eighteenth? Thereabouts. Four darker than dark young men stood at my door in the drenching rain.
They showed me what papers they had. Two of them spoke a more fluent French than the others. The two others threw in bits such as “All we want is to study, Madame”- not a common expression of yearning in teen-aged boys I’ve known over the years. I filled out a large index card for each one of them with as many basic facts as I could make out. With others, we settled the issue of emergency shelter as a priority. I secured legal representation for all four while we tried to trace down the two others who had been sent packing (both are now off the grid, wandering somewhere in France, or taken in by others, who’s to know).
Nothing is settled yet for any of the four – except for the fact they are indeed studying. Studying with the kind of determination and passion you see in small children who have suddenly discovered how l e t t e r s come together, form words, then sentences, paragraphs, chapters – oh my!
Last night, I sat at a large table in the club house of a riding school up in the hills. The daughter of a good friend now sheltering one of the boys was finishing her weekly prep for a competition in horse riding. We drank tea, chatted, leafed through the horse-related magazines strewn on the table. Slowly became absorbed in reading this article or that.
The boy sat on my right. Slowly, I became aware of the tiny sound of a p or an s or the even slighter sound lips make when they form a letter. I stole a glance to my right and watched him, so intent in deciphering words on glossy paper. Glanced across the table at my friend who had noticed the same thing. We smiled and went back to our magazines.
Nothing’s settled for any of the four. Nothing. Except all four are studying. Last night, this boy fulfilled the long-held dream of seeing live horses up close. For a few more days, he’ll live the enchantment of what life can be like when things work out. How can you even jump the hurdles if you don’t know that it can be done?
The rest? What can I say – one hurdle at a time. Plus, a real smile keeps me going for a good long while.
Story? Slowly, slowly. Current (re)reading: good old Gogol’s Dead Souls, in French.