Kelli and Emmex.
I showed my passport to the armed man at the hospital entrance. Overcome by the limbless victims sliding themselves against the wall, waiting their turn to be wrapped with sterile gauze I assume, stepping over pants-less children and a mother nursing next to a man with a machete blade through his left thigh, I climbed my way to the burn unit – quemado – without reason. An absence of reason allowed me to live free of expectations. Each day became a gift, an unexpected act of grace, wholly fulfilling my ambiguous search for self.
Doctor Gonzalez welcomed me with a blessed English hello and showed me to a corner of stacked metal trays and squeezable plastic bottles worn thin from use, where I was to set my bag down and grab a robe, crusty with dried blood and iodine. My stomach was as strong as the metal tub, which was filled with cold water to my left, until they handed me the seven year old who was wearing blue jeans the day of a gasoline fire. His skeletal body was covered in slimy skin as waist-down he suffered third degree burns. He was thrown into my arms and my job was to hold him during scrub down. His eyes begged release and his lungs seemed to almost collapse from piercing screams.
I was no longer as sound as I deemed myself to be and handed him over, quickly finding a spot for re-composure. My muscles ached and sweat covered my palms and forehead. He spoke to me. For an instant, I felt a portion of his pain but could not stop it. I hunched over a miniature school desk, forcing my head between my knees, focusing on breathing, hiding my glossy eyes, and punishing my weakness.
At the very moment I convinced myself I was pathetically inadequate for the job, there was a tug on my pant leg. I slowly lifted my head to make room for the naked four-year-old boy with curly black hair and rotten teeth. His arm was in a sling soaked with fresh blood and his skin spotted from recovering burns. Assuming he spoke Spanish, I whispered as best as I could, “Como estas? Como te llamas?” He climbed onto my lap and silently annulled my previous supposed inadequacies. His hands studied my face and I immediately loved the little boy.
The doctor told me that his name was Emmex and he was a native of La Mosquitia, a jungle region of Northeastern Honduras. He was orphaned from his family during a forest fire and was brought to the lonely Hospital Esquela, where he was completely separated from anything he had previously known. He was homeless, lost his family, recovering from third-degree burns over sixty percent of his body and would not speak, could not understand the languages that surrounded him, and was left hungry, as he gave his food to all the other patients.
After our sword fight with tongue compressors, I had to leave for the next appointment. I returned the robe to its hook, picked up my school bag and followed the broken sidewalk to the bus stop.