Bread

Walking home from the clinic, I repeat the words: with child, with child. I say it like I understand what is happening to me. The way I feel, the fright I feel, sinks into me. I could just as easily be talking about the state of this broken country, Kenya, this town, Kisumu: the disease, the deaths, the mothers I see stealing from their own starving children. But something begins to change in my heart. The whole time I have been here, such a long time, it has felt as if everything was happening ahead of me. I learned not to think. I spent all my days here trying to keep up with the next thing to do. I used to believe that I preferred it this way. Because I could do something. I could move. You don’t waste time worrying about trouble. You rush over to the woman eating the child’s bread and grab the small loaf from her fist and tear a piece off for the child. You dig into the parched earth. You go to the clinic and get the antimalarials and other medicines that are so desperately needed.

The clinic is a small structure with cement walls painted white, and it’s packed, people in pain and people begging for help. The wait is incredible, and sometimes I let the worst of them ahead of me and plead their case with them. They never have the money for what they need. Today I looked straight ahead and waited my turn. I went behind the string of wrinkled kangas that shelters an area for privacy; I squatted and peed into a plastic drinking cup with scratches around the rim from its reuse. The young Kenyan, young enough to be my daughter, told me. She came to me with the cup in hand and said, “You’re having a baby, Miss.”

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