The four days between our second visit and our third with Kaleab were horrible for me. Our guest house was about thirty minutes outside the city and we were having so many problems adjusting with Alazar and Ruta, we just couldn't risk going back to see Kaleab until the day before we left for home. I was a basket case. While being with my own kids was hard and demanding and I was doubting every decision I made with them, being with Kaleab was truly rainbows and cotton candy. During those days I took deep breaths and when Alazar was screaming for me not to come near him, I silently prayed that one day my youngest son would cling to me like my oldest.
I can't fault Alazar and Ruta. I can't even fault myself. Le, Kaleab and I knew we were playing against the clock, that these moments were coming to an end, which only fueled my desire to spend as much time as I could with Kaleab. But in the back of my mind as much I wanted Monday to come, knowing this would be our last day together, the closer Monday got, the harder my emotions battled.
Le and I went clothes shopping Monday morning. Nothing I found was perfect, but Le finally said it was because I was over analyzing again.
We picked Kaleab up from school on Monday afternoon. I again was greeted by a screaming "MAMA" and his tiny body thrown into mine. We climbed in our cab and headed to his part of town.
One thing I had been dying to do with my son was share a meal. There is a tiny restaurant across the entrance to his neighborhood and our driver about fell out of the car when I told him to take us there. But with Kaleab wrapped in my arms and his hand holding Le's, I wanted some place familiar to him. I wanted him to be at ease, like he was in this moment.
We ordered a sampler plate of food and I ordered a Pepsi. The waitress looked at me like I had fallen out of the sky when I asked Kaleab "son, what would you like to drink?" His face lit up like a sparkler and he cried "PEPSI!"
We sat outside on the patio and watched the cars go by. We tried small talk but it was just more fun to sit and smile at one another. It is customary to show affection to one another by feeding someone with your hand. Kaleab fed Le and I both. We both fed him. I choked back the tears with injera. And I kept fighting the urge to hand the waitress a hundred dollars and tell her that whenever my boy is hungry, let him eat. And order a Pepsi.
We spent the rest of the day arm in arm touring his neighborhood. And as the sun sunk lower and lower, so did my heart. It is respectful to walk a visitor to the gate upon departure. Grandma walked us to the gate of her house. My son walked me back to the gate of his neighborhood. I drug my feet. Like a two year old who is anticipating being disciplined, I came up with every excuse to stop and look around.
A trash truck had pulled into the entrance of the neighborhood. I found it odd. I didn't remember seeing anyone leaving trash cans to be picked up. The truck dumped its load on the ground and grown men, women and children began shopping through it. I almost vomited.
I refused to say good bye. Even as I was climbing in the car and he was no longer within my physical reach, I chose the words of Mickey Mouse and said, "i'll see you real soon."
I had shown Kaleab the heart with his name engraved on it that I wear around my neck on our second meeting. I almost fainted when he pulled his cross necklace from around his shirt and displayed his new metal heart hanging on the string. I don't know if he made it, found it, stole it ( i know he didn't, my son doesn't have the capacity) or bought it, but I fully understood it's meaning. Our relationship is no longer an affair, a fleeting binding of feelings and emotions. We are committed. My heart belongs to him and his to me. We are a family.
As our car drove away, I shuddered as I watch my son cross a very busy street without holding any one's hand. And I burst into tears at the thought that there was no one to hold his hand. For the first time in Addis, I let myself go somewhere other than the shower. I cried for leaving him. I cried for his situation. But most selfishly, I cried for myself. I was never going to be the same. A ten year old boy had changed my life. I would sell all I have if it would change his circumstances, but I wouldn't take all the money in the world for my time in Addis and the neck that carries a little metal heart.