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When there are no words

On a day for caring, I learned about abandonment. On a day for friends, I learned about distance. On a day for love, I learned about sadness. Yet, on this Valentine’s Day, I also learned that there is no need for language to express emotion or love and that we all need to love and be loved in return. In some capacity, despite today’s sorrows and intensity, I feel that my love for the world grew. There are no words to describe the silence. The silence was stronger than any number of words. I still knew very well what was going on. So what I am about to attempt to tell you is a wordless, languageless story through a blog post.

My day began on a happy note. There was a certain clarity in the air despite the humidity, and I found myself naturally waking up before my 6:30 alarm to prepare for a beading workshop. I brought chocolates today in celebration of Valentine’s Day. My girls were full of life. Today they got to make Valentine’s Day cards with their English teacher. The girls drew pictures for family members to send home and a few of them chose to make their cards for me… they are sitting on my desk now. There is something really special about receiving a card you know is probably the only card they get to make all year. That’s a precious piece of paper. My heart, of course, melted when several girls presented me with their cards. But, amidst all the joy and chocolates and pictures, there was a missing face: Medani.

A couple hours of happy and productive workshops and Medani’s face finally appeared from around a corner. She watched me for a moment and then left. I called out to her but she didn’t come back. I knew something was wrong. Medani is always there to help me with my workshops. We have a special bond. She has been through so much… an incredibly emotional and incredibly strong girl. Her son, Pasan, is the boy who wont smile. But he, like his mother, has slowly opened up to me. Pasan has now added me to his list those who are allowed to touch him and hold him, a list that now consists of me and his mother only. He is beginning to try to walk. When I hold his hands, he takes giant, elephant steps, trying overcome the whole world with one stride. I laugh and he falls over, finding it perhaps less amusing than me. But, I can see it behind his eyes that he enjoys my amusement despite the fact that he wont smile.

Medani will normally smile but today I saw the face that her son wears every day: a deep, furrowing brow, tightly clenched lips, the muscles under her eyes twitching like she might cry, her posture better than usual, trying to keep her cool. I left my workshop quickly to follow her outside, appointing Nirmali, a tiny girl, in charge who then let out a sound of shock and big wide eyes at the thought of having authority over anything.

“Medani!” She kept walking. She led me to her room. No words. She stared at her mattress, smoothing her sheets over and over again to avoid my eyes. Then she took my hand and wouldn’t let go. I knew the letter had come. She had been rejected by her family. She and her son will never be allowed to return home again. She wouldn’t allow herself to cry. She wouldn’t allow herself to be hugged. She wouldn’t speak or look up. But, she also wouldn’t let go.

She pulled a folder off of her shelf with one piece of tissue paper in it and cut it carefully in half. That tissue paper appeared to be her only belongings. She then reached under her pillow she pulled out a Valentine with my name on it and wrapped it carefully in the purple tissue paper. There were no words. She finally looked at me. I knew that somehow, in this moment, I became her family. To who else could she ever send a card? “Bohomo lassanai” (very beautiful), I managed to say. Pasan was sleeping nearby. My eyes glanced back and forth from him to his mother. What a strong and remarkable family they are.

My office called me and Roshenara came running around the corner, “Alia Miss! Phone!” Medani stood up. Her fingers were entangled between mine, not going anywhere anytime soon. I took the call. It was then clean up time and Medani managed to make a presence in front of the other girls, helping to coordinate the clean up session. She carried all of my boxes and organized the beads neatly in the locker. A woman arrived to pick me up. It was time to go. I squeezed Medani and promised that I would be back in the morning. As I stepped into the car, all the girls clustered at the fence waving. I could see Medani watching me from behind them. I waved and smiled to them all. Finally, as we were driving away, she allowed herself wave, her hand remaining low at her side so the other girls could not see her.

I looked down again at my Valentine in the car as we drove over the bumps. There I found Medani’s words: “Happ Vaientines Day Mis Aliya.” I have never seen such love and hope in five words. Within her silence there is deep love and a deep desire for family and love in return.

Happy Valentines Day to Medani and to you all, my ever-growing, global family.

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