We drive in an easy silence towards the airport to pick up Team Coffee Bean, Frank and I. As he slowly maneuvers the car over the dirt road, I stare at the rice fields to my right, wondering how many snakes live there among the legs of the people working the grain. A crane raises up and flies away, extending its long legs behind it and reaching towards the hot, round sun.
Up ahead, I notice a woman in a red sweater holding a young child, probably three. The lady waves her free hand, asking us to give her a ride. We stop and let her in, where she settles down with the little one on her lap in the back seat. All is silent for seconds as we start down the road again. I ask if the child has malaria and if we are dropping them off at the clinic. Frank says we will take them to the clinic because the child isn’t doing well and I quickly text Eric to let him know we might be late picking them up from the airport.
I give a water bottle to the mama, who tries giving some to the little one. A low moan, a keening of pain starts in the back of the car, as the mom rocks back and forth, letting us know that we must hurry. Hurry, she says, in her groans, and I say it out loud, in English to Frank. He gains speed and we fly down the dirt road as quickly as possible while I hear the little one struggling to breathe. I pray for mercy. I pray for healing. I pray as the struggle in the back comes to an end and I don’t hear breathing anymore. I still pray until we reach the edge of town where we find a small clinic tucked behind a pharmacy.
I touch my right hand to my heart and look at the mama, trying to make her understand that she is not alone in her pain and that given the opportunity, I would do anything I could to help her baby. She nods quickly and stoically, squaring her shoulders as she carries her dead child into the clinic. Her eyes remain dry and focused ahead, as if any movement would make the tears start and never end.
I feel an ache in me and I quickly wipe tears from behind my sunglasses. I hate this poverty. I hate this pain felt by the baby’s mama. I hate the fact that we were three days late in getting the little one to the doctor. I hate that another young one will be buried tomorrow.
All I can do is lean forward and cradle the water bottle in my hands while my throat wants to scream at injustice. At inequality. At suffering. At death.
Silently, I say goodbye to a little girl in a blue dress with white socks on her little feet.