Deep colored curls pile high up on top of his head, his round eyes are big and dark brown. He is wearing a shirt that looks like one day it used to be white, instead now its covered in dirt and has holes all across it. He is small, seven or maybe eight years old. Too small. I think to myself. His face shows a sort of depth that is far to great for someone his age, his are grown up problems. I don’t really know his story but as I sit waiting for the light to turn green I try for a moment to understand the life that is his. He holds his hand out to me and in broken English gives me the usual street kid line. “Hungry, very hungry” He says gripping his stomach in mock pain. It’s an act, one that I know well, but for some reason this time it’s different. This time I look into his eyes and see something else, I see past the sayings he has learned, past the contrived look of despair that he puts on for foreigners to get sympathy from them. This time, instead I see a little boy, a boy who has been forced to grow up to fast. I realize as I sit with the car idling that I have forgotten that these children are real people too, I have heard all their lines, had them steal money from my pockets and watched them swarm around tourists with their sad stories and moping faces, and I forgot the most important thing about these kids. None of them chose to be here. Yes they are learning to cope, yes they have come up with ways to steal and cheat their way through life, but did they ever really have a choice?
The light is still red, and I look deeper at this boy and try to understand more about him. What does he go back to every night? I wonder to myself, as I look into his eyes, searching for answers. It’s not good, he seems to answer back to me, truthfully. It’s not good. I know its true, I know that this boy likely has no mother or father to care for him, his house is probably a cardboard box underneath an overpass somewhere deep in this massive dirty city full of countless tens of thousands just like him.
The light turns green and I pull away, wondering yet again how many times I will be able to leave another child behind without doing something other than handing him a few coins to help with his next meal.
These kids are getting to me. These problems they face, the situation they find themselves in but never asked for. They are getting to me, tearing at my soul and burrowing deep inside.