Behind a white Mercedes, a hospital shrunk into the distance; white bunny having the last look. Zainab sat at the wheel looking straight ahead. The scent of violet hung in the air. Sitting beside her, Namdi remained in quiet contemplation, feeling better after putting that building behind him. Not a word had been said since they got into the car at the hospital. More than a few kilometers had speedily gone by thanks to Zainab’s complete disregard of the speed limit. The cities noon day sun hung in the air, working hard to punish those who had no choice but to brave the elements. Namdi and Zainab felt none of it, cocooned in their air conditioned luxury.
Red went the traffic light, forcing Zainab to come to a complete stop. The sound of little hands hitting the passenger side window woke Namdi from his musings.
"Uncle. Uncle. Uncle. Uncle. Anything, anything..."
Unwashed, thin, battered, they crowded the window, struggling with each other to be the one in front. Beads of sweat were born on their foreheads, only to be smeared away using the dirty fabric of their sleeves or palms with finger nails more black than pink. Longingly, they looked through the slightly tinted windows, seeing an escape to the heat that mercilessly beat on their heads. The smallest of the lot hopped from one foot to the other. At first, it seemed like she too was trying to see into the car. On closer inspection, one could see her bare feet had no protection against the scalding hot asphalt of the paved road.
Namdi did not see the little girl, the ones in front were too densely packed. His eyes instead were glued to a little boy who struggled to stay in front of the pack. He was not the smallest of them but he also was not the biggest. In his eyes was a determination the others lacked. On him, he wore a shirt that was merely a step away from having more holes than shirt. Still, Namdi could just make out the picture of what must have been an animal of some sort.
"Uncle. Uncle. Anything..."
Hands went to mouths, a constant motion, the universal sign of hunger (except in Italy). Unable to silently watch any longer, Namdi reached into his pocket only to meet fabric and nothing more. Looking down, he remembered Zainab had brought him a change of clothes, his wallet still in his old pair folded neatly in the trunk of her car. Turning to Zainab, he began to ask her for money but stopped himself when he saw she was looking right at him. The light turned green but she didn't move, impatient horns beginning to blare behind them. She ignored them, holding Namdi's gaze as she searched for something. Only when she was ready did she begin to move; the little hands desperately and fruitlessly trying to hold on to the smoke passing through their fingers. Left behind once again.
It was the first word any of them had uttered since they entered the car. It hung there, side by side, with the scent of violet. Namdi did not immediately reply as he thought carefully how to respond. It would not be the first time they would be down this road.
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