I had a dream last night. I stop the car I was driving at an intersection when three stray dogs dash across my path. The smallest dog, that looks like a dachshund or something, however, changes direction and leaps inside my vehicle. For a confused moment I couldn’t find it in my car and think that I may have been wrong, but then I spot it sitting on the back platform behind the rear seats.
I pull the car over and coax the dog out, and then the dream-thing happens where causality is sort of fluid or squishy, and I start driving after it or it starts chasing my car down this long, long hill towards a little park and community center.
And then it turns in to a little girl, with her hair in two little puffs atop her head the way I’ll sometimes do my own child’s, she looks vaguely like my own three year old only the skin on her face is puffy, red, and scaly from being exposed to the elements while living on the streets. The little girl in my dream keeps calling after me to give her “huggies”, which is the way my own child will ask me to cuddle her, but I keep running away from this dream-child, thinking to myself that I already have a little girl I love at home.
It was while I was evading this little girl that a swarm of wasps descends on the park we are in, scattering the grown ups and children who are at play, or sitting on benches reading newspapers. I’ve recently been dealing with hornets trying to establish nests in the eaves of our home, maybe that’s where this part of the dream originated. I start swatting the wasps away and now am running from them. As will happen in a stampede random groups of people start to run in unplanned tandem with others, which is how I found myself next to the little girl again, and now I can see more clearly her chapped, sun-exposed face, the same skin I had seen on the cheeks of street urchins in Kabul. She is crying, saying that she has an owie, a wasp had stung her little tongue, and one of the older ladies nearby stops her to look. We peer inside her small mouth and see that there is indeed a stinger embedded in the left front corner of her tongue, with a green colored envenomation spreading from it. One of us pulls the stinger out, and the little girl tells us that she has to tell her mommy about her owie, but of course, the dream-me realizes that she is a stray, she has no mommy to tell about her owie, and that’s when everything falls apart.
One of my favorite photos taken from my child’s birth in the hospital is one that represents one of my early attempts at parenting. We’d been told that skin-to-skin contact was best for newborns. My wife was exhausted and needed a break; our child had been born a tiny thing (our perinatologist kept referring, to our bemusement, to our developing fetus as a “dinky kid”), so I tucked her in to my shirt, and there we are in the picture, both of our eyes closed, her nestled against my chest in my shirt. I can’t imagine not loving this child as much as I do, her skin against mine.
I hug the little dream-girl to my chest, feeling her squirm away from me a little the way my own child does when I squeeze her too hard, and right before I awake I think, I can’t not do something, I can’t just let this child go with this owie, without a mommy. All day today, every time I look at my daughter I think about her as a little, motherless child, clever, articulate, injured, with no one who would hold her close, this girl alone, trafficked, used, not an end to herself, growing harder to the world around her, instead of the little baby I held, her skin against my own. I remember thinking about Louis C.K.’s quote that you don’t look in to your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as they do, the only time you look in to your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough.
I’ve been to some shitty places in the world and have been in some shady circumstances. There are people who have made some incredibly poor choices in their lives, fucking things up not only for themselves but also for entire tribes of people around them. But everyone began as a baby small enough to hide inside her father’s shirt.