Parents and teachers told us that all
we needed to do in this world were three things: be happy,
do good, and find work that fulfills you. But I also wanted
to learn that trick where you grab your left ankle in your
right hand and then jump through with your other leg.
Everything else was to come, everything about love:
the sadness of it, knowing it can’t last, that all lives must end,
all hearts are broken.
- David Kirby, 'Taking It Home to Jerome'
Andrew Wyeth, Christina's World (1948)
It is six in the morning, in Clayton, Missouri. An alarm clock rings. The chimes are snoozed once, twice, then turned off. Grownup footsteps enter the room. A grownup hand finds ten little toes, and tickles them into submission and socks. Under the covers, little fists rub little eyes. A little girl wakes up.
It is six in the morning, in Khamer, Amran. Beneath the rubble, no alarm clock rings. No sleeping child snores. Grownup footsteps break the silence. Grownup hands lift heavy rocks. A little girl climbs to the top of a pile. Little hands pull out fistfuls of sand.
It is eight in the morning, in Clayton, Missouri. Yellow sunlight and sunflowers on the kitchen table, a cool glass of chocolate milk. A soft hand scoops colorful layers of yogurt and berries in a glass bowl. A little girl sits up, excitedly straight. A parfait, her favorite! A Sunday kind of day.
It is eight in the morning, in Khamer, Amran. Plastic bottles burning in a fire pit, bread baking in a barrel on top. A tired hand stokes the black fumes, and passes out six cups. A little girl claps her hands excitedly, cross-legged on the floor. Hot bread dipped in hot tea, her favorite! Rations day is always a holiday.
It is nine thirty in the morning, in Clayton, Missouri. Second row, to the left, in a classroom of nine, a little girl in a blue uniform sighs. Thirty minutes into math class, one hundred and eighty more to go. Well, the calculation took two minutes, so one hundred and seventy-eight.
It is nine-thirty in the morning, in Khamer, Amran. In the corner of a crowded classroom, another little girl in a once white shirt also calculates: ten refugees in every room, not counting hallways and stairs. Twenty-eight rooms on average in every school, two hundred and sixty schools in all. Add those sleeping in tents and fields, by highways and borders, and restaurant back doors. Her stomach grumbles, she loses count and sighs. She has to start again, but well, she has time.
It is noon in Clayton, Missouri, in the Midwestern United States. A little girl holds her lunch tray up. A hand piles on three plates. A green salad and carrot sticks, spaghetti and meatballs. And chocolate pudding, her favorite! But the other girls are so pretty and thin. So she picks at her salad and throws the pudding out. She was not hungry, anyway.
It is noon in Khamer, Amran, in West-Central Yemen. A little girl drinks more tea. Darker and denser since the morning, now with a bitter after taste. From a pot on the fire pit into her bowl, a hand scoops wheat blend and salt. The girl is so hungry, but the portion so little and dry. So she imagines rice pudding - her favorite - and savors every bite.
It is five in the evening, in two different worlds. Two little girls are at play. One builds a castle with bottle caps, the other dresses up a doll. Pretending they are princesses, believing they will be one day.
It is eight in the evening, in two different worlds. Two little girls are in bed. An airplane flies over noisily, leaving a trail of clouds. One little girl waves up from her window. The other little girl screams.
The day is now over, in two worlds that never meet. Two little girls fall asleep.