Friday, April 08, 2005

Ellora's Cave & Stephania

I guess Blogger was drunk last night and hiccuped, because it never did record my blog. I had tried to write that I sold CINDERELLA'S REBELLION to Ellora's Cave. This is my paranormal comedy in which Cindrella escapes her story because she doesn't want to marry "that nancy boy prince."

It's pretty damn funny, even if I have to say so myself. And sexy. And totally wacky. I'm writing under the name of Blair Valentine. I'm excited about selling to EC, because it's something I always wanted to do.

The Cinderella story provides a needed break from writing about the misery and suffering of the poor so we can raise money to help them. Last night I was trying to sleep, and I couldn't. I was thinking about the people I've meet in my 11 years of traveling to Third World countries. And I thought of Stephania in Haiti. I wrote an essay about her.

Copyright 2005 by Bonnie Vanak

Her name was Stephania

It’s late at night. I should be sleeping now. But I can’t get this face, nor this name, out of my mind.

Her name was Stephania. I don’t recall her last name. In a way, it doesn’t matter. All that matters, really, is her.

I met her a few years ago in a children’s hospital in Haiti. She was six years old. And dying of AIDS.

Her frame was bone-thin. Sores had broken out on her skin. Patches of hair had fallen out as well. Her eyes were large, brown and expressive. They dominated her sunken face, with the hollow cheeks, the thin lips and the resigned look of a child who is too young to die, but knows she is dying.

B, our photographer, spotted her before I did (that photographer’s eye). I went to her bedside. The nurses cried as they told me how Stephania’s parents never visited. They had dumped her there, like laundry, to die. On the days when parents visited their sick children, like the day we were there, they combed their hair. Chatted. Brought them food. Hugged them.

Stephania sat alone in her little cot. No one came to see her. She was six years old. Alone. Dying of AIDS.
She was a small, innocent victim.

I went to her cot and hugged her. I had never really hugged an AIDS patient like I hugged her. But she needed it. I needed it more, I think. Her bones jutted out. She was so damn thin. I could feel her shoulder blades sticking out, like tiny, blossoming angel wings.

I didn’t speak Creole. She didn’t speak English. No problem. I gave her my pink pen, and showed her how to draw on my notepad. She drew something for me. And she smiled.

Then the other children gathered together and sang a song. They included Stephania. They didn’t care that she was dying of AIDS, a disease that ostracizes you or get you burnt out of your own house in many Third World countries. They sang songs and she sang with them.

When we left, I left my pink gel pen with her, with a piece of paper. I instructed the nurse to tell her in Creole that I wanted it as a gift.

When we got outside, they were wheeling a body out of the morgue, which was a just small outdoor concrete building. It was a grim reminder of how fragile the barrier is between life and death.

I know Stephania is dead by now. I hope she died, surrounded by love, holding the hand of a nurse who cared, because her parents didn’t, or were too afraid. I hope she died surrounded by people who weren’t afraid to hug a little girl dying of AIDS.

I have to remember her name. I must, because no one else will. She’s just a statistic to the world by now, a sad tale of a disease.

She’s not a disease nor a statistic to me. She was a little girl. Only six years old, with jutting shoulder bones like tiny angel’s wings.

Her name was Stephania.


OG said...

that brought tears to my eyes

Bonnie Vanak said...

Thanks for reading, OG. I know I'll never forget her.