Little Ronalin arrived at the house the following morning to get her school lunch. I was thrilled she was going to school and she nodded shyly when I asked if I could take her picture because she looked so beautiful in her hat.
She promised to back come to the house after school so I could wash her head with special lice shampoo. And she did come back, her older sister Rona May was with her (wearing the other hat).
If you remember from my story last week I’d bought Ronalin two hats. The plan was she would wear one hat while the other one was being washed. With all that pus and scabbing it doesn’t take long for the hats to become completely soiled. Now her older sister was wearing one of them.
Realising Rona May was going to need help with her hair also, we trotted off to the market together to buy lice shampoo and more hats. I didn’t take photos this time, (I just couldn’t do it to the kids) it felt like such a violation of their dignity.
So while little Ronalin’s head was being soaked in coconut milk to loosen the scabbing trapped in what remained of her hair, I got to work on Rona May. That head of that poor girl was even worse than Ronalin’s had been the day before.
Her long hair was completely matted in pus and scab and dry blood. It absolutely stunk and huge black lice were crawling her scalp. No wonder she hadn’t been going to school! The poor thing cried and cried as I washed her hair and then cut it all away. There was nothing else to be done. And it must have been so painful when I put the lice shampoo on the open wounds on her scalp. And the lice. The lice.
The lice were jumping ship as I tried reassuring her that her hair would grow back and she was still beautiful. I washed the hair again and put a pale blue towel around her head, but the towel was soon black with lice. And I mean black with lice. Truly I’ve never seen anything like it.
So now for the last 5 days the girls (aged 6 and 10) come to my house each afternoon to take a bath, change their hats and clothes, and have their hair washed. Yesterday it rained but the girls came anyway. Oh and I probably should mention we are just taking a bath in cold water out of a bucket, there’s no fancy taps or hot water even at my house.
Ronalin told me there was no way she’s taking a bath because it was too cold. And this is probably why her 15 year old sister Rossell had come along with her. Young Ronalin threw another awesome tantrum, but we bathed her all the same and put her in a clean dress and hat. It sounds funny but it wasn’t, she shrieked for her mother and it broke our hearts to hear her cries.
So how do I end this story? I don’t. Because there is no end to it. The children’s mother has disappeared to avoid loan sharks, and I’m merely giving them a small branch to cling to for a while. All I can hope is that somewhere in their future they’ll remember someone who was kind to them. Maybe it will make a difference to their lives, maybe it won’t.
© 2018 Melinda J. Irvine