Every day the thought of missing Roux gives the children breath. Their teeth clench, their eyelids quiver shut, and the humming blood rubs and curls its hands, expands their chests and gives them stomachs for news. Has he been adopted at last? Then Roux they rediscover in their missionary’s orphanage six days later without a dent. He sits smiling in his same ashy skin on the cracked ceramic, back braced against a wall, trying to slurp red shaved ice. Some pieces glisten like glass on his bright new shirt. They whoop and push his bare shoulders and fling themselves down and cross their legs before him. They are a mass of elbows. They slap his dry knees. They remove the worn Tevas. He teaches them new things, first that the missionary likes to leave the keys in her car. When he and she had stopped in front of that new house, she went in and he stayed out. A thick, concrete hand appeared through the window on her driver’s side and unlocked her door. A man with pulpy eyes took her seat. Roux and the pulp drove their way up to Fort Jacques, Roux later learned from his future rescuer, the stranger’s machete eyeing the growing wet spot on Roux’s lap, swerving past cars on narrow mountain lanes until skidding onto a rare grass hill. The grass was green and sharp as limes. Everything sunbaked. The pulp nudged Roux out. This is nice, he said as he unbuckled Roux’s pants. Can you help me with mine? The man had been so hairy. Later he drove away. Roux wandered until he found a cyber café with a phone, and the missionary had come back for him. No police. Roux was more a robbery than a kidnapping. Third new thing, this cyber. The children try, but its meaning stays enclosed, they cannot nudge it out. And when did you learn about phones too? The tongue of Roux slips out between his smile. The missionary taught me in secret. What did you and the man do up there? He told me not to say. What color was the car this time? It looked like the sky. And the pulp said I didn’t have a family anymore. The children smiled at that, greedily. He said he was my family now. To call him Papa. Roux gazes into his emptying cup and sucks his teeth and that breaks them all. They can’t stop laughing. Their sapats slap and clap against the floor, and dust rises from their feet and embrace the players like a trance. Their ears glisten. Their eyes gasp. Call him Papa! The head of Roux knocks on the wall behind him. Only I can’t read faces anymore, the head says now, acquiescing. Each one looks just like the sky.
The Thought of Roux
Photograph by Aurélien Faux