The first person I saw in Grand Goave, of course, was Jenison, standing outside the gate at Mission of Hope as casually as if he had just happened by, as purposefully as if he had not moved a muscle since I last left him in May. Jenison is ‘my Haitian’, he adopted me back in the summer of 2010 when he appointed himself my nail holder one day while I was building temporary shelters. He has been a glue stick to my side ever since. I have blogged about him twice before, calling him Jameson, but recently I learned his name is actually Jenison. Mispronunciation never compromised our affection.
Jenison is taller, his eyes just cleared the window as I opened the door and scooped down to pull him into me. He was endearing when he was eight, pixyish and smart, with a scary facility to mimic English. At ten the sores and blisters of a life lived out of doors mark his body and he has picked up the rudiments of begging. He moans that he is hungry, which he probably is, and asks for dollars. Unfortunately for him, my heart is more practical than soft and I make sure he gets a good plate of rice and beans rather than giving him a lollipop (peewilly in Creole), and I prefer to sit under a tree and look at the words and pictures in a magazine with him than give him money.
Stories abound about Jenison. Word is his mother died and that he was adopted by Brenda, the only woman I ever met here who works construction rather than cook and sweep. If you ask Jenison if his mother died, he draws a somber face and whispers yes, and then just as quickly brightens to another antic. There no way of knowing if she actually died or if he has just mastered another heart tug. The women’s very existence is lost in translation.
There is a hockey bag full of shoes under the counter at the job shack at Be Like Brit, ready to give any child who shows up at the site needing footwear. Somehow Jenison knows about it; the kid seems to know about everything. Sure enough the day after Len left and I am on my own at the job site Jenison shows up and asks for shoes. He is barefoot, but that is normal for him. We rustle through the bag and find a nice pair of sneakers that fit with room to grow. I give him a peewilly while we’re at it. He thanks me with great appreciation and wears his sneakers outside.
I turn back to my work. In a few minutes I look up and see Jenison, barefoot, new shoes in hand, racing down the hill. Maybe he’ll sell them. Maybe he’ll keep them as a prize. Maybe he just wanted them because he could get them. The only thing I know for sure is that the next time I see Jenison; he won’t be wearing those shoes. Shoes are not his style.