Carlos Amanteaou'd probably like No Name. She has eyes bigger than my own, skin of fine mahogany, a nose they used to call "button" and a mouth given to much smiling and little crying. She's exactly a year old, and she was offered to me yesterday, e.g., if I want another daughter, she's mine.
Her mother is María. María's poor, pretty, and now pregnant with Child #2. She "likes the men" says my worker Jesús. We don't know who the father is and the child has no name because her mother hasn't gotten around to it. Thus, "Sin Nombre."
I thought about that one for awhile: being a father again. The last time I did it was over forty years ago. I'm not sure if I am up to it again. There's a certain, well, running about to be done --- responsibility, caring, love. It's something we might do if we were 35, or even 50 again. But no matter how fetching the young lady, no matter how well-behaved, I don't think I can pull it off at this late date.
She scarcely cries --- "No Name" is not given to tears. She does know how to hug, however. She took quite naturally to my holding her, laid an affectionate hand on my arm, head on my chest. They are quite warm at that age, sweet smelling.
Is it immoral, this offering up of one's own flesh and blood to a stranger --- albeit a stranger who's a gringo, and, presumably, will have the wherewithal to care and feed for her? Who's to say? She was born at a time when her mother was seventeen, ill-prepared for diapers, and the messy world of child-care.
Her mother is smitten with the men. Amongst the caravan, No Name's father is an unknown. He was one of a series who came through the hutch, spent a night or two, moved on. It was only after a year of motherhood that María let it be known to her family (which includes the wife of my worker Jesús) that the child was available for the taking.
Up north, public service agencies would become involved to keep the family --- what little there is of it --- together. A social worker would be called in to deal with the violence (the mother has a tendency to slap her unwanted daughter around, I am told). There might be a foster family found who would be paid on a per diem basis, willing to take her on for the cash flow, if for nothing else. In any event, it would have been handled differently --- not this general call put out to all comers, whoever it is out there with the need of a quiet girl-child, of winning ways --- who is, now, of so little interest to her mother.
I asked Jesús and his wife Maruga if they could take her on. "Creo que no," he said. They already have two boys, one six, the other four. Jesús and Maruga grew up in families where there were many hungry mouths and little food --- sometimes, for days at a time, nothing in the house to eat but tortillas and salt. There was not much in the way of help from the fathers (Jesus' father disappeared; hers was an alcoholic). Both had to drop out of school early on to support a dozen or so brothers and sisters.
They have vowed that their two boys will do better: Felipe of the shy smile, Rogelio --- who, full of four-year-old wisdom, will talk your ear off if you give him half a chance. Telling me, for example, the important news of the day: he and his mother went to the public market; she bought him an apple; he wanted a balloon; she told him he'd have to wait for Los Reyes --- the Day of the Three Wise Men; he told her he didn't want to wait, etc etc.
Jesús and Maruga want their two boys to escape the world they grew up in. They want them to have more than one set of shirts and shorts, shoes that aren't falling apart, a doctor to look after them when they get sick. They want the two to go to school and to stay there. Two boys --- for now, that's enough. Thus they rejected her cousin's offer. She then asked Maruga if she would ask me.
"Sin Nombre." No name. A tiny human life. Offered up just like that. This is no book, or television "novela." This is the real thing. Her fingers clutch around my index. She looks at me, looks into the heart of me. Will you be my father? Ah, those eyes. Stop looking at me, will you?
A child with, perhaps, no future, unless I choose to give her one. A child I could raise as if she were my own. Or, maybe, just to be the affectionate uncle: to be sure that she has all she needs, to protect her from the anger of a frustrated mother. A mother, who, after all, just wants to get out of the house, to be with the boyfriends she fancies more than setting up housekeeping for her daughter, and the second on the way.
A sweet child. For the taking. If I want.--- Carlos Amantea