This week I went to see a family I know through a friend. Fatmata, Joseph and their new baby live in a small shack near the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Thanks to their proximity to the court they met my friend.
Fatmata seemed to have been pregnant forever when I first started to visit them. Finally, at approximately 10 months gone, she was told she needed a caesarean at a cost of US$100. Whether she needed this operation or not is up for debate. What was not was that the family didn’t in a million years have the money. My friend paid it. They named the baby after him. When life here seems impossible and my head is dark I go to see them and warm myself in their welcome. Joseph comes bounding to the roadside to greet me. A bench is rustled, Fatmata smiles through gappy teeth and adjusts her slipping lappa around her boobs. I get to hold the baby. And considering he’s a bit of a lump, and I’m not really maternal, it’s great to sit and chat about nothing with them. I’ve helped Joseph set up a bank account so he can receive cash from said friend in the UK for the baby. I didn’t do much, just listened to Joseph every time he called to tell me the bank had again refused him on some spurious grounds – the unspoken one being that he looked poor and was brandishing a couple of hundred dollar bills. And I know that Joseph’s savvy and wants to stick close to me because I can help in other ways. And why not? I’m happy to. Life’s not fair, why doggedly refuse to help the people you can just because you can’t help them all? Accept that it’s not fair, but that it’s human. One day I joked that their baby was so gorgeous I could take him home with me. I meant my apartment in Freetown. I was joking. Joseph got excited and suggested that I could take him to the UK. I’m not Angelina Jolie, much less Madonna. I left them that day really sad. The baby is their first born. And already they know its future will be tough.