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[NOTE: The following is a work of fiction.]
The Army man held me on his lap. I have the picture to prove it. This man’s big white hands curled around my plump little baby body so I wouldn’t fall and land on the wooden floor. The tinted reflection of my face looked bloated in the lenses of his sunglasses. The black-haired adults stood around us, smiling broadly, but their sharp brown eyes peered through the helplessness of the situation. Some of them teetered on the brink of exhaustion. Their knees appeared weak with the thought of giving up yet another child to a country that was sending its bombers over to float above their land like seagulls over a landfill.
But, nothing could’ve prepared me for what came next. The black-and-white photo of me entertaining the Army man became a press favorite and my image galvanized people all over the world to save up their pretty pennies to take home a child just like me. Dailies and weeklies saw their circulation jump tenfold simply by slapping my timeless mug on their front pages. The contrasting image of the impressionable foreign foundling sitting atop the knee of the corn-fed saintly soldier played expertly upon the maternal desires of the womenfolk and the predictable protectionism of the men folk. Inquiries flooded the orphanage, praying for our lonely souls and slipping in a few extra dollars to let the local officials know how much they cared about our safe arrival in more appropriate environs.
My mom and dad, the people who had the foresight to pick me out of the tropical bumper crop of 1974, told me that if it weren’t for the photo of me in their local newspaper, they wouldn’t have known to save me from the onslaught heading south. Their tales of ghoulish oriental Grim Reapers knocking on peasant doors and whisking away the young to fight against the doughboy GIs fed my already latent fear of scythes. They repeated over and over the stories of the Red scourge that hid among the reeds and waited for the hazy jungle nights to obscure their crimes against the good people of Indochina.
One day when I was playing on the Tonka earthmover in the schoolyard sandlot a rude boy wearing one boot and one sneaker skipped over to me and pushed me off it. I heard him laugh as I got up and ran to the teacher, crying about the indignity of losing face and losing my turn. The teacher crossed his arms and looked down at my teary eyes and curtly scolded me about wasting his time. He pointed to the painted pony on a spring and suggested I go play on it and stop messing with the other boys. It was going to take time, I told myself, to learn the rules of this new country. My mom’s face appeared to me and reminded me, as she did every morning at the bus stop, that not everyone is going to like me and they will call me names. But, I should ignore their taunts and ignore their shoving because I am above them, I am special. Instead of going to play on the toy pony, I marched over to the kid who pushed me off the earthmover and recited to him exactly what my mother had told me each and every morning, especially the fact that I was special. That’s when the kid with one boot and one sneaker punched me in the face, got off the earthmover and told me that it’s my turn again.
Every evening before even touching my dinner, I was encouraged to clasp my hands and pray for those, who unlike myself, couldn’t make it to our supper table because their legs had been blown off by mines or they had been starving on the street corner clutching clods of dirt. I was fully convinced that my survival depended on my adorableness that had magically warded off the strikes of the rifle butt to the skull or the point blank shots to the chest, which felled the other unlucky wretches left behind. How else could I explain my good fortune of living in such bountifulness and virtuosity? People told me that it wasn’t happenstance that had reached down out of the clouds and plucked me from Death’s hairy arms. It was simply destiny that I and my parents had been strolling down the same path of mercy and meeting at just the right time. People may tell me that this is a strange way to be thankful for the gift of life, but I’m convinced that there is no other way. I must believe that I am special. Don’t you?