The Boy has been living in France for almost 15 years. He saw his mother for the first time since leaving Congo (at the age of 20) about two years ago (at the age of 33). They recognized one another immediately at the Brussels airport. She was half her normal weight, but he told me later that he had been expecting worse: her trip over to Europe was an emergency attempt to save her life from the weight loss, fainting, and fevers she was suffering as a result of AIDS. Luckily, it has been a success and she is now both pleasantly plump and a working woman. She is a perfect example of someone living with AIDS (active in the church, working part-time, laughing a lot) instead of dying of it.
Today marked the second installment in what is sure to be a story that unravels year by year. The Boy managed to get his youngest brother enrolled in a school here, and at 2 am last night we received the call that he had received a visa and was on a plane heading towards Paris. The plane was to land at 6 am. Shocked and excited, The Boy went to sleep in the wee hours of the morning and slept through the alarm. I woke up at 7 and said, "What are you still doing here? Aren't you supposed to be at the airport?"
He freaked out, but I think he was just nervous. His brother - whom he hadn't seen since his brother was a little kid - was now arriving in Paris. He's now 22, a grown man that The Boy later said he didn't even recognize at first glance.
His brother, a sweeter, gentler, taller, thinner version of The Boy, came to France with only one suitcase. When I saw it in my living room this morning, I asked, "Is that all you brought?"
"Oh, well, I just came like this," he said, motioning to his clothes. "The suitcase is for maman." He essentially moved to France today, with only the clothes on his back. We promptly went out and bought him a warm coat and pants. Obviously, Paris' climate is not the same as in the northern Congolese jungle.
I like meeting The Boy's family, even in these most extraordinary of circumstances. I am forever in awe of what he has managed to do, how he has managed to bring his family together since his father passed away and disaster has struck. They are a mighty bunch, and I admire his effort to keep them together despite time and difference. "I am the head of the family now," he tells me matter-of-factly. "That means I have to do my best."
When I think of the incredible duty he has - and fulfills - towards his family, I get tears in my eyes. He can be a moody little bastard, but he's one of the most honorable and amazing people I have ever met, a true pillar of strength. Right now, he is sleeping in the bed next to me (with Tracy Chapman as a lullaby) after spending over 24 hours arranging and meeting and helping with his brother's adjustment. The Boy is such a turbulant person, so full of pressure and worry and fear, that when I see him sleeping like this I can only hope he is having soft, pleasant dreams. He deserves a few moments of peace more than any other soul I know. My only wish is that he enjoy today's small victory for at least a day or two before he tries to tackle the next problem.