Thursday, October 18, 2007
Inside and Outside
Over the weekend I was invited to one of the branches of National Bookstore for book signing. At the event, Jay, an engaging storyteller from Alitaptap (firefly), an organization of storytellers, read the book "Teo's cockatoo" to the children, after which the participants competed in a coloring contest.
About 25 kids, accompanied by their yayas (sitters) and mothers, enjoyed the activities—judging by their noise. They were excited over their signed books and other purchases.
From one corner of my eye I saw a little boy in a black t-shirt craning his neck and peeking from the outside, through the glass frontage. The activities were for free—he could have easily come in and joined the rest of the kids. I wondered why he didn’t.
After all the kids had left, I lolled around. It was nice and cool inside the bookstore. The air conditioning was in full blast and the activity area was spruced up for the occasion.
Getting out of the bookstore, I was assaulted by warm, humid air. It was unbelievably hot, a reminder of the gloom of global warming. Walking towards my husband, I was nudged from behind. Why, it was the boy in black looking in through the glass!
He was carrying a plastic container with a few pieces of suman (native rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves). Sweaty from the heat of the afternoon sun, he said, “These suman are good. Would you like to buy one?” Since there were just a few pieces left, I thought he might have had a good sale that day.
My husband, who always says, “no child should ever be made to work for a living,” beat me to the draw. He bought not one, but all. But not before I could take the boy’s photo. He was excited to pose for me with his suman, which would become ours soon after that.
I couldn’t quite put a finger to what I felt. Inside the air conditioned bookstore were children who bought a lot of my books. Outside, in the sweltering heat, was a boy who can never afford one—and has probably never even read a children’s book.
I talked to myself, which is what happens when I want to make myself feel better, “You can’t write books for all children, you know.”
There has to be an answer to my own question.