Just Like Old Times

I shouldn’t be here. I love her, but this is beyond what I can handle.
“I’m so happy you came,” Ximena* tells me.
I nod and force a smile. “Well, I needed to see you again, and meet Alejandra,”
She looks so old. Not like the girl I went to school with, not the girl I used to play with, not the girl I called a best friend.
She’s a mother now. An adult.
Someone living a life I cannot imagine — a life I don’t want to imagine.
One month ago, Ximena gave birth to a very premature little girl. She and her boyfriend didn’t expect the baby to live… but she did. They named her Alejandra.
We were able to visit Ximena after she was released from the hospital, but we weren’t allowed to see the baby. It was a very difficult visit, filled with a lot of tears and a lot of discomfort for all of us.
I asked Dad to bring us out here. I had promised Ximena we’d come see her. I told her we still loved her, that we still cared for her and we wouldn’t judge her.
So here we are, standing beside a group of concrete and thatch huts build nearly on top of each other. Swatting away flies and trying to act like the heat and stench don’t bother us.
This is what poverty looks like.
This is what it looks like and smells like and feels like.
This is what it is to see desperate people, hungry children, broken lives.
This is her home.
This is how she lives.
Dirt floors. Rough concrete walls. A rusty tin roof.  A bed that’s falling apart. A broken dresser. No light. No bathroom.
Ximena points to a tiny bundle on the bed. “This is my daughter. Madeline… I want you to hold her,”
“Okay,” Ximena hands me the baby.
Tears press on the backs of my eyeballs. Joy, confusion, happiness, and disbelief melt together into just feeling lost.
Just sitting on a bed with my best friend, talking. Just like old times.
Except not really.
In the old times, we talked about music and boys and clothes. Now, we’re talking about food and money, and Alejandra.
Part of me wants to leave. Tell her I didn’t sign up for this heartbreak and pain and seeing her like this.
And the other part of me knows that I did sign up for this. When I said, I love you, Ximena. We’re always going to be friends…
I meant that.
I didn’t give a list of conditions. I didn’t say if. I didn’t say as long as.
And neither did Jesus.
*The names in this post have been changed in order to protect the privacy of certain individuals.

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