A Little While

Edwidge Danticat in The New Yorker:

ScreenHunter_05 Jan. 26 11.30 My cousin Maxo has died. The house that I called home during my visits to Haiti collapsed on top of him.

Maxo was born on November 4, 1948, after three days of agonizing labor. “I felt,” my Aunt Denise used to say, “as though I spent all three days pushing him out of my eyes.” She had a long scar above her right eyebrow, where she had jabbed her nails through her skin during the most painful moments. She never gave birth again.

Maxo often complained about his parents not celebrating his birthday. “Are you kidding me?” I’d say, taking his mother’s side. “Who would want to remember such an ordeal?” All jokes aside, it pained him more than it should have, even though few children in Bel Air, the impoverished and now shattered neighborhood where we grew up, ever had a birthday with balloons and cake.

When Maxo was a teen-ager, his favorite author was Jean Genet. He read and reread “Les Nègres.” These lines from the play now haunt me: “Your song was very beautiful, and your sadness does me honor. I’m going to start life in a new world. If I ever return, I’ll tell you what it’s like there. Great black country, I bid thee farewell.”

Two days after a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, on January 12, 2010, I was still telling my brothers that one night, as we were watching CNN, Maxo would pop up behind Anderson Cooper and take over his job.

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