Somewhere, somehow I’d picked up on the notion that once we committed to adopting the boys everyone at the Ciudad Juárez orphanage could see the shimmery halo hovering over our noble heads. I imagined a decree from above had guaranteed our qualification as perfect parents, cloaked us in absolute benevolence, and designated us the supreme couple.
Chapter IX – January 1998
“…Ms. D waved me into her office, bracelets clinking, as she straightened a pile of file folders then tossed a clump of paper clips into her desk drawer. The shared office with two other social workers was tiny and cluttered, but her compact desk was a masterpiece of organization.
I pulled up a chair and initiated small talk about Santa Cruz and Juárez. Ms. D looked up, with a clothesline of an expression.
She cleared her throat. “Ricardo’s ear and respiratory infection are not getting better. This is after two rounds of antibiotics. The night staff told me he’s having high fevers and more earaches.”
“The mucus seems worse,” I agreed. “Is there anything we can do?”
My questions were answered with cryptic words and little eye contact.
“Thank you for your extra efforts with our sons.”
She looked up and cracked the color on her lips to utter two words, no more, no less: “Así es.” Loose translation: it is what it is. She was done and with two words dismissed me. I’d come to resent those two little words as much as I despised the sight of bureaucratic rubber stamps and ink pads. In my fantasy, I upended her desk as she shrieked, horrified, and apologized profusely. In reality, I was afraid to make her angry. Afraid she’d make a case against us adopting the boys. I also disliked confrontation, but I found I couldn’t stand up.
“Why don’t you like us?”
Her face met mine. I waited for her explanation and apology.
“I don’t trust Norte Americanos—they are frivolous.”
I caught my breath. She didn’t hem and haw or hesitate. Nor did she apologize. She sat there staring at me, triumphant, it seemed, that I had asked the question.
When I took too long to answer she said, “Así es.” She stood up to signal our meeting was over. I didn’t stand up. I remembered my diminutive Nana Herminia, strong as ironwood, stood up to condescending businessmen, who underestimated and chided her for running the front end of the restaurant business. I somehow channeled her courage.
“We adopted a little girl five years ago and gave her up when her birth mother changed her mind. Do you think it’s easy taking another risk like this? The frivolous couple that returned the boys were Mexicanos. Not Norte Americanos.” I could sense my grandmother’s pride at my succinct and tearless speech and sat up straighter waiting for the chink in her armor to appear.
It didn’t. She didn’t even blink, and I wondered if she’d been listening at all. No apology, no condolences over losing Sofia, merely an “Así es.”