Zoe    (South Africa)

Zoe (A Journal Entry)

Zoe* is one of the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen. She is ten years old and is in that stage of being still a child but almost a young woman. Her limbs are long and her face is young. She has light eyes and swollen lips. Freckles dust her face and her eyebrows are perfectly thick, with full eyelashes.

She’s wise beyond her years and speaks in a low voice with the maturity of an adult. She tells me stories about the things she’s seen, many of which are disturbing to say the least. The first day I met her she told me about a woman who got her head run over by a car recently. Another day we were standing by the river and she told me that a couple of young kids had drowned in it. I ask her when and she says a long time ago.

She lives in a community where violence, crime, drugs, and poverty also live.

Every day I gaze at the sea of young lives gathered in the middle of the town to play and I look for her. She sees me always taking photographs and I tell her she could be a model. I ask to take her picture and she lets me, her hands tangled as she settles into a standing pose. I love the awkward ways she positions the body that she hasn’t yet grown into. She always asks me if she can use my camera, and most of the time I tell her no because I know if I did, all of the other, younger kids will want to do the same. A few times, though, I let her and the camera is as big as her face, her skinny fingers wrapped tight around the lens. She photographs me. And we have a photo shoot together as friends. When I photograph her she is beaming with a shy confidence.

I leave a note “To the most beautiful girl in the world” on our last day.

12 3 46121310She broke off sticks of aloe and drug its leaves against the cement. The water inside the plant would mark her letters and drawings before the sun would make them a memory

*Name has been changed

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