I did my portion of the relay at night. For most of the night they have stadium lights blazing, with everything lit up practically to daylight. I walk right after the Luminaria Ceremony where everybody gathers and lights candles and then takes a lap around the track en masse with candles lit. They turn out the lights for that, and leave them off for a stretch. When they do bring them back up, they come up slowly. It feels a bit like dawn breaking.
Anyhow, I checked in at my team tent and chatted with the people there for a bit. Then I started my walk alone because the friend who I was going to be walking with was running late. Everything was dark except for the Luminaria bags lining the path.
I made it all of 15 feet from the tent when I almost tripped over a body huddled in a ball on the ground. I swerved to avoid it, and as I got along side it I heard wailing. I paused and took a closer look. There was a girl about kungfuzap's age on her knees, curled into a ball (I had mistaken it for a child tying their shoe at first). I knelt down and asked if she was okay, thinking she had perhaps twisted her ankle. The wailing got even more hysterical and she sobbed, "My mother is yelling at me!"
Well shit, not at all what I want to be in the middle of. I look around trying to spot said mother, because really, it would be best if meltdown girl were not left to sob in the middle of a darkened track.
"I miss him so much!" She wails to me. She looks up for just a moment and her eyes are puffy with huge dark circles under them. This is not brand new crying. Her face collapses back toward the ground and she continues to cry. "She doesn't even care."
"I'm sure she cares," I tell her. I have my hand on her shoulder, but am not sure what else to do with her. Touching strange children is not generally well looked upon in this society.
"It doesn't seem like she cares! She won't talk about him, she never talks about him! I miss him so much, and she just pretends like nothing has happened."
My heart is aching with what I am imagining of this family's life. "Is your mom here?" I am still looking around for somebody who looks connected.
"I don't know where she is." sob sob sob
I see this slightly older looking teen wandering toward us, looking around as if she has lost something. She has a cell phone out and her eyes are wet. Her eyes land on our little heap in the middle of the track and she questioningly says a girl's name. Sobbing girl looks up and explodes out of her ball and into this girl's arms. They both weep and I overhear "I just want to talk about him, but she always yells at me." as the older looking one leads her off to the side.
I got up and brushed the dirt from my knees and continued on my lap, eyes leaking.
I had pulled myself together by the time my friend joined me. We walked and talked, as the lights came up. I took some photos. A live band plays covers. Last year I walked to songs from The Beatles, this year to Pink Floyd's music.
I was able to raise over $1000. Thanks to everyone who was able to help. They won't have the final total for our relay for a while, as donations are still being turned in. A lot of people won't donate online. I'll post the total amount raised when they have those numbers.