They keep asking me why I collect the children, like it’s some kind of shameful filthy thing; you’d think I’d been caught picking through their refuse, or something.
Usually I don’t answer, because the ones who have to ask don’t really want to know, only find new ammunition for the jokes they’ll make about me once I’ve taken my leave.
Some of them insinuate that I eat the children, use their little bones to make the jewelry I sell or that I pimp them out to men with unwholesome desires.
And I wonder, if they really think I am doing such horrible things, why don’t they report me, or stop me, try to save the children, because if it were me, that is what I would do.
I tell the others, the ones who don’t ask because they already know, that I collect the cast off forgotten children that no one wants, the ones tossed out like spoiled food onto the rubbish heap of our society.
While I am doing the telling, I sometimes cry a little, because I can remember the time when few women were able to bear children, making them that much more beloved and the women who could were paid to for the gift of their ripe wombs.
I have fifty-three children; fifty-two girls and one boy.
I much prefer collecting the girls, because they are most impermanent, and I do not wish for them to be forever attached to me.
They fall in love with men and later, their children, and they have this need, like inherited memory, to create their own home away from the place of their upbringing.
The girls, the women, will stop by from time to time when their need has been sated to let me know that they remember me, to share their spare love and this is good enough for me.
Between the names that I gifted them and the names they bore when I found them and the ones they chose when they left, I am afraid that I can not remember most of them, except Mars, my only son.
Sit awhile, let me tell you about him.
I found my only boy about twenty-five or six years ago.
He stood on the curb with his eyes closed as morning pedestrians passed around him giving him about as much notice as a speed bump or a flattened soda can in the gutter.
I would have passed him too, because I do not collect the boys, but for his hair, the color of the rust around a leaking faucet.
My breath caught in my throat at the sight of him, because until that moment, I had forgotten my husband’s face as he had been dead for so many years; the very sight of this boy gave him back to me.
The boy was filthy and he stank of something sinister and sick but when I leaned down to look into his face he trapped me with his pale as water eyes.
He clung to me like like a planet in orbit so for this reason, along with his hair reminding me so much of my long dead beloved, I decided to name him Mars.
(I wrote this a while ago in character exploration for a work in progress. That WIP is so very different now, but Araminta still exists. This piece represents what she told me when I asked her about her children.)