the phone call


It was 10:30 p.m. last night and I was in bed, almost asleep, when my phone rang.  I didn't recognize the number, but I answered anyway because, hey, you never know who might be on the other end.  Maybe Oprah asking if I'd come on her show, or Michelle Obama asking how she can help me promote the Invisible Girls' story, or someone from the state lottery calling to tell me I won (though that would be weird because I've never bought a lottery ticket in my life.) Anyway.  I picked up the phone, and the second-oldest Somali girl, Abdallah, was on the other end.

"Hi, Sahara!" she said in a hoarse whisper.

"Hi, baby!  How are you?" I asked.

"I'm good," she said quietly.  "I'm hiding in the bathtub because it's the only quiet place to talk to you," she said.

I laughed.  It was so good to hear her voice on the phone.  I usually go up to Seattle to check on them every 6-8 weeks because there aren't any other good ways of staying in touch.  They don't have e-mail, and the mom, Hadhi, gets a pre-paid cell phone when she can afford it, but that only happens every few months.  The rest of the time, we don't have any contact unless I drive up to see them.

"Do you remember how I told you I wrote our story into a book?" I asked her.

"Yes," she said.

"Well, the book came out a few weeks ago, and people who love you are buying the book.  And then, when you finish high school, we're going to have money to send you to college!  What do you think about that?"

"It's good, Sahara," she said.  "It's very good."

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" I asked her.

She was quiet for a minute.  "It's a secret," she said.  "I don't tell my sisters because they laugh at me."

"Well, you can tell me," I said.  "I promise I won't laugh."

Then she whispered, "Sahara, when I grow up, I want to be just like you."