The orphans were not the only children in Perus without parents. The twins, Eliane and Aliane, are not orphans by the strict definition. Technically they have a father, but in all my months in Perus I never met him. We always talked to the girls on their front patio.
“Dad doesn’t want religion in the house,” Aliane smiled, nodding her head toward the dark front window. The girls told me their father is not a bad man, just lazy. He is not cruel, but not kind, he doesn’t work, but he doesn’t bother them. He doesn’t scold or forbid or shout. He stays indoors watching their small T.V.
“And he drinks?” I asked them.
“Yeah,” they giggled together. “He drinks a lot.”
“What about your mom?”
“I’m Eliane’s mom,” Aliane answered quickly.
“And I’m Aliane’s,” Eliane added smiling. The answer was rehearsed. They must have given it many times.
The girls, since age ten, looked after themselves. For three years they’d run a small laundry business out of their home. The picture shows the twins standing surrounded by their day’s work. They washed clothes by hand for a year before they saved enough to buy a basic washing machine. Daily, they lug bags back and forth over the railroad and across the highway. They work everyday except Sunday and they never miss church. They’re mothers to each other.
“It’s not so bad, we make good money.”
“Except for our hands, the water dries them out.”
“Yeah but Rose Angela gets us this medicated lotion, it helps a lot.”
I nod my head. Of course Rose Angela would help.