White Chocolate*

I could feel the disbelief in the gentle twinkling of the tiny fingers that were stroking my arm as I sat squished against the side of the mini-bus traveling through town.   I reflected on the fact that the only white skin I’ve seen in more than a month was my own, a pale and somewhat pathetic version of the deep rich dark chocolate skin that surrounds me wherever I go.  Like the difference between white and dark chocolate, mine seems weak and cool, while that which greets me everywhere I look, is rich and warm, often glowing in the heat of the sun, while mine shrivels and cracks.

I never liked white chocolate.  It always seems like a deception, a denial of what it is that makes chocolate what it is – those deep smooth shades of brown and black.  Of course, my favorite is the darkest, its bittersweet-ness transports me to a place that promises to be warm and soothing even as it melts against my tongue leaving me with only a memory or our brief encounter.    Even with the color that the blazing African sun has given my skin, I am still white and naked by comparison.  A poor imitation of what skin should be.  Worse still, my whiteness is itself blemished, marred by dark splotches and freckles, and crinkled with age.  Paper thin, and covered by fine soft golden fuzz, it is indeed curious to look at.  I’d want to feel it myself if, for the first time in my entire life, I was close enough to touch it.

I reached out and took his small hand in mine, black on white, and smiled.  He must have been around 7 or 8 years old.  Yes, I let my eyes speak to him silently.  I agree, it’s pretty strange this skin you are feeling for the first time.    Silently, I savor in the sensation of warm curiosity that trickles out from his soft fingers as our different shades of color connect us to one another.  For just this one precious moment we are one in our amazement at our differences, as we sit together feeling our sameness as fingers meet skin to rejoice in the miracle of human touch.

*The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Rwandan government.

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