Rose

By Rachel Berger

Sometimes you just fall in love for no real reason at all. Or at least not a reason that makes any sense when you are trying to explain using proper, sophisticated words.

That is what happened to me at Avrankou, St. Camille's first mental health treatment center in Benin.

It was love at first sight when I saw Rose, rocking her bad ass white chef hat. It also doesn't hurt that Rose is singing and dancing to welcome us. In addition, she has a smile that would force you to wear sunglasses in hell and her cheekbones are the highest you have ever seen.

So I am more than delighted when Rose begins to follow us as we tour Avrankou, which, as the very serious director would like you to know, was established in 2004 and has treated more that 15,600 inpatients and outpatients.

It is Rose who runs interference for me when I stop to video the women cooking something boiling in two large pots and when I run around to the other side of the wall to see how they feed wood into the stove from a small hole in the wall.

Again, it is Rose who gets a broom to clean a cement step which I suggest we sit on. When we eventually walk across the road to eat, Rose holds my hand. I tell Rose how my grandmother and one of my closest friends are both named Rose, which Rose of Avrankou says makes us sisters.

Then as we (the visiting guests) eat in a large clean white room with a fan and below a photo of Gregoire with one of those flyover Popes (you know the one's between Vatican II and the people's pope, Francis), Rose waits outside in the atrium. (For the record, this wasn't my party, or I would have had her eat fish and chicken and rice with us.)

When we finish lunch, I plop down on a wooden bench next to Rose as the others discuss important affairs.

The truth is, Rose and I are blabbing about nothing so much I never ask her all my journalist questions; how did you get here, what was happening in your head, how is your life now.

We share handfuls of baby powder and when Rose gets so much on her face that she looks like a zombie, we laugh and I brush it off and give her a big hug just because she makes me so happy.

And then she says I love you and I say I love you back and I really mean it.

I hope somehow, somewhere we will meet again because I really did fall for that girl.