They say he is a reckless street child.
They say his father abuses him.
They spit when he walks by.
They call him crazy.
I heard rumors about this little boy named Pavial. From the first time I heard of him I wanted to find him, meet him, love him. One day, I prayed alone in my room to God. I clearly remember being on my knees and saying aloud, “Father God, I am going to be stubborn. I am not leaving this room until you bring Pavial to me.”
I had never before prayed a prayer like that, with such authority.
A few minutes later I heard a knock on the door. I was told that a little boy was downstairs.
No bigger than your average American 5 year-old, Pavial was smiling widely as I approached the front gate. He reached out his hand to take mine and quickly planted a kiss on my hand.
My heart melted. We became fast friends.
“Yes, maybe he is developmentally challenged,” I thought. “But he is so little, so sweet.”
I had this intense sense to love Pavial. The fact that he was a societal outcast only intensified this urge. I was excited to learn about this little boy, to learn and to love him.
From playing with him, I learned that Pavial is very protective. One day, when a toddler wandered into the street, I watched as Pavial stopped what he was doing to walk the baby back to the sidewalk.
I learned that Pavial is smart. Speaking with him in my broken Kurdish, Pavial intentionally has always spoken slow and steady for me. One day we took a walk outside and he taught me the words for cat, bird and heart.
I learned that Pavial is an artist. My friend Josh and I invited Pavial in for dinner one evening. He ate his chicken like a child: messily, with his hands. We then drew pictures. Pavial wrote his name and drew a house.
As Pavial sat quietly drawing, I remember looking over at Joshua and said, “Can we keep him?”
Meet Pavial, again.
Over time, I have learned more about Pavial’s life. Most astonishing, I have learned that he is not a little boy.
Pavial is 18 years old.
When I first heard this, I couldn’t believe it. This small child, a grown man? And yet, all evidence points to it. Pavial is not a child, but almost a grown man… except for the fact that he doesn’t grow. I don’t know what disease Pavial has. I can hardly explain how strange a disease it must be.
Pavial is a like real-life Benjamin Button.
When I heard this news of Pavial’s age I also began to take the rumors surrounding Pavial more seriously. The tales of him breaking into houses, or doing dangerous things began to seem more possible. I hadn’t wanted to believe that sweet Pavial was capable of these things, and yet I suddenly didn’t trust him anymore.
I began to wonder if his child-like tendencies were an act, or if he was possessed by a demon. I even began to pray that I wouldn’t see Pavial again. If I did, would I say hi? Would I let him come into the house again? I became very fearful.
I haven’t seen Pavial since I learned his true age. But, I know my fear of him is slowly leaving and the love I have for him is still there because last night he was in my dream.
He was standing by the gate, smiling and waving. And strangely, I wasn’t scared anymore, but rather I said: “Come inside, Pavial.”