Some people are childish, even when they grow up. Others are somber and stern-faced even as infants, kind of like tiny adults, world-weary on the inside, but trapped in a fresh-faced exterior. That is how Maaouya is. He is a 4-year-old grownup, a serious kid, with a no-nonsense attitude that was evident from the moment I first saw him. I am tempted to describe him as “studious,” although, obviously, he is too young for school. But this is a helpful description, as it comes close to capturing his aloof demeanor. He floats above the fray with enviable scholarly detachment, and rarely talks or smiles, as though he is preoccupied with other, bigger problems.
But this is not to suggest that he is unhappy. Au contraire, he seems quite content to look on as the other children giggle and play. To look on, but not to participate in their games. There is a small but clearly discernible hint of condescension in the way he watches them. Almost pity. There activities are so far beneath him. So childish.
“Bless their little souls,” he seems to say, “When will they ever learn?”