Tuesday, April 15, 2008

She Lived Under a Mango Tree

I came to León not really knowing what I was looking for, not really knowing why when the weather is warmer than Managua, but perhaps fate leads you where you need to go. It was here that I found my roommate Gloria.

We met a dance club the night I arrived and somehow the conversation moved to my inability to find long term housing. She offered me her spare bed provided I paid half the rent and helped out with chores. Now it could have been foolish to accept such an offer from a complete stranger, perhaps downright dangerous, but it was an exact solution for my predicament and after my first encounter with a hostel owner telling me I wasn't from the US because I had "slanty" features, and indicated this by pulling back the skin around her eyes, I damn sure wasn't going to spend two weeks in a traveler's hostel.

Located on the outskirts of town, about half an hour from the Center, I have been living in a place much like the homes of the boxers I visited in Honduras. Well, to be fair, their homes had a lot more.

Lizards crawl through the cracks of the concrete walls, water needs to be splashed onto the dirt floors to prevent excessive dust, and the aluminum roofing make the mangoes that fall at night sound like gunshots. I'm back to bathing myself with a bucket in our all in one shower, laundry, and dish-washing area. I haven't had hot water for about 3 months, although taking a warm shower in Nicaragua at this time of year would be cruel and unnecessary punishment. The bathroom is merely a hole in the ground, but has oddly been the cleanest smelling toilet I've had thus far. She warned me that there wasn't much before I moved in, but this place has grown on me. I've learned to duck under the barbed wire clothesline at night, no longer startled by the horses and roosters in the backyard when I wake up, and have finally been receiving the chiropractic benefits of sleeping on a bed as hard as a plank of wood. I've had a hammock and a fan, really more than I could ever ask for, plus a wonderful roommate.

Gloria's life story breaks my heart for reasons I won't disclose and makes me realize how inconsequential my feelings of loneliness were when she's been on her own since she was 13, alone for the past 8 months. Really alone. Sometimes she would even cook and clean for me, since every time I attempt to she just laughs and tells me I can't do anything correctly. She tells me that she'll miss me when I leave, that my presence acted as a reason to tidy the home. She too motivated me to bathe and brush my teeth everyday since I was going to be around someone for two weeks. Now you all know what sort of grimy bastard I am. It was nice having a familiar face everyday, finally having someone other than yourself to talk to. It's hard to let that go and even harder to accept that you may never see them again.

One question on the Bonderman essay prompt is "the most significant challenges you anticipate encountering". Now due to our narcissistic nature, in hearing the premise of traveling alone for 8 months, one would think it would have something to do with being by yourself. But it isn't the solitude that is difficult, it is being forced to let go of the people you meet and reliving the feeling of departure over and over again. It is having these meaningful relationships quite maliciously uprooted and thrown into a realm of uncertainty that is becoming unbearable.

Most of the friends I have been meeting do not have emails or even physical addresses and long-distance phone rates are too ridiculous to justify a call that I would struggle to understand. I probably won't see any of them again. I guess the best I can do is associate the experiences with something; the tune of a song, the scent of a particular detergent, or the taste of a mango. Something to make these memories firmer, more concrete in my mind so I can grasp onto them as hard as I can, because I'll probably live in these moments only once.


Nathan Cermak said...

you have an incredible way with words - i suspect other people have told you that, but this blog really is amazing. thank you for sharing your experiences

Anonymous said...

hmmm...i know you have a whole regimen when u use public bathrooms in the US...tear out the middle piece of the toilet cover sheet and line the seat with toilet paper on top of the cover sheet all around and then toss a wad of toilet paper in the toilet… so that before you poo, the water won't splash back up! now that i think about it...that's such a waste of paper!!!!!!!! So what do you do now when you’re in other countries?