As I told you in the opening post of this series, the other day was an interesting day. My neighbor knocked at my door. I know what he’s here for. Shyly, he asked me if I could help him to load the pickup truck with all the stuff he left in the house he had left behind six months ago.
To his pleased surprise, I agreed to help. First, it would be a nice break from my everyday monotony. Second… more on this later.
When we opened his long-abandoned house, the structure smelled of mold and stale air. Silverfish, also known as woodlice, which are a heavy infestation in this area, had eaten most of the books and papers he had left behind. There’s not much inside the house; a stove, the busted fridge, a King-Size bed and a dining table and a few chairs. But a few of these things are bulky enough to require assistance while bringing them out of the place.
It had taken him this long to find out if one of his friends would loan him the pickup truck, particularly after the incident with the Going-to-China-though-a-mud-pool incident. He talks despairingly, frantically, as someone who’s speaking his heart out. He has had a very bad year so far. He can’t sell the house; no one wants to buy it (tell me about it!) He’s up to his neck in debts and the bank is hounding him. As many Venezuelans, he now lives in his parents’ apartment, while the little Missus is living with hers. They almost divorced.
I listened patiently. I understand him more than he knows. He has also been touched by Cholondron, this accursed housing project left to its own fate… and as usual, this place’s touch is corrupted, destroying lives as it goes. It has messed up mine, certainly.
When we’re finished loading the truck, he offered me a beer; he had brought a six-pack inside a cooler. Somehow, the cooler had punctured and the ice within just leaked out as it melted. I chuckle. I don’t mind a more or less warm beer.
While we’re silently enjoying our brewskies, I know he’s dying to ask me why did I help him with his stuff. When he finally nerves himself to ask, I take a pause, trying to look thoughtful and profound. But my answer, in the end, is quite lame…
And I tell him:
“Dude, I’m helping you because that’s exactly what I want to happen to me. I wish there was someone who cared enough to help me get out from this place, either by buying enough of my books or some other way… but there’s no such person. So I help you, instead. At least to prove myself that I’m a better person than those who simply send me their prayers and hope that a miracle comes my way, soon…”
The poor guy’s eyes widened, both in surprise and heartfelt shame. We shared a few more beers and then he shook my hand in farewell. He also told me he will come around every once in a while, to see how I’m doing.
He rode his borrowed car into the dusty trail, raising several dust devils on his wake. He waved at me goodbye with the hand that sticks out from the window in the driver’s side of the car.
I know I won’t hear from him again.
People that quit in this place seldom return.
I can’t quit like they did.
I have nowhere else where I can go