Photo to the (ahem) Soul

 

It was a sunny and humid day on the Caribbean coast of Hondo-land (Honduras, for those of us who are not familiar with the new-age lingo) a day just like the day before, and inevitably will be like the the day after. I was in the back of my grandmother’s house, washing my clothes the old-fashioned way on a pila, a huge metal washboard built into a slab of concrete with two faucets on the side. Though any other time I would have killed for a washing machine, I actually loved washing my clothes this way. It was the only time I was left alone with my music blaring in the background. My mother, who had gone to run errands in the city, had hired a young helper to help with all the chores in the house including washing clothes. However for some reason, I was never comfortable with that. I had no problems with her cleaning my room (although I did cringe when I saw her examining my things a little too closely) I even helped her sometimes, but when it came to my clothes, it was “no toque”.

So there I was washing my clothes, in my own world, when I heard the unmistakable sound of tires screeching into the front yard.

“Buenos Dias! MELÍ??!!”

It was my aunt Maria and her husband Tito. My aunt is only a couple of years older than I am, so she was more like a cousin, us having grown up close. Her husband was the same age as she was, a cool dude. Him and I connected through music, he was the owner and DJ of a club on the beach of the beautiful little town we come from.  That day they were headed into the city to renew some permits for the club. It had been a while since we hung out, so they were eager to bring me along. I looked at the wash bin full of my dirty clothes. I needed to finish while the sun was out, so that they could be dry by the afternoon.

The helper told me it was OK, she would finish it for me. Before I had a chance to say anything (NO!) my aunt said “Good, we’ll be back in an hour”. She grabbed my arm and practically threw me into the little pick-up truck. I tried to scream out to the helper not to touch my clothes, but my aunt pushed me back in.

“Hey ¿ que te pasa?!That’s what you pay her for!”

“I don’t pay her, my mom does”

“Whatever, same shit. What’s hers is yours”. Hmmm…I don’t think my mom would agree with that.

With a big sigh I sat back and let myself be carried away in the little pick-up truck, dirt kicking up on the Pan-American highway. This highway, which runs (unofficially) from Alaska all the way down into Argentina (officially) is one long stretch of road that connects fourteen countries in total. However, depending on which third world nation you happen to be in, it can be a pain in the ass to drive through. In Honduras, outside of the major cities you’ll encounter dirt roads full of deep potholes so if you happen to have the window down and your mouth open, you get a lunch full of dust. Since it is a semi-international highway, the government is  supposedly making improvements. When I was younger, it used to take us almost four hours to get from the airport, to our little town on the northern Caribbean coast. Now it takes about a little under an hour.

So we’re driving along the highway, wind in my hair, enjoying the tropical breeze and the beautiful views of the beaches with Bob Marley playing in the background when we finally pulled into the parking lot of the municipal buildings. We walked across the burning asphalt and into one of the offices. While Maria and Tito were talking to the secretary I looked around the tidy little office and out the glass window. Across the way there were park benches where people were sitting around, probably dragged from what they were doing and waiting for their friends/family to finish up. Since there was almost no air conditioning in the office, I told Maria that I was going to wait for her outside. Tito decided to join me, as he was going to let his wife do all the talking since her name was on most of the papers. (Umm…support?).

We headed outside to one of the benches, and sat down in one that was shaded by a palm tree. Tito bought me a bottle of water, a saving grace in the dry weather. After a little while an older gentleman came and sat by us, letting out a huge sigh as he took off his cowboy hat and wiped his brow with his handkerchief. He was a portly, short, balding  mestizo man with a huge bigote (mustache).

“AAAYYY que calor!” He exclaimed, sweating under the weight of the heat. I wasn’t sure if it was a statement or a question, so I just gave a little smile. Tito, who’s a DJ, and therefore likes to talk said “Only in hell is it hotter”.

“Well we’re in hell brother… hell” The old man replied, wheezing and eying my big bottle of water.  Thank GOD Tito is a good man and offered his bottle of water to the stranger. I can be a bit selfish.

He looked at us both and with a little smile on his face said “You two are a beautiful couple.” Tito and I looked at each other than at the stranger and proceeded to laugh. We assured him we were in-laws.
“I’m so sorry, my mistake” Meh, anybody could’ve made that mistake. He introduced himself as Santos, a farmer from a small town outside of the municipality. Both Tito and I and introduced ourselves. We chatted a bit about where we were from and I told him the truth; I was from NY but I was there on vacation.   He asked me if there was somebody special, and although I hadn’t discussed this with Maria and Tito, I told him there was. It was also a warning sign if he was trying to lure his way into my good graces.

“Love is a wonderful thing, a powerful drug,” he said, wiping his brow ” It is the best feeling in the world”. I nodded my head in agreement. Tito amen’ed that.
Then he continued. “I can’t stop thinking about my lady. She makes me so happy. Pero lastima, that I only see her about once or twice a week”. Now here was where I got a bit confused. Once or twice a week? I figured maybe he was a farmer that works for a corporation of some sort that only lets him go home once or twice a week? I know nothing about farming, so this was the best I could come up with.

” My wife is old and getting up there, she doesn’t touch me like she used to.” I looked at Tito, confused. First he complains that he does not see his wife, and now he complains that she doesn’t touch him? Tito, being the charismatic guy that he is, shrugged his shoulders and said ” Yeah well, women. What can you do?”. He laughed a bit and I joined him but I didn’t find it that funny. I turned my head and gave him the evil eye. Wait ’till Maria hears about this.

“But the way my lady touches me” Santos continued ” leaves me wanting her even more”. Now here is where the clarity comes in. Santos was spending his time with a woman…that was not his wife! To be honest, I was not surprised. Infidelity is a hot topic issue in many parts of Latin America and around the world, Honduras being no exception. It is almost a part of life, something many women, and sometimes men with lesser consequences, have to deal with. But that’s another blog post.

Santos reached around to his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, moving closer to Tito and I. “This girl right here is my everything”, he announced pulling out a photo. He showed the photo to Tito, whose eyes immediately widened. Tito looked at me, speechless. What? Was she super hot? Super ugly?  I didn’t know what to expect. To be honest I didn’t give a shit about seeing the photo. Hell, I’m a woman for God’s sake. I am not condoning his infidelities. But the way Tito’s eyes bulged outta his head got the best of my curiosity. I reached for the photo, took one look and my jaw fell open.

The young girl was naked, spread eagle on a bed. Completely naked. Front row seat to her uterus. I was shocked and damn near threw the picture back at Santos. “Isn’t she beautiful?” he said. What the hell?

I looked at Tito who had a grin on his face, and gave the photo back to Santos. I looked at him thinking he was going to at least acknowledge our shock, but he just took the photo back, kissed it and stuffed it into his wallet, completely oblivious to our reactions.

I chuckled to myself. Who am I kidding? I just saw this man’s wanker photos.Shortly after that Maria came out and we made our way back home. Years later and that image is still in my head. What an eventful day.