I had come to look forward to our little afternoon rendezvous in the half-built cabaña out back. Rulo sitting on a log with a cigarette hammering on in rapid Spanish, his dark, curly hair bouncing as he gesticulated and I sitting across from him laughing at whatever inane and silly story he was telling me. He graciously helped me with my Spanish and when I would drag out a word- my way of stalling when I couldn’t remember the next word or phrase- he would drop his chin to his chest and theatrically snore. I adored him for it. He helped me laugh at my own short comings in this language I was trying so hard to grasp.
In Boquete, citrus trees abounded as well as avocado trees. They were as abundant as the rocks lining the river and one afternoon Rulo and I decided on guacamole for a snack.
“Pero los aguacates no estan maduros,” I said to Rulo.
“No, mas arriba!” He pointed skyward into the ether of the tree.
Rulo looked at me with eyebrows raised and walked over to a long wooden pole resting on the ground. I had neglected to ever take notice of it before. It was probably a good twenty feet long with a basket contraption on one end. Much like the kind you see at a pick-your-own apple farm, it was a device for grabbing the avocados that were too high for human hands or a ladder for that matter.
Running towards me in a fake pole vault sprint, Rulo stopped short a few feet away from me. I nodded, smiling. He asked me what the material of the pole was called in English and I said, “wood.” I then proceeded to explain to him what the slang term, “woody,” meant in English, sly smiles sprawling across both our faces.
“Bekkammm,” as he referred to me like the famous British soccer player but elongating the letter m, “por qué me dices estas cosas?” Shaking his head, he laughed. What I wanted to say but lacked a lot of Spanish to do so was that I told him these silly perverse things because I have the mouth of a sailor and because he didn’t think less of me as a woman when I said, ahem, shit like that. I’ve been on this Earth long enough to know that the majority of men I meet, especially Latin American men, just cannot handle my sense of humor, my dirty mouth, the fact that I laugh at farts and will discuss bowel issues with someone I’ve known for all of five minutes. Or perhaps it’s not that they can’t handle it but they are often stunned and turned off by it. My nickname is Boquete was La Chica con Dos Cojones (the girl with balls). Needless to say, I appreciated Rulo’s lack of judgement but I also appreciated his conversation, his outlook on life, his sense of humor and his patience with my Spanish.
He hoisted the pole high up in the air grunting as he did so moving back and forth like a balancing circus act. The pole was long enough to render itself reasonably unwieldy. I chuckled as he attempted to bat an avocado or two, he shushed me.
“Tratamos el otro árbol, allá,” Rulo jutted his lips out and pointed his head in the direction towards another avocado tree. We sauntered over to the other tree, Rulo dragging the pole with both hands and I with my hands crammed into the pockets of my red hoodie. I watched as with steady precision Rulo hit the avocados or tried to get an avocado into the basket by yanking the stem off the branch. In either event, we weren’t very successful. And when I say “we,” I mean Rulo. One fell and it wasn’t nearly ripe enough, rock hard as it was.
While I stood there observing Rulo with this absurdly long pole, I thought how bittersweet it was that I was leaving in only a few short weeks and we had just begun to become comrades, pals, two people who look forward to laughing at some point in the day together. When you are traveling, you meet countless people and the more you meet, the more you begin to have a keen awareness of who you will most likely see again, who you will most likely not see again but perhaps think of fondly and who you will never see again the moment they are walking to the bus station, heavy pack on their back ready for their next adventure.
We travel to connect, we travel to share and we travel to gain understanding. I met so many people the year I was traveling and many of them have been mentioned in other blog posts. Sometimes you meet a friend who just figures you out and you marvel at how much fuller and better life is with that person. You look at them when they are unaware, scratching your head and wondering how you ever made it that far in life without that friend.