Hacktreks in South America
y leches y aguas'
man in his fifties hobbles onto the bus in the valley between Zamora
Gualaquiza, a cooler in his hand, a grotty towel around his neck.
Leches y colas y aguas, he calls. His voice is thin, and
Leches y colas y aguas... You notice that he is slow
would say, that his mind isnt as sharp as most, yet he grins a
a chubby face under the bill of a dusty cap worn just off center. You
him bumble down the aisle, jostled about by potholes on the cliffside
humility. He notices you noticing him.
Buy something off him.
Dont need anything.
Buy something anyway.
Dont have change.
Come, give him ten cents. You and nine others earns him a whole
deserves it, he whose desperation has him before you in raggy clothes,
weathered hands, his precious coins, his product, his smile. Give it
him. Give him the ten cents.
Don't have it. Don't need what hes selling.
But he needs you, that ten cents on a cigarette youre going to
give away in the city to someone who could do without your bad habit.
Give it to him.
You have it. You have ten thousand ten-cent pieces to your name. Just
Hell love you for it, and rejoice as he awaits the bus that takes
home. Hell be a success today, more than he was yesterday. Youve
He needs it. Thats why hes here, his floppy ears hanging out of
baseball cap hes ever owned, standing over you now, eyeing you because
noticed you eyeing him. He noticed that ten cent potential. He told
he might earn ten more cents if he comes to you and opens his cooler
shows you his colas, his aguas, his leches, of which he is so proud.
Purchased those items just yesterday, he did, with hopes he could mark
up and sell them on the bus as it whized past his shack half standing
tropical afternoon, grandchildren running about without pants or
young men showering at the end of a pipe from the stream on the hill.
Colas y leches, y aguas, he calls softly, smiling to you.
Come now, spend what you earned in thirty seconds on the man who has
half the chance, gives twice the effort, and recieves one-hundredth
Give it to him! Hell be a thousand times more grateful to have
your ten cents than you had been to earn it. Come now, he waits for
you to reach into your pocket, flip through the tens, the fives, the
ones, into the coin at the bottom... feel for the smallest, pull them
out and place them into his hands. Watch him smile when your fingers
touch his and he slips the coin into his apron. Watch him open the cooler
quickly, to please you, to give you that cola two seconds faster. Watch
him unscrew the cap with so much contentment it makes you sick because
its that, that satisfaction, youve craved of eighteen years
of school and six more in a respected profession; his grin is what you
have been after, what you were promised by the elders who guided you
into the world they loathed. Watch him wipe the cola because it is cold
and dripping. Take it from him and watch his smile grow as he locks
eyes with you and says thank you from the bottom of his heart pumping
hard in a moment of glee; he can put another coin into his jar now,
to pull out when his granddaughter asks for bread, or his family wants
a bar of soap, or his wife needs to replace her two-year old toothbrush.
Maybe he has saved enough then, can march proudly into his friends
Farmacia, plunk his half-dollar onto the counter and skip home with
a bag full of what couldnt have been possible without your offering.
Colas y leches y aguas, he calls like a child in a voice
that begs a
moments notice. Colas y leches y aguas.
He walks away from you now because you waved him off. He looks back
last time, his eyes up and on you, hopeful.
Colas y leches y aguas...
© Ken Lori June 2003
Ken Lori in Ecuador
Creeping Insanity on the
all rights reserved