Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
A Copán Christmas Story
He liked her, even if he didn’t know her name.
And although he didn’t know it himself yet, his heart
already knew the boy was lost to this nameless girl with the pretty smile right
after that first encounter.
Sebastian was his name and he worked as an assistant
bricklayer at the construction of a new hotel. It was, at sixteen, his first
real job, thanks to his father’s connections and although he was neither
particularly thrilled about the job nor opposed to it ‐he just did what he was
told to do‐ the best moment of each day was when he was sent to the market to
pick up the lunches for some of the workmen.
Because it was there at the entrance where he first saw her.
The third girl on the left. Standing there behind a shelf that held their
baskets filled with tortillas wrapped in embroidered cloth. As soon as anybody
entered the market place, the girls cried out:”Tortillas! Tortillas! How many
do you want?”
They repeated the same line over and over, hundreds of times
a day, until it had long ceased to be a question, but an impersonal mantra, a sound
and nothing more.
But not her. The girl was quiet, didn’t even lift her chin
up in the defiant way the others did. Rather, she lowered her chin slightly to
her chest. Then, all of a sudden, they made eye contact in a flicker of a
second and a smile appeared on her face. A smile that locked their eyes. A
lightning struck his heart.
Sebastian stopped in his tracks, felt even like his heart
stopped beating, and smiled back. Well, it was more of a smirk, he thought
later, when he had already practiced the perfect smile for her dozens of times
in front of the mirror.
From that moment on he eagerly went to the market every day
to have a glimpse at the girl. He hated the fact that the lunches he was to
pick up already included tortillas, so no excuse for him to address the girl.
But then again, he barely needed nor dared to speak to her. Just looking at
her, two glimpses a day, on the way in and out, were enough.
Every day he discovered something new about her. The way she
moved the hair out of her face with a subtle flick of her right index finger.
The tiny mole just below the left corner of her bottom lip. Her hair that on
sunny days seem to glow almost reddish. The way she flashed her eyelashes twice
every time she looked up. And how somehow that shy smile reflected in the light
of her eyes…
Sebastian couldn’t think of little else but this mystery
girl. She appeared at night in his dreams and during the day in his fantasies
when he was mindlessly laying brick. He asked around, but couldn’t find out
anything about her. Nobody knew where she was from, nobody seemed to know her
The anonymity started to bother him. This girl felt so
familiar after a few weeks, so much a part of his life after months, that he
decided to giver her a name. Carmen. Yes, Carmen suited her. He didn’t know
why, he didn’t know any Carmen, but Carmen it was.
Months went by and with time, the construction of the hotel
came steadily along. The goal was to finish before Christmas, and it seemed
that that deadline was actually going to be made. But then the woodwork for
windows and doors arrived later than planned, the swimming pool didn’t quite
turn out as planned, so extra man-hours were needed and the workers were asked,
or rather told, that they had to work extra long shifts all the way up to
Christmas. Not only made the men extra hours, they also worked harder than ever
before. At least if felt that way to Sebastian. Maybe it was just months of
hard work that accumulated in even harder work, but at night his mind and body
were so exhausted that there was no place for Carmen to enter his dreams.
It was December the twenty-fourth and the job was basically
done. One more shift, eight more hours and that would be it. Sebastian was
sent, as usual, to the market to pick up food and all of a sudden realized this
would be the very last time. Sebastian panicked. What if he wouldn’t see Carmen
again? What if a new job would take him elsewhere and he wouldn’t have to go to
the market again? He needed to do something and he needed to do it now.
But while he was dragging his feet to the market, he
couldn’t come up with anything. He didn’t dare to walk up to her and say… Say
what? But then he saw a pickup truck on the corner of Central
Park selling rambutans or lichas
andon a hunch he decided to buy
With the bag in his hand he walked into the market. There
she was, yet again, the third girl on the left. For a moment Sebastian just
stood there, not knowing what to do. But then he gathered all his courage,
walked up to the girl and handed her the bag of lichas.
“Here. Those are for you. Because it’s Christmas. And by the
way, my name is Sebastian.”
The girl took the bag but didn’t look Sebastian in the eyes.
“Thank you”, she said, while blush crept over her pretty
cheeks. Sebastian was thrilled. It was the first time he ever heard her voice
and for some reason it sounded exactly the way he had always expected. But when
the girl didn’t say anything else, nor looked up again, Sebastian felt
conscious about how stupid he felt and quickly moved on to the comedor where the lunches where
waiting. Totally embarrassed with a nasty red blush covering his own cheeks he
quickly picked up the bags with food and hurried out of the market. He didn’t
linger to catch a glimpse of the girl as he had done for so many months, just
stared as his feet as he tried to make his way out as quickly as possible.
But just when he passed her, he heard “pssssttt…” and he
knew it was her.
“Here,” she said, looking him directly in the eyes with that
same shy but warm smile playing around
her lips. It was a bag holding a few still warm tortillas.
“Because it’s Christmas”, she said. “And by the way, my name
is Carmen. “