Her house, tour, and coffee is complete. I invite Chuyita, and the girls, to come visit my house, where everything has a place but most likely is not in it.
She looks for her keys. I wonder what she is locking in or out and have a vision of my unlocked camper. There is an alcove in front of this room that holds a 2 burner propane stove, where she heated water for coffee and leaned out the window to first urge me closer.
Chuyita hands me a grapefruit and we walk with the girls down the road to my truck. It turns out to be a longer walk then they anticipated, I think.
When we get to my truck, I invite them inside. The girls, shaking their heads silently but firmly refusing to climb into the truck, sit outside on my stools I put on the sidewalk. Chuyita drags herself laughing up into the truck. She has asked me if I am retired, although I had to come back to the truck to get my dictionary to figure out what she meant.
She wants to see my fridge. Hers is overloaded with frozen fish. Mine is overloaded with sweet potatoes and pumpkin. I offer her a couple of sweet potatoes, she points to an orange pumpkin and a few more sweet potatoes, and I give her those too.
She tries to find a comfortable seat. The desk stool is too high and wobbly for her. She tries to sit on my lower bed but the upper bed is not high enough for her to sit comfortably. She finally lands on the little step stool, as the girls have the bigger stools outside.
She asks me what I do for work. I tell her I do political work, ending war, to have peace. I forget to tell her I’m a writer, a gardener. Grrrrr
She asks me if that pays well. I tell her no. She looks around at all I have and wants to know how I got all this then.
I try to tell her I sold everything in my apartment and my car so I can come on this trip. It occurs to me slowly that everything in her home would probably fit inside my truck – the part that is my home, and her table, chairs, fridge, beds, and cabinet not included, but her things.
She thinks I am selling everything in my casa-camion now. Maybe she can’t imagine someone having not only more stuff, but enough stuff to sell to make enough money to leave her country.
She wants the cup I have given her coffee in. Maybe this is how I will be able to live with even less.
She has had to ask me for coffee, as I don’t think to offer it - we just had coffee at her house, but I was not polite. I make her coffee and tell her I am using electricity from the sun. I don’t know if she understands.
While we are drinking coffee, she points out that a car has just pulled up and is idling outside my truck. Soldiers suddenly appear at the door. One is holding a huge, long gun in front of him.
They are clothed in, guess what, U.S. army fatigues. Imagine that!
I greet them in what I hope is a friendly yet calmly reserved way, and get the screen open so they can see us clearly. He says something to me in Spanish that sounds like where are you from. I say San Francisco and he says something else rapidly in Spanish.
I descend from the truck, tell him my Spanish is bad but I will try to answer his questions.
Chuyita answers them from her perch inside the truck. She says I am her sobrina, which I look up: niece. Hmmmm. They ask me something about my papers. I say I have them and do they want to see? He quickly says ‘no, no’.
Chuyita says more things to them. The head soldier asks me about the painting on my truck. I tell him my friend the amazing artist has painted it for me. I take him around and show him the mural and her signature: Phoebe Ackley.
When I return, the soldier with the gun jumps down from my doorway, his gun, now slung over his shoulder, bumping the hand rail in his haste to dismount.
As they roar off, Chuyita rolls her eyes and says something. I try to ask her if they are always around. She wants me to assure her that I am really okay, that I have my visa, no drugs.
I tell her no drugs, no alcohol, and one visa! I think she believes me.
I ask her if the soldiers always come by. I think she tells me they are here, as in maybe this is a base? Oh great, have I camped outside the soldiers home? Grrrrrr… Gawd, they are everywhere. Young boys, superior because they have clothes, food, and a ride, with troubled eyes of trouble.
I’m going swimming. I haven’t had a shower since I left Santa Monica how long ago now? The water is calling me.