Descend the stairs by headlamp to get water and startled by Juan de la Cruz Almeida hiding in the shadows in a spot where he surely couldn’t see my camp but could hear my movements. I cushion his sharp intake of breath and flinch with a cheerful declaration that I’m going to fill my pot to start cooking. Silence. “Would you like to sit with me?” He says “yes” almost inaudibly. I adopt a monologue describing what I am doing, what each piece of equipment is if I know the name of it in Spanish. Shyly quietly he watches, eyes darting flitting. His only question is what my name is, he must have not caught it during our trip with his older brother to see beer girl. I tell him, he asks again, my full, long name. ¨Joseph Lewis Cruz Hernandez,¨ appending my mother´s surname. Blinking in thought. Pasta cooked, I eat a few unrushed bites, place the pot and spork formally in front of him, ¨we share,¨ we alternate. At the end, four sticks of chocolate, these two are for you, these two for me. One is put in his pocket. After cleaning up I declare that I am going to sleep, he nods and wordlessly leaves.
* * *
Awaken to voices in the morning, from nonexistence to the indiscernible boundary to feeling annoyed. Dry mouth I swallow that first emotion, I am after all camping in the middle of a village, 6am noises of daily life. Now more insistent somehow, though it would be difficult to explain just how, as if someone is calling your name but, no, no one is. “Tío, tío, it’s an hour for waking.” Juan is a cautious few meters away, even that minor distance is great enough so that my inner transformation is late in crossing it, tío? He’s calling me “uncle” and I’m aswim in all those times as a young person, Juan’s age, when I called my father’s close friends, people that I knew he cared about and that therefore I should, too, “tío.” The prickly no of twenty seconds ago carried away in an accelerating river of consciousness and a smile.
I prepare two portions of oatmeal.