I ride the microbus to Chalchuapa often. Too often, it seems. I’m usually the last to get a seat partner. The seats are designed for two little kids or two Salvadoran males. I’m a relatively large gringo and take up a seat-and-a-half. When I have to sit in an already occupied seat, I can only get one cheek on it. I think the whole transportation system is half-assed and I am just a symbol.
Women seek to sit with women. It’s very seldom I’ll partner with a hot chick. I’ll either get a “mature” woman with a wide bottom who insists on forcing me through the side of the bus, or a spindly legged, skinny butted, gray headed man with or without his machete. He’ll smile and exchange pleasantries with me on the short ride to town.
Often, when I take Luís and Adriana to the park, we’ll pass an old-timer on our cement, rock, stone, and dirt street. I’ll say “Buenas tardes” and he’ll reply “Dios pues“. I’ll think ‘how sweet he was blessing me, a stranger’. At the park I’ll see two or three ancianos sitting on a bench in the shade. They’ll also smile at me that gentle smile possessed by almost everyone here and maybe they’ll comment on my dog, Duke. Again, a warm feeling comes over me.
Yesterday we were at the park. The kids were climbing on the three-tiered waterless fountain while I puppy-sat Duke. I found a bench where I could watch both the kids daring fate and Duke lying in thick, dark green, cool-in-the-shade grass. I had nothing on my mind until I saw a man with a walker engaged in conversation with his slightly stooped friend. I couldn’t hear their conversation and I wondered what the old retired men talk about here. Then it hit me. Those decrepit, toothless, partly crippled, sweet old dudes in their narrow brimmed sombreros are my age. I should be sitting or leaning with them. How do I get to play with my little kids, run with my dog, and have perhaps the most active days of my life?
‘If only I hadn’t slid into 2nd base on August 22, 1980 and shattered my ankle, I’d be the spring chicken I’d like to think I still am. The stud my beautiful young wife is more than happy with. The super-papi I’d like to be for my children.’
We stop for ice cream cones on the way home. A double barreled cone with two scoops of vanilla and chocolate chips for a quarter. Margarita is resting on the bed. I know she’s hurting but she’s got that angelic smile that does as much to invigorate me as her always surprisingly soft hands on my back or her soft lips on mine. She asks about our trip and we share our adventures. But I say nothing about the (other) old men in the park.