03 August 2007

i spend a lot of time searching for stories. ronald found me. he lives in central park, this monstrous plaza filled with gardens and fountains and a place that represents the city of anitigua itself if you're looking hard enough. you have the upper class lawyers on their lunch breaks, the school kids making out on a bench, the middle class construction workers just strolling through, and you have ronald, a guy who has lived on the streets for the past two months.

he introduced himself and we started talking.

he asked if i was spanish and when i answered in english he lit up. he made it to america once, has a son who plays soccer there, and is so proud of the broken bits of english he's managed to pick up that he wears them like a badge. ronald told me he was hungry and i didn't want to look like the stupid american girl getting scammed so i told him i didn't have any money. we talked for another 30 minutes or more, drawing glances from the people who walked by. we made a pretty odd pair. antigua is tucked away in the guatemalan mountains and ronald was wearing a sweater that was most likely pulled out of the trash bin. he told me his sister, Erica, lives in guatemala city and she would come and help him if she only knew that her hermano, ronald flores, is now homeless. he gave me her number and begged me to call her and tell her where to find him. before he left he grabbed my hand, kissed it, and said "princesa bonita."

he was a man craving dignity in a situation that grants none. i was someone who didn't mind the sores on his legs and face, or how he smelled, or that his clothing was covered in dirt.

after he stumbled away i realized it wouldn't have been so bad to give him a couple quetzales, even if it meant looking like the stupid american girl getting scammed. as a writer, i've come to realize i'm drawn to people in trouble, to situations others would cast off as hopeless. i wasn't sure if i'd be able to pull off these same stories while navigating a foreign country. but apparently trouble comes across in any language.

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