Late afternoon, Ramsay and I returned from taking Biscuit, our Golden Retriever, on a quick walk. “oh, no, Rams, this key isn’t working,” I said while nervously trying to unlock the door, giving the handle a good shake. “Dad will be home soon, let’s play ball in the garage,” I said, hoping to convince us both that we were fine without water, a bathroom, money, or a phone.
Dad wasn’t home soon, so we ventured into the street. (Walking around in Tegucigalpa isn’t advised). Jose the guard approached us. In broken Spanish, I asked to use his mobile. “No credit, no money,” he said, turning his phone upside down as if to show us nothing was inside. “Gracias,” I replied. My heart sank.
In two years of living here, with high walls, barbed wire, and fortified garages, it’s rare to know neighbors. We rang the bell next to us. No answer. Then I remembered: Nina and Claudia, behind the big green gate down the hill. “Let’s try them!” I grabbed Ramsay’s hand, making haste before darkness fell.
Standing before their doorbell box with a camera, I pressed the button. Please be home, I thought, sending positive energy through the gate. I guessed it had been about an hour and a half we had been locked out.
A door cracked open. Footsteps were followed by dogs barking (four of them, it turns out) behind the wall. “Hello? It’s Tracy and Ramsay- I can’t get into my house!” Nina’s cheery voice replied,” Oh, Tracy! Hello! I’m coming!” The metal door unlatched with a loud clack. We were beckoned inside with friendly greetings. In the era of COVID, we knew letting us in without masks carried more weight than “before.” Rams and I kept a respectful distance.
Claudia’s home was an oasis of calm and safety. She warmly asked if Ramsay would like lemonade squeezed from local “sour” green oranges. “Yes, thank you,” he said, taking a sip with a smile. She handed me a glass of water and her phone. I called Brad and made a plan.
Rams fed treats to the dogs and kicked the ball around with them. The women took a seat on the patio. Claudia poured me a glass of red wine and the conversation turned to writing. “What is it about?” she asked when I told her about my fiction draft. “I’d like to read it,” she responded kindly. She spoke of studying multiculturalism and linguistics.
I asked her if she knew of the Mexican poet Octavio Paz, whose beautiful poem, As One Listens to the Rain had recently been introduced to me. She nodded.
“I’m a poet,” she said casually, then went to look for a book, which happened to be her published copy of bilingual poetry, called Mariposa Amarilla, The Yellow Butterfly. The inside cover told me she obtained her PHD in the US and was the Head of the Letters Department at the National University of Honduras for years. I asked her to inscribe it for me.
Ramsay met Paco, Claudia’s parrot, also age 8. Paco knew how to call the dogs by name, making us laugh. Brad called to say he was home. We didn’t want to leave yet.
“Would you like to see the view from the roof?” asked Nina’s husband. (He and Nina had been visiting his Aunt Claudia a year ago when the pandemic extended their stay). Ramsay and I climbed the thin rungs of the ladder bolted to the garage wall. We stepped through a hatch and out onto the roof. We took in the great expanse of the city lights surrounded by hills at sunset.
I thanked her profusely taking us in.
“I’ve lived in many places, many countries, and I’ve found there are kind people everywhere who are willing to help,” responded Claudia.
In the end, Ramsay and I felt fortunate to have been locked out. “That was fun,” he said on our walk home. “Sometimes unexpected gifts come in strange packages, and sometimes, those are the best kind,” I replied.
Here is “Yellow Butterfly,” the lovely poem for which Claudia’s book is named.
I’d love to hear your tale about the kindness of strangers. Please comment below.
Love & Light, Tracy
P.S. We bought some of those green oranges to make lemonade at home.