"South America on $320" story # 15

Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago           July 9, 2002

Hey, guys. Wonderful news. You get to hear now about the friends I had in Trinidad.
     I did meet some wonderful friends in Trinidad. That's because, as impossible as it was to make friends with the Trinidadians, it was equally impossible not to be friends with the many Venezuelan students studying english there. They just wanted to have fun with everyone.
     I arrived from my week in Tobago just as my Venezuelan roommate, David, returned from a short stay home. We refreshingly changed addresses from the witch-house to a place down the street with shiny white tile, comfortable couches and living rooms, and cable television. Sometimes, David and I would be relaxing in front of an American baseball game featuring a Venezuelan star such as Edgardo Alfonzo. He'd remind me of the witch's shriek voice, "Would you put your foot up on the chair in your mother's house?" We laughed a sigh of relief and, with our chilled water and chopped ice from the landlord's new refridgerator, toasted to how we'd moved up in the world.
     I was lucky to be rooming with David. He was short-ish and round-bodied, with lightly-colored skin and mowed, dark hair. In a place where strangers on the street regard each other with a visible lack of welcoming and care, David cheerily greeted all with a big, "Hello, Mister!" or "How are you, my friend?" With girls he knew, he always called them - in english or spanish - "My Flower" or "My Queen" or "My Little Pineapple."
     He had a great sense of humor, too. One night in the witch-house, as I did my laundry, "Haggatha" - who in addition to being a horrible person is also very christian; for her sake, she'd better be praying a LOT - scolded David for missing church that week. David resolved, "Wait! I can clean my soul in the washing machine." Another time, he was telling stories to a Trini about he and I were going to travel the world with no money; he would play his beloved cuatro (a romantically relaxing four-stringed guitar) for people in the street, while I danced with a monkey.
     Speaking of monkeys - I mean money - I was surprised upon returning from Tobago that my restaurant didn't fire me. Instead, they moved me from waiter to bartender. Happily, I would no longer have to deal directly with the joy-less, hunched-over, green-brained Trinidadian business-class. It also meant I would have enough money to celebrate David's birthday.
     On May 31, David turned the big 2-5. At another Venezuelan's residence, we gathered. We were joined by Fedora, Wilfreddy, Gerardo, and "Caracas," as always, and some other friends. We sat and drank a little Scotch.
     Gerardo, whose baby-smooth face and bulky frame make him resemble a Venezuelan Babe Ruth, stood up and took off into one of his comedian-esque stories.
     I couldn't understand much, but he was telling of a friend of his who'd almost torn his finger off while closing a garage door. He said his dad had told the friend not to worry, because John Bobbitt's wang was re-attached after it had been cut off.
     By this point, all the Venezuelans were doubled over with laughter.
     The re-inforced cheeks of Fedora, who has a large fore-head, shiny hair that twirls, and skin tanned like someone living on an island, protrude so much when she smiles I don't think she could pass through a door. She shows her teeth, but firmly locks them. Her lashes flash and her eyes glow. Each smile of hers is glossy perfect, like a rare photograph you'd put on display. Fedora loves to laugh, and she flirts with quick quips on how great she is or how not you are.
     Caracas, at twenty years the youngest of the group, has skin like pre-dusk. He's always smiling; his is a great, baby vulture smile. His eyes are nice, but they also seem to be eyeing you as if to determine how much meat is on you and if you'll die soon.
     Wilfreddy, with a balding, oval head like a latin Lex Luther, is at times the most solemn of the group. But, he dives into a smile like an Olympian in a one-piece. His oval head becomes round, his teeth open like a harmless monster's, and the back of his throat lets out a short-noted chuckle.
     David resembles an onion when he smiles. At Gerardo's stories, he laughs so hard I worry for his health. His face reddens. Tears are squeezed from his eyes and choking giggles from his mouth.
     Gerardo went on to speculate that the guy who found John Bobbitt's penis in the street must've been gay. Because, he, personally, never would've picked up such a thing.
     He acted out the gay guy's suprise and delight. "Ahh, un pipi!" He ran effeminently and pretended to scoop it up. He hugged it as lovingly as a little girl hugging a pony she'd just received. "Es mio!" he said. (It's mine!)
     Gerardo's smile, meanwhile, reminds me of a small girl being carried away by a balloon. His eyes flutter, and he flicks his tongue across his lips like he's trying to get the last taste off.
     Each of my friends' smiles is a rare thing in this world. Their smiles aren't even smiles like little kids; rather, their smiles are ones of people who've lived to their mid-to-late twenties and the fun in their lifes has only steadily grown with the years.
     There smiles are rare things in this world. However, among the greater Venezuelan student community in Trinidad, they seem to be quite normal.
     There's cute Gabriela with her braces that push her upper lip out. The beautiful, blonde, bird-speaking Yennifer who shows her pink gums. Quiet Jasmine, who's delighted to talk to anyone. Javier and his Addams family moustache, whose head bursts backward into a crescent smile and low-pitched boom.

"I'm better for the smile you give." - Phil Collins (Genesis), "Follow You, Follow Me"

It's great. Hopefully, a bit of it rubbed off on me.

More on my friends later.
Have a nice one, Modern Oddyseus

go to the previous story                                                                              go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com