Periodico Identidad Latina

SHORT STORY: Encounter. By Pablo Perleche

I was starting a new life, in a new country, with my wife and two children who were born in this nation and who would no longer call my country their own, as well as their grandparents and ancestors. An adjustment to the dream of this new land, a bigger house, a better car, a tendency to possess more and more goods than necessary. For these things, two or more jobs are required to meet these new needs that used to be non-essential.

The traditions and beliefs of your place of origin, if they are not well rooted by time or conviction begin to disappear under the influence of labor relations and new neighborhoods, and especially for the children who were born here. Fortunately, from my point of view, perhaps unfortunate from other perspectives, I didn’t completely assimilate to this land of great opportunity and I would never give up all my heritage and tradition.

I wanted to leave this legacy to my children and thus I did not spare anything so they could learn my native language and teach them especially my culture. But what I found the most difficult was teaching them my faith. But with great effort and persistence, I managed to get my children to speaking Spanish before English and knowing more about the heroes, saints and geography of my country, those local would be taught in their schooling, by the time they started kindergarten the local culture would be taught at their schools.

Taking my children to Church and teaching them at home helped me a lot by knowing the truth of my faith which had a hard time living and defending her itself in an environment that considers it as an enemy, since my faith opposes its planned and legislated culture of death. But there was an event that helped in this area and that now with the passing of years I qualify as supernatural and as something forever marked my son and me.

I had acquired my third car the two previous ones had practically exploded by how used they were. This car was at least of the decade and was in good conditions. Like the previous times, I had to register it in the Department of Motor Vehicles that is about nine kilometers from where I lived and which is reached by a desolate road next to the highway. I had the day off because I would work the weekend. I left my wife at home with my newborn daughter and went with my son who was about to turn five years old.

Before arriving at my destination, I saw a man walking in the opposite direction through the deserted place. I was struck by his worn clothes, his tall stature and robust constitution, his abundant messy hair, a very long and curly beard, and sun burned skin that made it impossible to say if he was Anglo-Saxon, Hispanic or Arab.

Daddy give him a ride, it is freezing, you always do it!

Today no son—In the rearview mirror I saw my son’s face expressing his quiet disappointment.

We arrived at the Department of Vehicles it was surprisingly empty. They treated me and in ten minutes after we left we saw the man had not advanced that much closer to the city.

Pa …

OK son— I said, although the wandering man made me suspicious at first, I lost this belief when I asked him if I wanted a raid.

You are a kind gentleman— he answered me in a perfect Spanish, but I was unable to make out an accent.

-—What are you doing here friend?

I came from New York. The bus left me at the previous station and I’m looking for a shelter.

Do you know anyone here?

No, I’m looking for a place to live, the city of New York is too much for me.

But you’re going without any directions, where do you plan to go?

 —To the next city, there I will begin my search.

I looked at my son who without saying a word told me to help him. On the way to the city we talked, he told us that his name was Manuel, that he was Cuban and that he had no relatives in the country, but he did have many friends and that he was happy with his life and that he worked in whatever was presented to him even just for the food, for the parameters of this country was a miserable one. He looked inside and told me that my car had a nice console. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that my son was happy. Of all that I had taught him about faith, what he liked the most was charity.

We stopped at the Salvation Army since I could not think of another place. We went up to a second floor where the director sat us in front of her desk, my son leaned on my shoulder. I noticed the coarseness of the woman when she very loudly asked Manuel for his ID.

I have none—said Manuel.

Without a ID we do not receive anyone. Here we only give a place to sleep, a dinner and during the day they must go elsewhere.

But he is helpless. You have the resources to at least to start them with a new life.

Yes, but with documents. And I’m worried that you picked up this man from the street without knowing him. He could have hurt you and your son— she said in a reproaching tone but with barely controlled fury. All my life I have been a peaceful man and I have never reacted badly, much less towards a lady, but a soothing feeling overcame me, my eyes watering a bit, and this allowed me to speak in a calm tone and be able to control my anger.

This is a good man who only comes to ask for shelter, he has no possessions, you have no right to treat him like that, you exist to give help to the homeless— the tone of my voice increased until Manuel took me by the arm and told me,” let’s go”, I wiped a tear and left the place without looking back. My son grabbed my hand tightly. It was two o’clock in the afternoon we tried two other places that I knew, but in the first one they only gave them lunch and food and in the other they only received patients in alcohol and drug rehabilitation. At about three o clock we stopped at a restaurant and ordered some hot soup to counter the cold. Manuel blessed the food and we ate and talked in peace, I told him about my family and our life in this land, he smiled at us affably. I asked him what he would do and he told me that he had decided to return to New York. I knew he did not have money to buy the ticket back by bus, so I told him I would buy it. We went to the station and I bought the ticket. The bus would leave in two hours, Manuel would wait at the station.

Go my friend. You’ve done enough for me, thank you, your family awaits you. May God paid your charity— I shook his hand and we left. During the return my son and I kept quiet. Personally, I felt as if I had lost something I could not explain. My wife had waited for us a little worried because we had come back late. My son and I tell her everything.

You had brought him to eat, I made enough food— In those moments a pressing need to see Manuel oppressed my heart and bringing along my son I told my wife that we were going to bring him and that we would postpone his trip for the night. At the station I asked the clerk for him.

Yes, something strange happened I saw him sitting a while. I was watching him in case he thought of taking goods without paying, I turned around for two seconds and when I came back to see him he was not there, when the bus stopped to pick up the passengers he was not among those who departure.

I left confused and my son told me; “Poor Mr. Manuel, is a poor abandoned, without a home, or food, or shelter and family. Where could he have gone? I wish we could have helped more.”

I felt a chill when listening to my son and I could only say; “A man said a long time ago that everything they did for the youngest of my brothers did it for me.”

Who dad, who…?

Today, more than two decades have passed. My son and I are convinced that he could not be other than the only man who has been able to define the history of humanity both before and after Him.