We were stuck in the midst of traffic. I was lost in my thoughts, staring out the window, when all of the sudden, he walked in. He stood between the seats of the moving combi and started singing. His voice captured my attention instantly. “I come here because I don’t want to be like my friends, I won’t steal for money, I will sing with all of my dignity”. The young boy sang so beautifully that I was blind to the fact that his arm was missing. As soon as he finished, everyone clapped and handed him some coins. He deserved it. He jumped out of the combi with a huge smile on his face.
But let me back up a minute.
We had been in Sacred Valley for two days now and it was time to leave. My family walked for three hours with all of our luggage in order to get to the combi station. Yes, three hours. Literally.
Once we got our ticket and bought some water in the local market, we sat down in the green, rigid seats of the combi. The trip would take about two hours until we reached the city of Cusco. The combi started moving; we were on our way. I realized that the driver’s wife was sitting next to him, she was helping him by making sure everyone payed. Not only was his wife there, but a child as well. Their child. I started smiling at him and he laughed and hid from me, playing hide and seek. His mom interrupted our laughter. She instructed him to stop and made him seat down straight. The smile faded from my face; I couldn’t understand why she was so angry. But then I dismissed it, as something minor.
We made a lot of stops. In one, two old woman speaking in quechua walked in. In another, the boy with the beautiful voice entered.
And as I processed what had just happened, the combi stopped again. But this time, nobody got in. The driver and his wife sneaked out of the combi and everyone stood up in order to see what they were up to. “They’re stealing!” A woman screamed. As I peeked out the window, I realized that the driver and his wife had stolen two mattresses that were beside a small house. All of the passengers started hollering at the driver to stop, but it was too late. They lunged inside the combi and the journey proceeded. My dad glanced at me. “They can’t do that,” he whispered. My dad demanded him to stop and return the mattresses, but he acted as if he couldn’t listen. All of a sudden, a car glided by and the driver from the combi started insulting the man inside of the car. “I haven’t stolen anything from you idiot, I haven’t seen any mattresses, go away”. My dad rose to his feet.
“Stop the combi now.”
“Sir, you got something that isn’t yours, you are stealing.”
“Stop the combi or I’ll call the police.”
The driver’s wife jumped up and started pushing my dad. The driver started insulting him, telling him to shut up. My brothers sat there, silent observers. Horrified.
My dad raised his voice. The woman began screaming, the baby started crying. The driver pulled over. He seized the mattresses and threw them out of the combi. The passengers thanked my dad and cheered as the driver and his wife glared at us, shaming us in a different language.
The trip continued but the tense ambiance remained.
So what does all of this have to do with the young boy who sang? You might think nothing. But it’s actually everything. It’s hard to wrap my head around the polarity of humans. Some are devoured by their own needs while others use their needs as empowerment. He had only been on the bus a couple of hours ago, yet his passion did not only blind me about the fact that he didn’t have an arm, but it made me forget about the driver’s hostility. His tranquility took over my fear.
That’s how powerful his presence was. And I’m thankful for people like this.
Thank God he got to the bus. To my thoughts. To my sense of justice.