The Crying Girl
La Niña Llorando
The beach was clear, the sea calm. Light waves toppled and rolled over one another, the crystal, blue waters transcending into an awaiting array of wet, brown sands. Slightly further up, those sands became a bright gold with rays of fierce heat searing upon the sun-blasted ‘playas de Tela’. I lugged myself slowly – lethargically even, through the sea water, which arrived at my knees from where I paddled. Gazing across the beach I took in the scenery. Tropical in every sense, from the landscape to the travelling sounds of music, this exotic scene captured the imagination of a passing writer. That passer-by being myself – needless to say. From the Buccaneers of the 16th and 17th centuries who roamed these coasts, operating from the Bay whilst plotting their moves against Spanish galleons to drunken couples ‘getting one off’ during the nightlong celebrations of present day Semana Santa – this beach has undoubtedly seen it all. ‘Que locura’ as they’d say here. ‘What a crazy thing’.
I came up against a river, which itself runs all the way from the sea mouth and then up into the surrounding mountains behind Tela. I stood watching it, deep, murky water whose depth was impossible to gage. Could I cross it without having to swim? It’s not that I can’t swim, I just don’t like getting wet unnecessarily. My brother (a swimming champion himself) used to call me ‘Catty’ as Cats prefer not to get wet either. Suddenly though, a giant fish emerged from out of the dark depths and breezed across the shallows rising up into the surface as if to greet me. It appeared to look like a large Catfish. I noticed it’s whiskers yet I believe that ‘barbules’ is the correct word. Formed with a stocky body, it must have been as large as my entire torso if not with my head included as well. “Esos son peligrosos maje” someone here once told me. These were apparently dangerous. The question now was would I want to cross it? Be it paddling or swimming. I stood around like a tit for a few minutes. Contemplating the exercise.
Finally, I noticed some children approaching from the other side. They simply walked across a stretch of high sands which I hadn’t previously noticed. They were Garifuna. Black people of West African/Amerindian ethnicity; a recognised indigenous peoples of the Honduras Caribbean coast. These children wandered about the beaches selling ‘pan de coco’. Coconut bread. Poorly clothed, weatherbeaten in their faces and sweating from the exploit, the niños moved towards me. They were a boy and two girls. One was crying. She appeared most upset.
“Disculpa… usted ha visto una cartera?” The other girl looked up and me asked me with a face full of hope. They wondered if I’d seen a wallet. “No… pues como se parece?” I asked them how it looked. The crying girl wiped her tears and described it. I had only asked because I couldn’t just say ‘no’. I hadn’t seen anything resembling a wallet – unfortunately. The poor, little girl was most distraught.
“Ay no… me van a pegar. Mi mamá va a estar tan enojada conmigo, hoy si me van a gastigar” the girl wailed. I instantly felt terrible. She told me how they’d hit me her, that her mum was going to be very angry and punish her for obviously losing the wallet.
“Pucha, lo siento pero no la he visto chica…” I told her I hadn’t seen it.
“Había treinta pesos allí” she continued. The girl was crying for a lost thirty pesos. A Pound. She had lost what converts into British money as £1.00 exactly. Back in England, I’d toss a Pound into the gutter. It’s worth jack shit. The sheer, miserable poverty that grips this beautiful country was slapping me right in the face, reminding me abruptly that I was the young white man here, someone who didn’t have to be beaten, punished and made to cry over the price of a measly Pound. Thirty pesos would have been what they’d sold that day, it could have fed their whole family.
“Lo siento, pero usted no anda treinta pesos allí?” The little girl asked if I had thirty pesos to give. I didn’t. I wasn’t carrying money. Emptying my pockets I showed them. “Miren. Solo ando mis llaves y el celular”. My phone and keys I had, nothing else.
“Bueno, gracias… que le vaya bien” she said. They wished me well even, before heading off on their trek. I felt sorry for her, who knows what lay await for when she saw her mother later on. I know that sometimes children are taught to play shams on people yet from her tears and her friend’s worried faces it was clear. No child could act as well as that. She would be in trouble later on despite the accident that it was – her losing the wallet.
I decided to head home. The palms swayed, the seabirds swarmed above. I plotted through the sand, thinking about the little girl, struggling to feed herself and her family in this mesmerising, tropical paradise. It simply wasn’t right…