January 9, 2012

The realities of living in Latin America necessitates the high white wall crowned with broken glass and barbed wire that surrounds our compound. And although Tegucigalpa used to be significantly safer than it is now (which is not safe at all), we kept mean German Shepherds that would patrol the courtyard by night just in case. These ferocious beasts–always named some saccharine variation of Prince, Princess, or Duchess (total misnomers if you ask me)–only answered to my grandfather and Meches, the ever-present gatekeeper/gardener/jack-of-all-trades.

Every night, I would stand at the window overlooking the garden, clutching the iron grates to watch as the dogs were let out. I remember the mixture of fascination and sheer terror that would course through my veins, particularly when the dogs would see me and come barking hungrily at the window cracks.

One morning, my little three or four-year-old self was wandering around the house as I often spent my summers. I am the oldest grandchild, so it was a few years before there was anyone else to boss around play with. Thus, I had to entertain myself, and I decided to take my adventures out into the garden.

I pushed open the screen door and about fifty feet to my right was an enormous canine. I saw a chain around its neck, and since I assumed the dog was tied to the wall, I thought I was free to exit the house safely. I dared to step out, but frightened nonetheless, I started running toward the garden located on the opposite side of the house, away from the beast.

Well. The dog wasn’t chained, and as we all know, running is the last thing one should do in front of a mean dog. Naturally, it started chasing me, hungry for blood. I hadn’t lived that long, but that was undoubtedly THE scariest moment of my life. Everyone else was inside the house, tucked away upstairs, and therefore impervious to my screams.

I turned the corner, desperately racing on my little legs, wondering where exactly I was going to go, and thank the sweet Lord, Meches was standing in the middle of the garden watering the plants. I took a champion leap worthy of an Olympic medal and pounced on him.

Then I looked down and saw that the bloodthirsty carnivore had completely demolished my plastic flip flops and was itching to get at my feet. I don’t remember anything else after that.

That is my most prominent memory of Meches.

He worked for our family from the days that my grandpa was young–yet another permanent fixture in my archive of Honduran memories to be sure. He always wore cowboy hats, had kind crinkly eyes, and called me Lorenita. And he saved my life, so I liked him a lot.

On this last trip back to Teguc, I was informed that he had retired and was dangerously ill. I was saddened to think I would likely never see him again.

The day after Christmas, I was sitting in the funeral home, reflecting on the many ways this era was ending in Honduras. I wondered how many stories would remain without opportunity to derive personal closure.

I saw movement in the doorway out of the corner of my eye, and felt myself gasp aloud before my brain even fully processed what my eyes were seeing. Slowly limping in was none other than Meches himself, looking aged but very much alive, cowboy hat and all.

Here was someone who essentially plucked me from the brink of death and clearly had himself pulled through a near-fatal experience, appearing at a gathering where we were simultaneously celebrating life and mourning death. Ultimately, I didn’t get to say all that much to him, but there was still something so profound about how full circle this scene felt.

And for that, I was grateful.


2 Responses to “Meches.”

  1. caseyucsd Says:

    Gotta love walls crowned with broken glass (as well as the use of the word saccharine as an adjective jaja)

  2. Pau Says:

    Aw, I teared up when I read this. Reminds me of my old neighbor who blessed my childhood with gardening an Disneyland. So awesome Lauren.

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