The Treasure

It was my neighborhood and in 1992 I cruised the streets on my motorbike like a Caribbean Quixote. One afternoon I turned the corner by my house and noticed a neighbor on his bicycle, not moving. One foot on the curb, the other in the street, one arm across the handlebars, his head resting across his forearm like on a pillow. He seemed like a rag doll. I sensed something rare in this gentleman who, since I was a child, I’d seen go into a house near mine, so I turned the wheel of my bike around to go back. When I came up beside him I could see that despite the noise of the engine he didn’t raise his head. I asked him if I could help. He said something I didn’t understand, I turned down the throttle of the bike and came closer, he leaned over and I could see his pale face, “Hold me up,” he said. I quickly shut off the motorbike and took his arm, “I’m dizzy,” he said again, and I could feel his body shaking like the page of a book. I suggested he breathe deeply. He could barely do it. At times his legs would buckle. I discovered that in spite of his weakness, he was protecting something in his other hand, holding his closed fist against his chest. I offered to take it and he refused with a gesture. He gathered his strength and raised his head to look at me.

I continued holding him. He said he knew he shouldn’t have done it, but he didn’t have any other choice. For lunch he’d only had a little rice, he went to his sister-in-law’s to see if there was at least something that his wife could have to go with it. He, no. He’d gone a week with only rice and he wasn’t complaining. But he knew that she, though she tried as hard as she could, couldn’t eat it. So his sister-in-law had given him the last one she had, and he looked at his closed fist. Then, with great care, he opened his hand and I saw a chicken egg.

Image: Ivan Arocha

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