A Honduran summer night is the soundtrack of childhood’s most imaginative dreams and nightmares. In the absence of strained and steady city sounds, everything in rural El Espinal makes noise: a grasshopper’s wings against the humid air, the neighbor’s broom brushing against the tiled floor, los jovenes drunkenly serenading the dusk, the soles of my own shoes trodding the rocky dirt road.
I was sixteen when I spent a summer volunteering in Honduras. Enthusiastic and adventurous a teenager as I was, my momentary home intimidated me. The new language, food, bugs, boys, bucket showers, my first taste of montiquilla (gag, spit, swallow, smile, covertly feed the rest to the dog). It wasn’t until the night Jeovany, my eleven-year-old host brother, walked me home that my fears and discomfort began to dissipate, compassion and attachment taking their places. In a complete and quiet dark, Jeovany and I descended the hill to “our” home. I studied my half-sized comrade: He had eyes that reflected sunlight even in the night, a smile of industrial strength, a jazzy and lyrical young voice, tough and seasoned palms, knees, and elbows.
When the hill wrinkled underfoot, I stumbled in the dark and called to him: “Donde estás, where are you?” Jeovany took my hand and we proceeded. We spoke of all the night animals swinging and sulking in those kingly jungle trees, and, as we did, a dog suddenly growled at us from behind. I darted away as the dog, menacing and wild, approached, but Jeovany said, “No te preocupes,” don’t worry. He put himself between me and the creature, shooed it away (easily as flicking a fly), and returned to my side. In his seemingly insignificant act of concern and bravery, Jeovany remapped the course of my life, remapped it many degrees south of comfortable. A vivid and unquenchable determination was born in me that night: I want to spend my life saying “No te preocupes,” to position myself between near-strangers and the big-bad-wolf of a world, to be a soothing saxophone in a soundtrack begging for some soul.