He smiled and his dark eyes looked at me as he asked “Prof quieres ir conmigo por un café? Prof you want to come with me for coffee?” I looked at this young man of 23 year and could not understand why coffee with me. Before I could think I said” Porque no, why not” rose to my feet and followed the young man. This choice would change my life for ever, yes this one choice. Ernesto where ever you are thanks for that invitation it made the worlds difference then, now and for all eternity. I know we will meet again I just know.
We sat on the sidewalk of the café in San Salvador and slowly sipped our coffee just sitting no words were needed. Eventually he spoke “You speak so eloquently about justice and what the Church teaches I wondered if you would come and spend a weekend with me in the Barrio of Cien Fuegos and see what so many only talk about and never experience.” I looked at him and his dark eyes penetrated my being like arrows of fire “Certainly. I am free this weekend.” He smiled and his eyes shone and only then did I notice the dimple in his chin. “I will pick you up at 2pm.” We walked back again in silence I did not know what was happening but for the first time silence taught me , wakened in my soul this longing this yearning to just be. Friday came and true to his word there he was on the Vespa scooter, “Listo” he shouted and I held on for dear life, I put my arms tight around his waist my face buried in his muscular back. I had never said so many Hail Mary’s in my life as we missed people, goats, cattle and dogs and for the first time I saw them the military standing staring stern faced as we passed them their guns ready to open fire.
Suddenly we stopped at the Mud shack covered by tarpaulin “Mi casa hermano, my house brother, “I could not believe it around me dirty faces and just dust and shack upon shack. Then from no where came running 10 little dirty faces shouting ‘Ernesto has llegado” and they embraced his legs. I had never seen such poverty and at the same time such hope, joy and brotherly care and love. ”Come said he let us enter have lunch and then go to the crèche I run for the little ones.” I was gobbed smacked I did not know what to say, and even less as we lit the gas stove to warm the beans and rice for lunch. Still today beans and rice is my favourite dish. We washed the plates in a small plastic dish and later emptied the water in the small vegetable patch outside. That night it rained I slept on the bed and Ernesto on the floor we shared each a blanket I never got so cold as that night as I shivered he came to lie next to me holding me tightly transferring his body heat to me for the first time in my life someone held me someone showed that he cared. It was the begging of my service to the poor it became my life. I suddenly had a purpose a vision and weakly we brought food, medical care and aid to the sick the old and the hungry. Just being with Ernesto was joy and with the people the cherry on the cake. Once or twice we were stopped by the military for bribes I refused Ernesto warned me that I was thinking like a European here it was common to pay the bribe. I refused to listen, little knowing what was to follow. One Saturday we were stopped I refused to pay a bribe, the food the medicine was for the poor.
The guard loaded his gun and said to Ernesto ‘”Este gringo va a morir” This gringo is going to die. As we lay asleep in the arms of each other armed men stormed in pulled Ernesto off the bed as he fell to the floor and they pistil whipped him, I launched at the officer only to be knocked to the floor and pushed to the ground, a bag put over my head and taken off at 3am in morning to God knows where. Ernesto yelled and from his tears he shouted ‘”Pedro te voy a buscar, perdoname.” the guard yelled back” callese maricon”
All I remember was being thrown into a dark cell and I had no idea of the day or time or date .All I wanted was water and to know if Ernesto was ok. On what I presume was day three a guard entered and said. ‘They looking for you, you piece of communist shit but before you go we will let you remember us for ever” as three more guards came in threw, me to the floor pulled down my trousers as they pushed the barrel of the gun up my rectum, the metal was could as the guard asked” Te gusta maricon responde” I refused to reply, I just kept repeating in my mind the latin phrase “Dominus Tecum Benedicat Tu. why that phrase I dont know.” I heard a zipper being pulled down and the click of a belt loosening I did not know to yell or cry as he penetrated me yelling “siente mi hombria maricon tu eres un pedaso de mierda y nada mas” At one stage I lost consciousness and all I remember was a guard yelling . “Vamos el Obispo esta aqui, vamos.”
I lay in my own shit and blood when I felt someone lift me. I try to pull back as I heard Ernesto’s voice “soy yo” and then a second voice that said ‘”Mi hijo que han hecho contigo.” All I remembered was waking up in the hospital Ernesto holding my hand and a priest praying over me as tears streamed down his face. How does one get over this? I don’t think you ever do the only way is to forgive and live the here and now, and realise all you have is the moment. It was decided that I should return to Los Angeles for counselling and treatment.
I did not want to go. I did not want to leave. I wanted to stay with the man that taught me the value of my fellowman, I yearned for his embrace, I wanted to feel loved and protected and I wanted to be in his embrace. Later that day Ernesto came as usual to visit and bring me cards and notes from the little ones at the crèche. This time it was different those dark eyes were covered in tears. ”Dicen que tú vas a ir y yo debe dejarte ir, por la gran obra de Dios, quedarte conmigo es pecado.”
“Quien lo ha dicho “
“ Tus superiores”
“They don’t have the right to decide for me, I want to be with you, please tell them please.’
“They have bought the ticket Pedro. I love you never forget it I will come tonight to say Goodbye.’”
We embraced and wept as he left. The pain in my chest and scream from my throat that primal scream of primordial man.
As per usual gunfire was nothing strange in the capital of San Salvador at that time. Suddenly there was a shout of voices “Hermano venga venga’ gritaba las monjas. Suddenly one nun pulled me be back, I struggled, rushed out and saw a white Vespa scooter laying on the ground and a body next to it and military men yelling “el no se paro, he did not stop” I rushed to Ernesto’s body persued by a file of nuns and priests. I knelt down picked him up held him to my chest blood streaming all over me, his dark eyes looked up at me and he said in broken English ‘”I come, I you love, no te vayas, don’t go away” as I held him in my arms I wept and wept and cursed God saying what a cruel fuck you are. My Pieta moment my Calvary ,a gay man’s Calvary, a gay man’s Pieta given to him by the so called straight virtues mother fuckers. My heart broke and tore into a hundred little pieces and through my mind went the last paragraph Ernesto read to me from the novel The Little Prince:
“ils se cachet dans le herb et ce pleurant. He trough himself on the grass and wept”
With what sorrow does the rain fall on the shacks of the poor
With what sorrow do you hear the drops fall on the leaking tin roofs.
As a pot catches each sad drop filled with sorrow, agony and pain
Coming up the hill from the valley of the Neoliberal Economic
The worker taking each step with lead exploited feet
With only a dollar in his pocket, papa , papa que nos ….
And all he has in his pocket
Only a dollar to feed eight hungry mouths.
Each one is embraced, hugged
No one sees the pain in the eyes
No one hears the sad song of the falling rain on the leaking tin roof.
She comes up the stairs no older than seventeen or eighteen
Her load heavy with the growing seed in her womb
In the house of the oppressor she lost her innocence
Now the seed is one with her, growing forming part of her
All , she got was 20 dollars to get rid of it
How could she, the seed, she gave it life
They are one
Mother to be and child.
The children the colour of the earth
They run, smile, laugh and play
Millionaires not of wealth but of parasites.
You will not believe this but there are schools for DOGS
How happy do they live in the house of the exploiter and oppressor
They go to school to learn, to be educated to chase the paper boy, to be the companion of the soldier of the oppressor
To maul and destroy any worker that dare ask
With what sorrow does the rain fall on the leaking tin roofs of the poor
Much have they suffered?
Do you hear the voice of the rain?
Today the same as yesterday
A day without hope
A world without tomorrow.