The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Joel is a homeless man I met in Love Park. He is 55 years old and is from Guiana. He has traveled all over the world the past 35+ years.

My green pleather passport has a portrait of a stunning young gentleman from Guiana. I started working at 10 years old. I worked as a tailor, making clothes for myself and other children in my village. I saved every penny that I earned from sewing patches on cloth pants for my first trip.

“There’s a lot more to see than just our little village, J,” Ma said. She always wanted me to see the world. Her cane hit the concrete floors with each step, creating its own beat. 

 Everything I owned fit into a small backpack. It was a tight fit but I was able to bring my journal, a photo of the girl down the street who kissed me goodbye (Hell, I thought we would be married one day), and the blanket Ma knitted. It was itchy and sleeping with it left me scratching all night, but it reminded me of the crazy old woman with the cane, so I didn’t mind.

The plane ticket was cheap, fortunately. It was small and there was barely any room for me to put my feet. You could look down and see everything. My village looked even tinier from an aerial view. 

Argentina was different. The sky was a different shade of blue. It was this white blue that blinded my eyes. I should have brought sunglasses!

“Make sure to see Mount Fitz Roy, it’s unforgettable,” the pilot said. “Have a safe trip, kid. Enjoy it.”

The sun set on the mountains and left this orange glow that was indescribable. I took a mental snapshot. Ma taught me that. 

I found a place to settle down and I laid out my itchy blanket. There was a lot to think about. I knew I wasn’t going to go home after this trip. I still had some money saved, enough to feed me for a month or so. There was just something about being on my own for once that was romantic to me. I think I was in love with loneliness.

I woke up to what felt like a slap in the face. 50 feet away from me, a group of Native Americans were playing soccer. The air was spine-chilling and the blanket was a lot thinner than I realized. A Native American girl witnessed my discomfort and brought me a knapsack. She smiled, the cutest little grin I’d ever seen and gestured for me to lay back to rest. I wasn’t used to talking to strangers, especially pretty ones, I was so nervous I couldn’t speak!

Coi was her name. She had dark silky braids with a headband made of straw. I never saw her stop smiling, even when the rain ruined her straw hair-wear. She made a headband for my scraggly dark hair. She brought along a necklace too, with white feathers and light-colored, sharpened shell pieces.  She placed it delicately on my neck and her dark eyes met mine.

It’s the hardest thing when you fall in love with a girl you have to leave. And maybe that’s why I never stayed in one place, because I didn’t want to go through leaving a girl like Coi again. I used to think about her dark eyes and silky braids everyday. I take a look at my distressed pleather passport and I can almost see a portrait of her.


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