Jun 17, 2009, 6:34 AM
A young man of about eighteen years walked along Rice Street, hungry and weary as he pulled his thin legs along. He smelt vaguely of smoke and sand. The sand on the ground was dry and sick and it choked the passersby as they marched home from their day's job, men from their workshops, and women from the market or the farm with their children clinging on their backs or tugging at their hands as they rushed along to prepare the evening meal lest their husbands grumble or their mothers-in-law complain if the meal wasn't on time. Darkness was beginning to settle in and the birds to their nests after flying around the world.
It was one of those rare days when he received his paycheck and as the hungry young man he always was, Bernard Gomez bought himself a half 'tapalapa' bread stuffed with boiled potatoes and egg, ketchup, mayonnaise and a sprinkle of the famous jumbo to give it a spicy taste. When he took his first bite as he idly walked home, some of the unintentional mixed cocktail sauce of the mayonnaise and ketchup dripped from the bread onto the thin paper to his fingers, shirt and finally onto the ground.
He quickly licked his fingers and took some from his shirt and licked it as well. He wouldn't miss this special dinner for all the tea in china, he told himself. His lips curled into a smile.
For a village boy like him who just came to town, and introduced to this rare treat of 'mburo pompiterre ak nen', it was a dinner fit for a king.
He was always in a different world whenever his mouth was working on the bread. He could swear that he always hear angels sing the hymn whenever he was eating the bread.
It was of course a figment of his imagination, because in reality he was always the one humming tunes.
A mile to the village was all that was left to reach home and to a warm and welcoming bed to rest his tired bones. Not that his bed was the most welcoming because night animals like bed bugs habited the bed, but all the same it was welcoming to him.
'Do deh ham boy, bul falleh' was all he and the many others said.
All of a sudden he decided to keep the remaining bread till he reached his house where he would be able to eat it peacefully and slowly.
It only took him twenty minutes to reach his home. Where there were people he saluted them by raising his hand. Once in the safety of his room, he sat on his bed and took out the remaining bread. But before he could take a bite he heard a knock on his rickety door.
Quickly he hid the bread behind him.
'Yes, who is it?'
'It is me, Randul,' answered a tiny little voice. Randul was the son of his next door neighbor
'What do you want?'
The little boy did not hesitate to say, 'I thought I smelt bread with potatoes here, and I decided to come and see for myself.'
'No, you are wrong, go back to your mother,' Bernard Gomez was non-too pleased with the boy.
The boy went away and before he could take a bite, he appeared into the room, this time without knocking.
Again he hid the bread.
'I am sure that there is bread in here,' the little boy stood there timidly as his larger than life eyes went around the house, all those while his nose sniffed restlessly. By that time, Bernard was becoming impatient by the minute and he ordered the boy outside.
Assured that he could eat in peace now, the child came again into the room. This time around he caught him mouth opened with bread in his hands.
'Do you mind sharing your bread with me, Bernard?' he asked innocently.
'Of course, I mind! Hasn't your mother prepared food today?' he shouted at the boy.
The little boy replied in the negative. Upon second thoughts, he surrendered and unwillingly gave his bread to him and Randul said his many thanks.
When Randul took his second bite of the bread, tears started coming from Bernard's eyes. Randul became surprised.
'Is all well with you?' he asked Bernard.
'How can all be well when all my entire life I have been thinking that there isn't anyone who can appreciate bread more than I do and sniff it from a distance until you came?'
'Now you know why they call me Randul,' he replied as he took his last bite.