I woke up very early this morning and after a big cup of thick black coffee and a bowl of beans, I felt ready to go out and do some construction. A small group of us met at the NICA school, where we waited for a ride to our work site out in the country. Since the school’s Spanish classes are in the morning, the Spanish students would not be part of the construction brigade, but we had a few volunteers from the community and from the Salvadoran collective.
We were all in good spirits, eager to get to work but it only took a couple of hours for my little bubble to burst. I discovered that I am not cut out for masonry work. When we first got to the site, they had me laying bricks but apparently I sucked at it, so they sent me down to the bottom of a hill to fetch a load of bricks in a wheelbarrow. It was tough because the terrain was rocky and very uneven. Pushing a cart load of bricks is heavy work and frankly, I’m a little flabby these days since I haven’t been going to the gym. When I hit a rock on the way up, I lost control of the cart and couldn't keep it from tipping over. All I could do was watch the bricks careen down the hillside, breaking on their way down.
|"I'm here to help!"|
I felt terrible. Carrie sneered at me. I think she was secretly happy that I was proving to be the fuck-up she imagines me to be. Everyone else tried to hide their chagrined expressions, saying it was okay but I could tell they were thinking I should have stayed home. I cleaned up my mess and went back to bricklaying after the mortar application method had been explained to me again and I seemed to do a bit better.
Working out in the open air in the middle of the country is something I never thought I would like but for a few moments, standing on that green hill, breathing the cool, fresh air and watching a little posse of ragtag kids running after each other, I could understand the attraction. An hour later, that charm would wear off. By midday I was sweaty, tired and hungry and even the kids didn't look as cute.
When it was time to go in and eat, I was hungry but I felt like such a poseur, I didn't think I deserved the bowl of beans and corn tortillas that I was handed. I felt certain that the money spent on the bricks I’d broken could feed this family for a week. The kids ran around barefoot, with clothes that were so old they were practically transparent and the house we were eating in made the Little House on the Prairie look posh. I tried to turn down the food but the cook insisted. Obviously, she hadn’t seen me drop the bricks.