photo by parker hilton

photo by parker hilton

"You three stay in the van, You smell. She can have the guest room".

You always hear about the mythical diamond in the rough, the ones you never actually expect to find, but can almost instantly recognize. The well intentioned, the kind, the selfless. The good ones. The ones like Ruby. 

    We had just rolled into Corozal, exhausted from the boarder crossing, and were lucky enough to have a campsite offered to us at a local marina. We set up camp as per usual, and all took our own moments to re-collect and look around this new, seaside, english speaking, country.

    I found a spot on the bay to sit and have a cigarette. Looking on as the sun began to dip into the Caribbean sea and the fisherman began to return from their daily trips. Watching them pull into shore I couldn't help but think about us arriving in Belize. I sat watching them unload their catch, mentally drawing an unspoken bond between the fisherman and us. The relief they must feel coming in from a day out and the relief the four of us felt, successfully crossing into another country. I started to wonder if, when they loaded their ships in the morning, they felt the same way I knew I would feel in the morning, loading up the van bracing for the unknowns ahead.

    The only goings-on around, to keep me from slipping too far into my own head, were two kids running down a nearby dock and pushing each other off one of the sailboats at the end. I enjoy jumping off boats a thousand times more than I enjoy worrying about the future. So, I walked down to the edge of the dock, climbed on the boat, and dove. As the kids looked on curiously a woman back on shore laughed. 

    I swam back to shore, as she pulled in the hand line she had been fishing with from the waters edge. “I thought my kids might scare the fish off, now, I know the fish are gone” She said to me, in perfect english. I apologized, she laughed, and we both introduced ourselves.

    She had a smile and a way about her that made every word hang in the air for a bit. She spoke slowly, she wasn't in a rush, she knew there was time. It was easy to tell her words were chosen long before she brought them to the conversation, she spoke with confidence. All of the sudden I was self conscious about the cigarette. I wanted to be better.

    Ruby went on to tell me that she lived in the states, four or five of them actually. Cleaning houses or cooking to make it from one place to another. She also ended up marrying a guy up there and talked him into adopting their two boys from Belize. After talking for twenty minutes or so she offered her place up to us and said we could have breakfast with her family in the morning. 

    It was very clear, though, that none of us boys were allowed to stay inside. “you three smell, you can stay in the van. She can stay in our extra room though” Ruby said as she pointed to Madison. I had told her Madison and Aidan were a couple, that didn't seem to matter much. She was a woman of faith and those antics wouldn't fly in her house. 

     We watched together as the fisherman made their way back up the docks and the last bit of light danced over the Caribbean. Ruby and I said goodbye and hugged as I high fived her kids and said goodnight. I appreciated her hospitality but we already had a place, we couldn't walk away from someone else's hospitality. 

     I thought that was the end of our exchange. But, I thought wrong.  Early the next day as we packed up the van and prepared to continue south her two boys came running over. They knocked on the side of the van and nervously asked if we wanted their mom to do our laundry or make us food for the road. I politely declined and waved at Ruby on her porch across the street.  Before we left I threw out my cigarettes and walked over to thank her for her hospitality and give her a hug. She was one of those people I didn't really expect to meet. I didn't know what to think in Central America but I didn't expect that. For one reason or another I didn't expect to meet one of the good ones.  I didn't expect to meet a Ruby.