Here's another guest post -- by Annegb:
I went on a cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico last week with my stepdaughter, Jessie. Cruises are over-rated, in my opinion. Not restful in the least. They show pictures of beautiful people lazing away on a sun-drenched deck with a waiter serving them Pina Coladas. It's not like that. It's wall to wall people with waiters tripping to serve them Pina Coladas, wall to wall gluttony, eating lobster and chocolate mousse, then refilling on shrimp salad sandwiches and sherbert two hours later.
But this isn't about cruising. I didn't know what to expect in Mexico, I don't like southern California at all and I was just humoring Jessie, letting her pick, it was her special trip. We got up in the morning docked off Ensenada.
The city looked promising in the early morning light, with the harbor water reflecting the sun and little boats all over. We got on a bus, incredibly rickety and went into the city to change buses or walk downtown.
As we got off the bus, a young mother came up to me to sell chimes. She wanted $5 for it. Jess herded me away, but I pulled out dollar bills from my pocket and stuffed a bill in each of the children who rather miraculously appeared and multiplied around me, being scolded by my daughter all the way.
We got on the bus, and the young mother went around to my window. I bought the chimes through the window and put a dollar bill in the tiny hand of the baby another woman held up for me to see with a pleading look.
It was a small thing.
Then we drove out to the blowhole, with our wonderful guide, Fernando (another younger man for me to fall in love with), telling us jokes and explaining the few sights--Costco and Radio Shack! The landscape reminded me of Tonopah, Nevada, where I grew up, scraggly bushes dotting the deserty mountains, ramshackle houses.
When we arrived at our destination, we headed for the toilets, 50 cents a pop. They were clean, with warm water and soap, and hey, double ply. Nothing to complain about there, I could have been home. Wal-Mart in Cedar City only has single ply.
I somehow immediately lost our group as I gawked and tried to speak to all the people asking me to buy stuff. I felt very important and rich, magnanimous in my smiles and como esta's.
I turned and some trinkets caught my eye. I immediately noticed the barren nature of the stall the boy was standing by, as compared to the others. Bare wood and dirt, unadorned by the colorful shawls and scarves, a small table with statues and bracelets. Maybe he was 10, maybe 11. No more. He was alone in his stall, no fat, happy, ebullient parents and silly siblings.
He didn't smile broadly and shout "hey, Amiga, buy!" He smiled thinly, with effort. His eyes were glazed, his color was bad. He looked tired. He caught me.
I stepped toward him and touched his arm and asked, "are you all right?" As I reached out, he flinched, then caught himself and tried to smile, apologetically. I took my hand back, but I wanted to draw him in and hold him close and fill him with my abundance, to warm him and comfort him.
I bought something, I don't know what. I didn't dicker, I just gave him the money and said, "God bless you" as I walked away.
Then I forgot him. I danced my way down the aisle of shops, having fun and buying stuff cheap, probably cheap stuff. I bought a hat which I must say made me look like a hot older woman and I bought dresses for my granddaughters and hammocks for my grandsons. I bought and bought and bought.
I bought and ate a seafood taco, the guacomole dripping through my fingers. I had my picture taken with four merry men dressed in black, with guitars. Happy men, happy pictures.
I gorged on stuff. I gorged on the act of buying, of being important to those poor people.
When I got back to the ship, I counted my bounty, sorted out what I give to who, sighed in satisfaction over the wood salad bowl and dishes, gawked at myself in that hat with my hoop earrings, "damn, I look good for an old woman."
But when I went to bed, when the lights were out, and I laid in my bunk, with high count sheets and the down comforter, that boy, his eyes, oh, his poor glazed sad eyes, they came back to haunt me.
How utterly selfish and self absorbed I was that day. How greedy. In the face of sorrow or whatever burdens those people hid behind their merry calls to buy, the face that young boy could not hide, though he tried. How could I have been so small minded?
I came home to my little house, small even in America, but clean and warm, well kept, comfortable. I will delight my granddaughters with those pretty dresses. Ryan and Forest will have a blast with the hammocks this summer, Grandpa will help hang them. Casey and Alex will love the marble game sets and Max will probably break his guitar the first twenty minutes.
And I will be haunted forevermore by that nameless sad child.