LUIS MIGUEL PAUSED just long enough to make sure I was following him before he dashed off. A few seconds later I stood next to the young boy in front of a tree.
“¿Qué es?” I pointed to one of the green fruits dangling on the low-hanging limbs. I thought I heard aguacate before he disappeared into the tree.
I stayed where I was, thinking about all the bugs that lived down there. Luis Miguel’s head poked back out from under the branches. “¡Ven!” he insisted.
It was such a simple phrase, one I’d heard consistently since the day I started living with my host family – so much so that I had come to detest it.
But this time was different. When Luis Miguel said, “Come!” it was not a command. It was an invitation. An invitation to play, to share a moment, to enjoy each other’s company.
Luis Miguel’s face lit up when I crouched down to follow him. It felt like we had entered another world. Never before had I seen the “interior” of a tree. The branches were so short that they were touching my head even as I squatted. I did my best to ignore my aching knees while Luis Miguel poked the dirt and talked to me.
I did not understand a single word he said, but the way he moved about in that space made me think that he’d found refuge under these branches many times before. I felt like a friend getting in on a secret, like an honored guest getting shown a favorite room of my host’s house.
That moment is forever etched into my memory. It’s the first one that comes to mind when I think about Luis Miguel and his family, who were displaced in December 2015 along with their neighbors in El Tamarindo. I don’t know where they live now.
Every time I visit some of the relocated families from El Tamarindo, I feel a little sad that little Luis Miguel isn’t there. I miss his endless energy, his lust for adventure, his wild imagination, and his charm. Wherever he is, I hope he is safe and finding new friends to explore nature with.