As I turned to meet my fate,expecting the worst,I was greeted by a smiling Latino face. He pointed to my Kool, and I realized that he just wanted to bum a smoke.Hands shaking,pulse pacing 100 beats per second,I reached into my pack and offered him a smoke.He smiled, shook the pack, and gratefully lit up what later would become my personal slow death sentence.
We sat silently for a few moments, the acrid smoke rising slowly in the dark,stale,Bronx night.The cigarette oddly became the "peace pipe" bridging the polarity of culture and language.He could not speak one word of English, and I could speak no Spanish.The gulf would have normally been too wide to bridge,but not this night.
An understanding began to slowly and delicately unfurl. He seemd to sense my fear, and I began to sense more to this young man than that of just being another Bronx gang banger.He pointed to a step and said the word in Spanish. He then pointed to me indicating that I should repeat what he had said. I did so. He then ponted to something and asked"English?"And on and on and on we went.He seemed to never grow weary of our mutual vocabulary lesson.
Then the laughter started. Laughter,the human bond that needs no translation,knows no cultutural boundaries, and weaves a common thread that paves a road leading to shared,spiritual healing.
I had a new friend. No,I never saw him again ,but he lives in my mind and heart. I wonder if I do in his.
The kid from Wallace, and the kid from the Bronx,bound together with the gift of laughter.