War Moments: The Orange

I will never forget the man with the orange.

Michelle and I were packed in the back of a truck, alongside twenty other hitchhikers. It was six in the morning and already hot as hell. Nicaragua during the dry season–the dust, the winds, the sun that decided to get closer to the region that day, putting all of Central America in a prolonged bake.

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In many Central American countries, hitchhiking is a daily part of life.

We were all so wedged in, privacy was–well, it was gone. And the heat, and the rough road that bashed us all together, each pothole slamming one body into another–it was misery for us all.

We hit a long stretch of decent road. The man dug into a sack and pulled out the orange. He peeled it, separated the pieces and handed them all out to everyone around him, keeping two for himself.

I had seen this before, so many times. If someone had something to eat, and was with a group, they broke it up and gave it to those around them, even if it was just a morsel.

How clearly I see it now! The mountains of Nueva Segovia, beautiful, similar to the Appalachian Mountains, where I’d grown up. A truckload of Nicaraguans holding onto the wood railing and one another. Soldiers alongside the road on patrol. And a man, pure campesino, who spent half of his days bent over, swinging a machete to clear the land, with callouses from his palm to his fingertips, carefully peeling an orange and delicately tearing the slices apart, handing them out while telling a story about an old girlfriend. And the people: they took the orange slices and said a simple gracias without going on about the man’s generosity. Because the generosity was, for them, nothing new.

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