Written by: Ricardo Santos
Breakfast in these parts come in several different ways. Today I have no clue what’s going to land on this table. A dark skinned, portly woman comes with a smile. She places two hardboiled eggs, fried tortillas, queso blanco and my drinks on the table. She smiles like she’s seen gold and nods when she puts it down on the table.
“Gracias, I tell her with half a smile.”
“De nada. Let me know if you need anything else.”
Before I could ask for my drinks of choice, a toddler comes prancing on her tippy toes holding a bottle of water and a carton of orange juice. She clumsily places them on the table and sheepishly smiles at me. I smile back and ask for a high five. She happily obliges and runs off into another room. Padre comes out his quarters, this time wearing his collar and definitely holding a bible.
“Buen provecho,” he says while sitting at the table.
The same woman comes back with a steaming cup of coffee and a small loaf of bread and cheese. He happily thanks her as she places his breakfast on the table.
“You don’t eat much?” I ask.
“I eat, but breakfast isn’t when I eat most.”
“When is it that you eat most?”
“Lunch and dinner. He pats his stomach and says, you can’t tell I don’t skip too many meals?”
It’s the first time he offers some form of levity in our meeting. He seems to have some sort of charm; I can see why he’s the leader of a congregation or some sort of following. I can tell he can control a room or the temperament of a town.
Shit, he got me to talk a bit.
Padre takes a bit of his loaf and takes a short sip of his coffee.
“So what’s next for you son?”
I wipe my mouth of the crumbs from the tortillas. “I fly back home today and that’s it. I’m done here.”
“Where is home?”
“New York City. Have you ever been?”
“No, I haven’t. But I’ve heard plenty about it.”
“Yes, it’s home. It’s a lot of things. Definitely not a perfect place to live. We get a bad rap though. We’re not as rude or mean as people think we are.”
“I suppose you would feel that way,” he says.
“You think I speak from a biased point of view?”
“We all speak from a biased point of view. You ever looked into a prism or a kaleidoscope?”
“I think I have.”
“Well when you stare into it, colors are abundant. Each prism has its own color, its own hues. Every line of sight has its own color mark. It’s just the way we see things.”
“Is that what he intended when he gave us free will?”
Padre stops and takes a longer sip. I wonder if the coffee is at a better temperature or if he was stalling for time. He puts the coffee down and wipes his lips.
“I’m not sure what he intends,” he says. “He gave us the power of choice; the power to make good and humane decisions. Whether you see things in a different perspective from others is quite okay. There’s nothing wrong with having a different point of view.”
“Even if it’s hateful or wrong?”
“That’s something that that person would have to live with,” Padre says.
“So you mean like living with regrets or a heavy heart?”
“I guess you can say that.”
He takes another sip and calmly says, “I’m not a genius or a savant. I can’t tell what’s in the heart of the men and women that come into this church. But I can tell you that the Lord meant for us to be good and charitable. He trusts us enough to make those right decisions. If we don’t, there’s a price for that choice.”
“Hell,” I interject.
“I don’t like to call it that but some believe in that existence.”
“What do you believe?,” I ask.
He takes a long sip and finishes the coffee. He doesn’t answer the question.
“I understand padre. The choices we make can either give us a life of heaven or hell.”
“I guess you can look at it that way,” he replies.
“Look at that. I actually make some sense to you,” I say grinning.
He chuckles and places his small plates together at the end of the table. He wipes his hands with a napkin and calmly places it inside the coffee mug.
“You make a good point son.”
About Ricardo Santos:
Ricardo Santos, father of two, was raised in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx. Ricardo is of Puerto Rican & Dominican descent raised by an African American stepfather. Ricardo holds Graduate degrees in Social Work and Education from Lehman College and Pace University. Currently works for the Department of Education, trying to make a difference in our youth.