I met Lorenzo when I dropped out of college and took a job with a landscaping company. He immigrated to Texas as a young man and lived the difficult life of a rootless migrant: picking fruits and vegetables whenever the season permitted, taking jobs of various character and any that paid.
At the age of 72, he was a recent widower and had come to terms with the sobering realization that San Antonio would be the eventual place of his death. We shared the labor of cutting yards, trimming trees and the general maintenance of lush landscapes that would never be our own. During our lunches, beneath the shadow of any willing tree, we spoke of familiar things, newsworthy items and often his past. He spoke only Spanish, so our conversations were always limited to my broken attempts at the language, though we faired well enough.
“¿Vio la mujer en el otro lado de la calle esta mañana?”
“Sí, sí la mire,” I said to him as we settled ourselves on the lawn.
“Se pareciá a mi esposa cuando estaba joven.”
Though I had heard the story before, I listened politely as he began it again.
Their families lived near each other and the two came to know one another as kids of a common neighborhood naturally would. During their courtship, when they were both only 17, she waited for him to walk past her house and always made it a point to invite him in and prepare him a small meal. She said that it was means of practice for when they married, and nervously swept the kitchen the entire time he ate; it was her best attempt to play the role of a dutiful wife. She did this every day before the two eloped and left for Texas.
That day we spent the morning planting philodendrons along a winding concrete way in a beautiful northside home and chose the dappled shade of a sycamore as a place for our lunch: bolillos, sandwich meat, and two cokes. I asked him if he missed her and he quietly nodded his head as he neatly sliced the bread and an avocado he brought for our sandwiches. He said he missed being wanted, and returned to the moment of quiet reflection as we sat against the trunk of the towering tree, listening to the incessant sound of cicadas somewhere in the canopy.
The rest of the afternoon he complained of his shoulder and the limestone rubble that stubbornly lined the perimeter of the house. I watched him as his eyes would often return to the house across the street as he used a mattock to cut the roots of dying boxwood near the front yard. Between his exhausted swings and the occasional break, his hunched figure seemed to be patiently waiting for someone to walk out and invite him in.