Me Gusta Mi Vecinos (I Like My Neighbours But Not Their Damn Rooster)

The flu has been going around town and I’ve been sick all week. I resisted it for a while but I think the lack of sleep due to the incessant pestering of my rooster arch nemesis finally got to me. Things have unraveled to the point where I now run out in my underwear in the wee hours of the morning at least twice each dawn brandishing coconuts, rocks, or anything else within reach to chase him off, his brood in tow.

Whether it’s rooster on the brain or simply a taste for fried butter I don’t know but either way I decided to have eggs for lunch today. Except I didn’t have any at home. My neighbour and her daughter Julissa too were enroute to the supermercado across the street so I waited for them at the foot of my drive and we walked in together.

I know them fairly well. Raffa, Julissa’s father does odd jobs, collects scrap metal, always asks me why I don’t speak French and once helped me through a really bad back-spasm with a firm massage. I bring my laundry there since I don’t have a machine and pay about three bucks for a basket of clean-smelling wash and fold. Last year Raffa’s wife was sick with the flu and they asked if I could get some Tylenol Cold & Flu pills from home. Coincidentally my folks were coming for a visit the next week so I was able to deliver. This year I brought them a big bottle in advance.

The eggs are packed in 6 or 12, room temperature on a wire shelf at the back of the store. Today however there were none. Just an empty rack. Es extranjo, I said, hoy no hay huevos. My neighbour agreed that it was strange for them to not have any eggs today and we went our separate ways, her to the stacks of enriched rice (50%,75% or 80% whole grains, which means at least a fifth of your bowl is just bits) and me to the bin of dusty, twist-tied onions to look for a loose bulb or two. The plucky onion joined an unsuspecting potato in my pan and, together with some refried beans and smokey cheese, covered for the missing eggs.

Satisfied for now, I was back in my hammock and underwear contemplating just how high a rooster-proof fence would have to be when I heard my name being called from the front gate. Pulling on some shorts I opened the door to Julissa, now on my porch holding a bowl of fresh eggs. Just bring back the plate she said and I thought of how lovely her mother was and how pissed the rooster’d be to know that I was the beneficiary of his charges’ labours.

Relaxing in the hammock this evening I again heard my name being called, this time by another neighbour Tiburon (it means shark- all the guys here tend to go by their nickname accompanied by ‘Mae’ or man, which is used before and after every other word the way a suburban teenager at home says ‘like’). Mae, ay mae, Perry mae: Man, hey man, Perry man- Landi heard you were sick mae and, mae, she wants to know if you’d like some chicken soup mae.

Tiburon, his dad, mother Landi and his two sister’s families all live between me and Raffa’s place. Until recently Landi ran a soda (small typical diner) next door with two tables on the lawn where I ate several times a week. She’s great at basic Costa Rican dishes and, as long as you ordered what was already on the stove for her family, dinner is served quick and tasty. Order just about anything else however and you have to wait for her exceptionally slow-moving husband to walk across the street and buy the ingredients.

The offer is lovely, especially since Landi herself is sick and I haven’t seen her leave the house once all week. I thank Tiburon for the kindness of his mother and suddenly feel much better.