(This is part two of a two, maybe three, part blog. To start from the beginning, click here.)
“Hola Yeni? It’s Wilmer….Wilmer Martinez?
As though I wouldn’t immediately think of him. As though I hadn’t unfriended a slight acquaintance on Facebook because every time I saw a green dot next to the name Wilmer, my heart lept a little only to plummet to my stomach when I remembered that this wasn’t my Wilmer. My Wilmer is most likely passed out on the street.
“Yes, yes, of course. How are you?”
“I’m good, thanks to God.”
This call shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it was. You see, I had heard a rumor a few months before. I had heard that Wilmer had an accident, had an operation and was in a center for men with addictions. But… it’s been four years. Four years of daily crack highs. Four years of zero to less than moderate interest in leaving the street. Some of our hardest core kids have repeatedly left the street. If they’re really serious, they make it 48 hours. Typically? They’re lucky to make it 24. My little heart couldn’t handle hoping for more.
So hearing his voice? Hearing him tell me that he has been clean for four months? That his life has changed? That he’s about to go back to school? Thanking me for loving and believing in him for years? Yeah. We got off the phone and I sent a message to Jilli: “I’m having a hard time believing I just talked to Wilmer.” Because…I don’t know…this must be a dream.
We talked every week or so for the next month and a half. (The content of these conversations will probably be turned into part three.) But he was reserving some details for March, when we could be in the same place and “you’ll understand me more when we’re face to face.” (True statement.) He was holding back what details? you ask. The details of what changed. The details of what led up to my prayers finally being answered.
March 14, 2015 I got the story:
So, I took this picture while driving. It will not win any awards. But don’t let that distract you.
You see how there’s a row of streetlights? But the second one is curiously missing the light and is also bent? Shouldn’t be like that, right? Yeah… One night, Wilmer scaled the pole to steal the light so he could sell it for scraps. (If that’s really a thing in Honduras, I cannot believe there’s a single light left in San Pedro.) Unsurprisingly, once he had the light…he fell. And proceeded to belly flop onto the yellow, cement hand rail at the bottom of the picture. Belly flopping on water is enough to make me wary of the high dive. Doing the same on a cement rail that bends your body in half? I can’t even imagine.
We stood there, looking up at the lightless pole and then he hops up onto the rail to show how he landed and says,
“Right here is where I said ‘God please forgive me for everything I have done in this life.'”
Does anyone else have chills? Cause I sure do. So darn many years I’ve been searching, praying and coercing this kid. Belly flops on some cement and his eyes are suddenly opened. He then asks if we can go down the road to Galerias, the mall outside of which he used to ‘live’. Just, you know, to say hi. We spend the next hour and a half with a dozen kids ranging in age from ‘child, where is your parent? Please come with me to Proniño immediately because someone who is still roughly the size of a kindergartener should not be on the street’ to ‘I know you’re crossing that line from boy to man, but please don’t accept the idea that the street is where you will always be.’ As Wilmer tells the kids about being back in school, about his newfound faith in God and that they really, seriously need to leave the street I’m astounded by how normal this feels. Just me and Wilmer. The ones on a good path. Hangin out with kids we care about and hope will change their lives. (AKA – What alternative world have we been dropped into?)
As we drove away, I asked him how he felt. “Normal.” NORMAL? How could you possibly feel normal returning to the nightmare that was your life? “Well, what do you want me to feel?” Ok, ok, you can feel anything you want.
“But child, let me tell you how I feel. To me, this place means desperately looking for you. Begging you to return. Watching you walk away. Feeling quite hopeless. And now? Driving past this place with you sitting next to me with your bright eyes, clean clothes and backpack full of school supplies? This is better than winning the lottery.”
When it comes to Wilmer, these last few years have downright sucked. And I know he’s not ‘cured’. He’s not out of the woods. He still has a tough road ahead. But this victory that I have witnessed? That we’ve been waiting for for four years? It has made all the times I felt like I was being punched in the gut worth it. Amazingly enough, he seems to agree.