Marvin has been our regular fish delivery boy for more than seven years, and he comes every Wednesday and Saturday to bring us our favorite fare of tuna and “Matambaka”. He gets these straight from the fish port in Toril, a little further away. Like other vendors who frequent our block, we have made friends with Marvin, and learned a little of his background. During one of our short talks, this young boy of about fifteen said that his family lives up in the north, where for most part of the year, military operations near their part of the mountain flush out insurgents and turn them into evacuees. As an only recourse, with not enough money to come visit, or try fetching them, he does apprentice work in a local electrician’s shop, to earn extra.
He was like the proverbial mailman, coming in whatever the weather, and one time, I gave him one of my fave bull caps because, while his helmet protected his right elbow, his head was exposed to the drizzle. Many times later, I would often catch him not wearing it, and ask him why so. He would just smile and say it messed up his hair.
Much younger than our son, but already exposed to street realities, we would often encourage him to finish high school so that he could eventually seek better opportunities. He actually confided that, that had crossed his mind many times, but it just wasn’t to be yet, considering his present status.
Then suddenly without notice, he was gone without a word. We have asked the other fish vendors whom, on occasion, we have seen in conversation with him, but they seemed not to know of his whereabouts. I remember on our last conversation before he left, he had said that because of the temporary ban on fishing in the bay (for fish to flourish), the price had gone up, so that it was difficult for most of his clients to afford his deliveries. As a result, apprenticeship had now occupied most of his time. Also, he had finally visited his old folks but they had opted to remain. He had hinted at school, but he had to earn first.
He’s out there somewhere. Now, whenever I look at others his age, on their way to and from school, I always wonder if he has gone that path and wish that were so. When I see others of better status sit out at bars drinking their allowances away for the briefest of good times, I think how lucky their stars are. Theirs may be an easier road, one that their parents might have paved for them. But for how long? Marvin and the likes of him, we think fondly of, and we always wish him well.