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I walk out of the hardware store with my mother. My father has (unsurprisingly) already walked out, bored, and (also unsurprisingly) is talking to a man. The man is older, probably similar to my father’s sixty years and wears simple clothes. He appears part Latin which is unsurprising for Panama. My mother and I walk up to the two gregarious men talking.
“We’re going to give Edgar a ride home and he’ll show us his place,” my father says, gesturing to his new friend. I look up at my mother. It is not rare for us to pick up hitchhikers or befriend strangers, but this does seem strange.
“Okay,” my mother says as we walk over to our Subaru. Mother gets into the backseat with me as Edgar gets in the front with my father.
“Go straight ahead,” Edgar says as my father pulls out of the parking lot. He drives past the grocery store and a few other small shops before Edgar tells us to turn. “See that building over there?” Edgar says, “That’s my kids school. It looks like a chicken coop to me. Nothing like the schools in the states.” His house must be fairly nice, I think, if he looks down on this architecture.
“Are you from the states?” My mother asks.
“Yes I am,” Edgar smiles, “I’ve got too much debt there though, so I can’t go back. I have kids there, but I’m remarried here and have three more girls.”
“Oh okay,” my mother says.
We continue to drive past cinderblock houses. They are all simple one floor boxes with windows without glass. Each house is painted a different color. We pass blue and green and orange and yellow houses.
“You see that house?” Edgar says, motioning to a house that looks far different from the rest. It has high walls around it with barbed wire topping it.
“Yes it’s beautiful,” My mother says. I don’t think it’s that beautiful. It sticks out as huge and expensive here, but the wall and barbed wire seems either superfluous or as a warning that living in that house is a bad idea.
“Well, it’s for sale,” Edgar says with a grin, “you should buy it. I get ten percent of the profit too.”
“It’s very nice,” my mother replies. I personally can’t figure out why he gets ten percent of the profit, he doesn’t seem like a realtor.
We drive for a little while longer past more houses all built similarly to each other. Finally Edgar tells us to stop. “That’s my house,” he says, motioning to a one story yellow house that looks like all the rest, “why don’t you guys come in and meet the family.”
My father parks the car and we all get out. We follow him to the door where we are greeted by three little girls. The youngest has a huge smile and her teeth rotted black. I cringe, I have never seen anything like that before. In the main room of the house there are two televisions; both on, both blaring different channels in Spanish.
“We have five televisions,” Edgar boasts, “one for each member of the family.”
Five televisions and rotten teeth, I think.
“I’ll go get my wife,” Edgar says, walking into the other room. As he opens the curtain I can see another television blaring on another channel. Edgar walks back out, “She’s coming.”
After a couple minutes his wife walks out. She wears tight jeans and a half shirt embellished with the words “baby girl.” She is young, probably only a few years older than me, and her husband is around the age of my father. We chat for a moment longer. She doesn’t speak English so Edgar tells us that she works in a department store in Panama City.
Finally we leave. I can tell my parents too are in shock by the situation. I’m not sure what haunts me the most: Is it the young wife, the rotten teeth or is it the five TVs?