We’ll call him Jose, though that isn’t his name. He’s a diminutive man, even for a Tico, I thought, the first time I saw him, and from his clothing and high rubber boots, a farm worker. Out here in rural Costa Rica, there are many itinerant farm workers, and labor is cheap.
He spoke to me as I ran past him on the road one morning, asking if I needed anyone for yard work. I said I didn’t, that my husband was our gardener, thanked him, and continued up the hill. On my return, he handed me a slip of paper with his name and phone number, just in case. I carried it home and tucked it into the phone book. He seemed like a nice enough little fellow, and an apparent go-getter.
When my neighbor, David, needed a yard hand in a pinch, I passed Jose’s information on. The report from David was enthusiastic. Jose had proven himself to be a hard worker who got the job done quickly and charged little.
A couple of weeks later, Jack hurt his back and couldn’t even walk, let alone trim the hedges and operate the weed-whacker, so I called Jose. He worked quickly, and we were happy with the job.
A day or two later he returned: he’d left his hedge clippers behind. On this occasion, he’d brought a package of some kind of white powder, which, he explained, he planned on using on a wasp’s nest in the corner of our roof. I was thrilled. I’d been stung several times, and so had Jack. In fact, Jack had suffered anaphylactic shock and had to be rushed to the hospital. We felt safer without the nests clinging to our house.
Jose shook the powder into the nest. Within a few moments, the critters had fled the nest and attached themselves to him. Before I could scream and jump up and down, he laughed, and said, “No pica!” (they don’t sting). Emboldened, I approached him, and then watched in horror while the hive inmates transferred themselves to me. It must have been the turquoise blouse I was wearing.
I hate that I’m entomophobic, but I don’t see that changing. I took off towards our porch, yelping, and generally freaking out. Jose followed behind me, brushing down my back. Then he decided to go for the front. My loosely-fitting blouse was cut in a deep V, and as usual, I wore no bra. Jose went to work inside and outside of my blouse, making sure to find and brush away each offending insect.
Sometimes, I’m not very quick to react. Oh! He’s touching my boobs, I finally realized, and judging from the grin on Jose’s face, liking them. It’s nothing, I told myself. I should be pleased, at my age. Then he said what a great “form” I have. Despite my chagrin, I had to laugh, and so did Jack, when he heard the story. Life is mostly tranquil here, but it is rarely boring.