“¿Puedo trenzar tu cabello?”
Emmanuel had been watching me braid my roommate Alex’s hair for the past week, and suddenly was desperate to have a turn on mine. Perhaps it was because we were leaving today, and he realized he would not have the chance again.
He twisted his feet into the ground, staring at his toes.“¿Por favor?” He shied a quick glance at me, uncertain of what I would say. I turned away from the episode of Spanish Sesame Street that I had been watching with his brother, Nico. “Por supuesto, cariño.” Of course, sweetheart. I said.
It had been nearly two weeks since I had first come to Costa Rica with SPI Study Abroad. Since our landing, Alex and I had lived with two homestay families, one in the cloud forest of Monteverde, and the other in the pacific village of Flamingo. It was this second home that I now had to leave. My overflowing suitcase sat pouting in the corner.
I hopped off the couch and sat on the floor so Emmanuel could better reach my hair.
As he pulled and twisted, I felt something touch my foot, and I jumped. Looking down, I smiled realizing it was Blackey Coquito, the family’s pet bunny. Cuddly and friendly, “Coqui” was my darling. He walked with me every morning to the bus stop which took Alex and I to school, and always came to greet us when we returned.
Coqui must have heard something, because mid-pet he hopped to the door and sniffed it. Sure enough, it opened seconds later and Alex popped her head in.
“Lina, we have to go. The bus is here.” A wave of sadness washed over me.
“Okay, okay. I’ll be there in a minute.” Alex saw my face, and smiled ruefully.
“I know. I’m really going to miss this place too.”
Just then Emmanuel finished braiding. “Mira, mira!” Look, look! He was beaming.
I walked over to the house’s mirror and gazed in. What I saw was a mass of knotted ends, tangled into a strange loop which dangled off the side of my head like a lopsided balloon. Alex let out a mirthful laugh. I turned to Emmanuel. “Me encanta.” I love it, I said. And I meant it. He gave me one of those childhood smiles, so full of innocent pride and delight that it makes you feel as light as air.
He then told Alex and I to wait a minute, and ran to his room to get something. When he returned, he was holding two green rubber bracelets, each printed with the word “Friendship”. He handed them to us.
“Para recordar.” To remember.
Emmanuel’s bracelet now sits atop my jewelry box, where I can see it every day. When I look at it, I remember that we are linked by principles rather than by features. It serves as a reminder to me that, though our experiences differ, humans are all rooted in the same Earth, and we are all connected.