His sister-in-law is my good friend, Martha, and before Martha and her hubby broke up I hiked up to their farm a handful of times to give spontaneous, ineffective English lessons and drink coffee.
Pablo is what you would call a strong man – his muscles have the benefit of a thin layer of fat over them, making him look as powerful as he is. Close to 6 feet tall, his frame is broad and round. At this point in time he was 21 years old and had been working on coffee farms since he was 5. His facial features are soft, his nose being the most distinctive characteristic because of the pockmarks dug into the skin.
His rather un-impressive physiognomy was made up for by his serious manner, which, after a short time interacting with him was shown to contain an intense passion for poetry. His calmness, too, proves to be a controlled façade of his quick, deep shifts from mood to mood, which you could see in the clenching of his jaw and the hardening of his small, dark eyes.
I spent so much time observing him because the family refused to let me walk the 20 minutes back to my house alone, insisting it was far too dangerous. They may have thought that, or they may have been trying to set me up with Pablo. Or both.
We walked back from the farm chatting as best we could, as my Spanish was still less than fluent. He would tell me the names of flowers, trees, and birds, and point out sloths and howler monkeys that lived in the trees lining the small trail. I appreciated his knowledge and the palpable love he had for his surroundings. He talked animatedly about Ruben Dario, the most well known poet in Nicaragua. Poetry is an almost sacred thing here; poets are extremely respected and honored.
It became clear immediately the Pablo was a smart, determined, hard-working person. It also became clear that he let his emotions rule over his logic. He had a slight stutter that worsened when he felt defensive or upset. His frustration when things were not done or said in the “correct” way was obvious and alarming. Once he laughed derisively in my face when I said that yes, I did believe in evolution, and I could not understand why his reaction made me feel at once evil and stupid for believing it. After three times walking back with him, and three times having my arm jerked forcefully in its socket when he pulled me in to kiss me on the cheek, I resolved not to walk back with him ever again. I dreaded going to the farm, or running into him in town.
When he started sending me text messages, I replied at first to be polite. I had not personally given him my number – Martha had, without my permission. His text messages talked about how beautiful he thought I was, how much in love with me he was, that I was the most amazing woman he’d ever met. When I stopped replying to his messages, he would send me 20 within 30 minutes, telling me in various was that he couldn’t understand why a woman so “bella” could be so “difícil”. In one text he would insult me or say that I was insulting him. In the next he would praise my voice, or face, or gracefulness.
His grandmother, when she saw me in town, would ask me why I wasn’t coming up to the farm anymore. I told her that Pablo was sending me strange messages and calling me repeatedly and it made me feel uncomfortable. She refused to believe it, saying that he would never do that because he was a respectful boy, and that I must not be telling the truth.
Once, the grandmother called me, and said that Pablo was sorry and that I should come up to the farm. I told her I would be willing to talk Pablo about the situation in my living room if he desired. Later, when Pablo called me to talk with me, I told him I would not talk over the phone. He neither called nor texted me again for months… The next time I saw him was at a boxing match. I was with my boyfriend. Pablo was wearing a white tank top, black jeans, cowboy boots and nothing else. His shiny black hair was spiked into a small mohawk and he glanced over at me and Leonel consistently and pointedly, after which his friends would look at us and they would all laugh. I was terrified. His unbalanced messages had made it clear to me that he was potentially dangerous. Luckily, nothing happened, but I was paranoid for my boyfriend and myself for the next week.
Pablo disappeared from my life for so long that I had almost forgotten about him. Then, two weeks ago, my phone got a call at almost midnight from an unknown number. I answered because of the potential of it being an emergency – a friend, family member… it was Pablo. I was very confused and half asleep. “Pablo? Who is that?”
“You don’t remember me? It’s your friend, Pablo, Martha’s old brother-in-law… You must remember me. Were you sleeping? Why don’t you like me? Why don’t you come up to the farm?” I didn’t feel fear, just annoyance at the absurdity of the situation, and at being woken up. I hung up and saved the number in my phone as “Pablo, stalker.” Never a dull moment in this life.
NOTE: I use the term “stalker” because that is what the Peace Corps Safety and Security Officer used when I called him to get advice and support early on. I do not use it in a sarcastic way. Stalking is a serious crime and paralyzing threat to the victims.