Dilapidation and Truth

On a humid evening, in a down-and-out mining town of a few thousand situated on the banks of a once pristine river in Venezuela, when I declined to gift money to a youngish woman who lived across from my guesthouse, she flicked out her tongue, mimicked the unzipping of pants, and motioned towards my groin.  Having already been asked by this same woman for money a half-dozen times and been invited to go on a personalized jungle excursion (which the teenage attendant at my dilapidated guest house wildly gesticulated for me to decline) by a man who was identified as both her boyfriend and a thug, I decided I had had enough and firmly told her to leave me alone… which she did.

A couple hours later, as night settled, I sat in the town’s concrete square amongst a few dozen men who were drinking beer or waiting for buses.  Earlier that day, in the same square, when I was drinking coffee not beer, I had observed: someone’s pet parrot as it attacked various women who walked by, a very old German man who was known to have been in the military before arriving to inhabit the town in the early 1950’s, and an immensely tall and lanky European who I mistook for being the only other traveler around… until I learned that he was simply on release for the day from the prison on the other side of the 1000 foot-wide river.

Anyways, as I sat on the edge of the square that night, a nun emerged from a side street, flanked by about a half dozen people - including the woman who had propositioned me earlier.  Demeanor transformed, my would-be seductress was now affable, smiling, and engaging in conversation with the nun.  The Sister, in turn, was equally warm towards those that surrounded her and before parting gave each member of her flock a bag of food.  My first conclusion was that the nun had been conned and in her naïveté not realized who these people really were.  Years later, however, I wonder if it was I who had not perceived the true nature of my mendicant neighbor, seeing only her desperate drive to satisfy the addiction she was known to have… or if both versions of her had truth.