The Interpreter

August 20, 2010
By forrestsp GOLD, Cordova, Tennessee
forrestsp GOLD, Cordova, Tennessee
16 articles 0 photos 0 comments

From the corner of my eye I saw the villagers as they careened my way exasperated, carrying a rotund man. I was the floating interpreter for the make-shift clinic. We set up this morning in the dark. I serviced one dentist, one pharmacist, an optometrist, and a nurse practitioner. Who had just rushed towards the commotion with the intensity of a hockey player, but the heart of angel. I rushed to provide the large man a chair as the nurse practitioner; Ms. Lucy reached out and touched the man’s hand. She always wanted the patient to know that he mattered to her, and only being able to speak English disabled her in the ability to communicate with her patients in the Dominican Republic. “Donde duele Senor”? Asked trying to determine where it hurt, he looked at me with intensity in his eyes. He opened his mouth and a distinct dank rotting smell diffused into the air until its putrid stench tickled my nose. He responded so simply by saying “no duele,” It doesn’t hurt. The statement is so simple, but when he pointed to his leg it became horrifying. From the knee down, the man’s leg was swollen; so much so that his skin had began to break apart like a hotdog when it has been cooked too long. The first thing I thought of was elephantitis, but before my train of thought could take off, Ms. Lucy removed the tracks. She asked, “What happened?” I interpreted. The man reached into his satchel and retrieved a long crunchy item and placed it in my hands. He began to tell me a story, and the further the story went, the more I began to realize what he had just given me. He said he was coming back from the field and a snake struck from his side, attacking his upper ankle, the man reached for his machete and lopped the snake’s head off, and at that very moment the motionless cadaver of the snake was making its home in my lap. Soon after the snake bite, he went to see the “Curandero” otherwise known as a witch-doctor, who sucked the poison out and performed a ritual on the man. First he took a machete and gashed a deep hole in the man’s shin, cutting out a chunk of muscle. Then the Curandero stopped the bleeding by sealing the cut by heating a hot metal and applying it directly to the laceration, searing the blood causing an immediate scab. The empty space was packed in with mud to “keep evil spirits away.” I repeated the story to Ms. Lucy, who immediately propped up his intumesced leg. Her pupils became a full moon and she blared towards the pharmacy for someone to hand her a scalpel. I positioned his leg on the chair and as my fingers touched the lump leg, a maggot squished out of the gash that had been filled in with mud. She pried open the first clump of dirt. Next she made a slit in the middle of the gash. Maggots poured out all over the floor. The fly larvae had been feasting on the inside of the man’s leg. They had destroyed the nerves in his foot to the point where it was numb. Ms. Lucy’s face rotted. She looked up at me and said, “This man is going to die, and there is nothing we can do about it.” My heart dropped, because I was the interpreter. It was my job to tell this man, whose name is still unknown to me, that he had days left to live. In our sweaty, humid clinic equipped with one dentist, one pharmacist, an optometrist, a nurse practitioner, and a very, very scared young man, I sunk my head into my hands. Why, God, am I being tested like this? Why am I here right now? I argued with Him a lot in those seconds. Seconds. Those few seconds have now become defining moments in my life. I looked the nameless man in the eyes and told him that his ailment couldn’t be cured. I told him that he was going to die. His eyes looked back despairingly. He didn’t plead for more. He didn’t ask me to explain. He just got up and walked away. A battle had been won, not a selfish internal battle about my triumph over a great fear. No I was not as brave a Beowulf. The battle was won in the hearts of the Dominican Republic, because though I had just signed a man’s certificate of death. By the end of the day we saved the lives of thousands of villagers in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. But just like in Beowulf, though one’s means may be just, and though a battle is won, there will always be a casualty. The same way it was in the Dominican Republic, where a man more brave than me accepted death with no tears, just like Beowulf, but stronger.

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This article has 8 comments.

Doug789 said...
on Sep. 6 2010 at 12:22 am
Wow this is insane!

AdriT said...
on Sep. 4 2010 at 7:39 pm
Great writing style! This sounds like a hard experience.

mikey346 said...
on Sep. 4 2010 at 6:28 pm
omg this was incredible! you should publish more!

on Sep. 1 2010 at 3:33 pm
this was right on.

annie123 said...
on Aug. 30 2010 at 8:09 pm
Wow how incredible this article is!!!

elguero said...
on Aug. 28 2010 at 9:22 pm
Whoa - that's a lot of responsibility for a teen!  I hope your parents helped you to process this gut-wrenching experience.  I see a lot of maturity here.

Linzim70 said...
on Aug. 28 2010 at 1:03 pm
That is a heart warming story! You are an amazing young man, and a very talented writer! I hope you go far in life!

on Aug. 27 2010 at 4:21 pm
Annika Wuerfel, Bartlett, Tennessee
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
This was a really great story! It was very intense, interesting, and a little disturbing. I can't believe this is a true story!!!

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