Quietly, the older man approaches. His feet move slowly across the sand to our table near the water’s edge of a tiny island off the coast of Central America.
Our small boat rests in the sand nearby; we’ve stopped to grab a bite to eat on an island so small cars are not allowed on roads.
“Would you like to buy some freshly baked bread?”
His hands shake ever so slightly, his words as soft as his steps across the white sand.
“My wife baked it this morning,” he said.
Looking down, I see small bricks of cake topped with a slice of pineapple wrapped in cellophane.
His nods and edges his wares closer to me.
Skin darkened from a lifetime of living on sun-bleached sands isolated by teal blue waters, and he is as much a part of this island as the palm tree raining shade on us.
I take a piece, the bread still radiating heat from the oven.
Passing a couple of dollar bills to him, I ask if he would take a photo of my wife and me near the water.
He smiles and nods.
“I’m sorry I can’t. I’m blind.”
He explains he can barely see, and this is what he does each day. His wife bakes, and he goes outside selling the pineapple-topped bread. Together they make a living in spite of the challenges of their age and circumstances.
I pause and thank him and ask him to thank his wife for baking the bread.
Moments later, our lunch is delivered to our wooden picnic table, cooked on an open fire pit a few feet away.
Eating, I think of the man – a man living in a paradise he can barely see, struggling to earn a living from strangers coming ashore from small boats. I think of him and his wife’s routine, getting up at sunrise each day, scratching together another batch of bread, cutting the cake into individual cubes, and wrapping each in the clear plastic.
And then the man walks out the front door and into a world his vision has long since silenced to his eyes.
I finish my beans and rice and reach over for the small dark package. Moisture from the heat contents decorates the wrapper with dimples of water. My fingers feel the warmth of the man’s home transporting to me in my imagination to picturing the journey of my bread that day.
The bread is soft, the pineapple a perfect blend of sweet and bitter. The surface bends beneath the pressure of my fork, its freshness allowing it to break away only at the last moment. Afterward, my wife and I take turns picking at the leftover crumbs.
One day after returning home, my wife mentions to someone about us visiting the tiny island. They ask about the blind man and his bread and is he still there selling his wife’s banana nut bread. And suddenly, through magic of small brick of bread, the world becomes smaller.