Empty Cans

By ORLANDO ALVAREZ

It was the summer of 1990, and I was living in an apartment building in Jackson Heights, Queens. Everything looked good to me. I had started to meet new neighbors and make new friends because I had moved there not long before. I remember at that time there was an important event going on in Europe. It was the soccer World Cup, and everybody was following it.

One Saturday evening, the most important game finally arrived. It was Colombia vs. Germany. A lot of people were outside of my building watching the game because the super had put a TV in the window facing the street. People got very excited, and they made a lot of noise. They were celebrating, and of course, drinking beer.
Suddenly, I turned my eyes to the left, and I saw a woman sitting down next to me. She was holding a plastic bag in her right hand. I remember that she said, “Hello.” But I couldn’t answer because my communication in English was very limited at that time. She continued talking to me and asking so many questions: “What’s happening here? Why are a lot of people on the street?” Finally, she realized that it was a soccer game.

After a little while, I asked her if she drank beer. She started to laugh, “No, I don’t drink. I just pick up the empty cans:’ The game was getting interesting, and the people continued drinking. At the end of the

evening, the lady put more than 100 empty cans in her bag. I don’t remember seeing anybody happier than this woman on that day.
As time passed, we became friends and grew very connected to each other, this elderly woman and I. For many years, I found in this person a kind friend with a lot of good qualities. It was easy to learn from somebody I respected and who was sincere. She had lived a lonely life because she didn’t have any family. In time, she decided to move into a nursing home to wait for a better life.
June Walker, I will never forget you. I am going to keep in my memory the day that I met you, thanks to all those simple empty cans.
Orlando Alvarez writes: “I come from Neiva, Hui/a, a small town located in the south of Colombia. I have lived in the U.S. for 25 years.

Currently,  Im attending ESOL classes at the Consortium for Worker Education, and I want to thank my teacher, Jackie Bain, who encourages many students in this program.”

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