This is an excerpt from Adam Shepard´s One Year Lived, which is available now at www.Amazon.com.
For more excerpts and to view photos from Adam´s journey, visit www.OneYearLived.com.

Honduras Child Alliance

I don’t love kids. I’m never the life of the party when kids are around. I’m usually standing in the corner and hoping they don’t decide to bring their jabbering language and grubby fingers my way. And likewise, they never jump to attention upon my arrival—it’s as if they know there are better, more willing targets for their wild affection and energy. “What are you even talking about, bambino?” I ask them. “I don’t get it. Whatever. Call me when you’ve learned a couple three-syllable words and you’re reading books that don’t have pictures in them.”

Kids want to play. They want to run toward things and away from things and throw things and catch things and construct things out of beads and yarn and tell knock-knock jokes that I have to pretend are clever. “Ah! I get it! Because the cow says ‘moo,’ and he interrupts you before you’re done talking. I like that one. Good one. The interrupting cow. Moo. Yeah . . . Another one? Man, I’d love to hear another one, but I think I hear my . . . uh”—cough—“calling. Besides, a good comedian always ends on his best joke, right?” And they never rest. Man, kids never rest. Their feet run for as long as their little mouths do, and it’s just exhausting. I don’t have time for them. I’m growing up and away from juvenile behavior and toward scholarship, and I have better things to do. Yeah, scholarship. That’s my excuse. I’m too scholarly to be bothered with this immaturity.

Besides, these are other people’s children. Where are their parents? They should be around here somewhere. I’m not getting paid to babysit.

My brother, Erik, though? He’ll make a great father one day. He bounces into a five-year-old’s birthday party with a lively grin, arms in the air, and voice pitched with excitement. Hours later, he exits, head ducked. Utterly spent but happy nonetheless. He’s always the center of attention, crowds aged two to sixty-two, but he specializes in youngsters. He’s the godfather of three children from three different families and counting. He once built a customized easel from scratch for one of their birthdays. An easel that you paint on. From scratch. All of that throwing and catching and running and constructing and pausing to tell jokes? That’s him. They adjourn just long enough for a noisy round of cookies or cake, if tendered, and then they’re off again.

“Just stick ’em in the basement,” my mom always says. “And we’ll grab ’em when it’s time to leave.” Set ’em and forget ’em. Throwing, catching, running, constructing, jokes. Throwing, catching, running, constructing, jokes.

“Where’s Erik going?” I heard a boy say once to his mom as my family left their house. “He’s not leaving, is he?” He delivered the words with a pleading, dejected tone, his entire face already sinking into a full-lipped pout. “Is he leaving?” His mom’s affirmation of Erik’s departure sent the poor kid off wailing to his room.

It’s always been like that, since I was six and Erik was five. And for whatever reason, he is never the one to get hurt. I am. He’ll be caked in mud or building a makeshift sled or bundled up in camo to lead a gang off into the woods to go exploring, and I’m headed to the hospital with a cut on my forehead. Sixteen stitches required, just because I didn’t want to be left out. Gravity doesn’t apply to Erik, but it hammers me every time. I should have been on the front stoop reading or out back shooting hoops or, y’know, socializing with the other scholars in the vicinity, but instead I’m lumbering off to the hospital pressing a bloody rag above my eye.

Yeah, love is a strong word, so it’s tough for me to tell you that I love kids. Mostly, that’s because I generally don’t even like them. I don’t dislike them necessarily; I’m just indifferent. They can have their little games, and I’ll have my conversations on current events and lands journeyed. We’ll go to our separate corners and reconvene when it’s time for cookies, milk, and Ritalin.

But this trip around the world wasn’t about me. It was about the places I’d see and the people I’d meet. When I googled “volunteer in Latin America,” I arrived at essentially the last affordable place to volunteer. Honduras Child Alliance is an organization devoted to advancing the lives of the youth of El Porvenir, that little town on the Caribbean coast where I decided to hang my hat for two months. The organization’s vacation activities program gives kids a positive outlet for all their energy during those three months that school is out of session.

El porvenir means “the future” in English. In the States, and in every other developed country across the world, children are the future, sure, but there’s opportunity there that doesn’t necessarily exist everywhere. And in the States, even if we completely screw up our lives in the early years, there’s almost always time to recover:

Don’t want to go to class now? No problem! You can get your GED on the cheap whenever you’re ready.

Don’t feel like working now? Sounds great! There’s plenty of time to gain experience when you’re older. And besides, with a little grit, you can start your own small business anytime.

Wanna smoke a little crack? Steal a car? Rob the corner minimart? Go for it! The state will pay for your rehab program or a shiny diploma while you’re in prison spending your nights trying to figure out how to make a shiv out of a melon rind.

In Honduras, though, the children are the future to the extent that the adults—once children with promise—aren’t progressing the country forward. Honduras counted on those bright children slipping through the cracks to be their next innovators. Bright children fall away in the States, and there are plenty of others to stand up in their place; we’ll do just fine with crews of free-spirited genius heroin addicts roaming the streets. There are no second chances in Honduras, however, and even the first chance doesn’t look very encouraging. Even the kids who make it, the ones who finish high school and go off to college—the state pays for classes only up to the sixth grade—find their way right back to their hometown to hawk chocolate-covered bananas or man the local seafood market, occupations that didn’t require an education in the first place. Clerking at the bank is the goal, but those limited positions fill quickly.

I can’t change any of that, though. What I can do is run and throw and catch and construct. And read. After living in Honduras for a week, I found myself struggling to develop a daily routine. I didn’t have the lay of the town—I was following other volunteers wherever they went—and I knew only a few kids by name. We had just returned to the church from a morning spent playing outside, the whole group was strewn across the concrete floor around me—sweaty, every one of them—and here was my orientation: Erlin, all four and a half feet, eighty pounds of Erlin, sat near my lap, beseeching me to read the book again, the first time this had happened to me since my arrival in El Porvenir. Story time can be fun, but it’s never quite as fun as soccer or Steal the Bacon or jumping rope or races. For them, story time is the brief-as-we-can-make-it gateway from snack time to time back out on the field.

But here they were, ordering another reading. “Otra vez!” they all shouted, one on top of the other. “Otra vez!

I read my favorite book from when I was a child, Love You Forever, and my heart was spirited. The book’s most popular verse translates the same into Spanish as I’m sure it must to every language in the world.

I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

As long as I’m living,

My baby you’ll be.

We’d read ten children’s classics to them so far over the weeks—Curious George, Dr. Seuss, Clifford the Big Red Dog—all to applause, but this was the first one they asked me to repeat. And this was certainly the first and only one where they chimed in on the chorus, lifting their voices with mine.

Para siempre te amaré,

Para siempre te querré,

Mientras en mí haya vida,

Siempre serás mi bebé.

This was why I went to Honduras. I didn’t go to sightsee or to relax, lounging on a sandy beach. I wasn’t on vacation. I was there to spend hours on Sunday planning an entertaining and enriching itinerary for the kids’ week. I flew 1722 miles and bumped elbows with other travelers in cramped buses and boats, all to run and catch and construct. And for those moments when Erlin requested a story again. Maybe I’d enjoy myself and maybe not, I thought, but I arrived in Honduras with the singular intent to engage a couple of kids—not ten or twenty, necessarily—to tell a boy or girl, or two or three, that there was more out there than selling chocolate-covered bananas and working fish stalls in the market. That there was opportunity waiting for them, that they’d better get their shit together if they ever want to taste the life that lay on the other side of the fence. That if they stayed in school, studied a little extra, developed an entrepreneurial mind, and maybe learned English, they had a shot.

They say “okay!” but it was hard for us volunteers to compete with their often strained home life. Mom and Dad didn’t emphasize or enforce school by day and study by night. Five-year-old Daniella, with her little pigtails bouncing on either side of her round cheeks, came in crying after lunch because her mom hit her. Luis missed three days in a row, because his dad dictated work to be done. Jenifer brought her pants-less baby brother—pecker pointing to the sky—to class, because, well, “there’s nowhere else for him to go, and I want to be here for the activities program.” These kids’ vocabularies were weak. They were starved for affection and attention. Their parents loved them, but love takes different forms in different cultures.

But the kids didn’t complain, and they certainly weren’t sentenced to distressed childhoods. Some of them knew they were poor, but everybody was poor, so what? Mostly, they couldn’t understand that they were likely cycling through a state of perpetual poverty. They stumbled over bottles and wrappers in the streets, dropped firecrackers in passing, and played soccer in bare feet, because that was normal. They didn’t fully understand the answers to their inquiries about the destitute life in the States. “Hold up, you mean to tell me that our counterparts to the north eat three hearty meals a day and have free access to the Internet at public libraries? Well, ain’t that a little unfair.” To them, all of the people wearing business suits and driving in glossy cars lived on an island called Hollywood. Talk of millionaires was assuredly sarcastic, as if someone could ever actually obtain that much money. This was all they knew—dusty streets and soccer in bare feet—and they would have had to know better to be upset about it.

For the most part, these kids didn’t have time to think about what their lives could be like because they were too busy being a pain in my ass, just like a couple of the children I knew back home. They ran around when you told them it was not time to run around. They clapped and sang and talked during quiet time. They were outside when it was time to be inside, inside when it was time to be outside, and over there at the field when none of the volunteers had even mentioned one word about migrating in that direction. They paid attention when it suited their needs, and they made three bracelets when we clearly set the allotment at two. And they constantly made fun of my pronunciation.

Frijoles,” I’d say, and they’d laugh.

“It’s frijoles,” they’d chant.

“That’s what I said. Frijoles.”

Laughter. “Escucha, Adán. Frijoles.”

“Right. Frijoles.”

Laughter.

I’d keep my face very straight, adopting a look of innocent confusion. “What? Frijoles.”

Adán! Frijoles!

I’d ask them whether they use champoo to watch their hair when they were taking chowers.

Sometimes jokes and laughter filled our days together, and sometimes we had to send the villains home to do a whole bunch of nothing for their break from school. Some days I was the hero they all gathered around, and some days kids refused to sit next to me in the circle. One day after snack time, Hector threw his empty paper plate on the ground. He glared up at me and called me an hijo de puta for not giving him seconds. Turning, he stomped out, knowing he was going to be sent home anyway.

I deserved every bit of trouble they gave me, though. The ghost of my schooldays past must have hitched a ride on my journey to Central America. I was a lovable little pupil in kindergarten. But after playtime ended and the time to actually learn something rolled around in the first grade, I never gave my teachers a break. All the way through. In the eleventh grade, we had to do ten-minute presentations about a social topic of our own selection. Ashley Foor wrote S-E-X in big letters on the board in an effort to grab everyone’s attention, strode to the podium, and—chin raised high and with a small smile—declared, “I am going to speak about saving virginity for marriage.” She made an eloquent and compelling presentation on this topic. Then, when my turn came to present, I wrote S-E-X in big letters on the board, mimicked her confident walk up to the podium, and proceeded to give a lecture on the evolution of the basketball shoe. Chuck Taylors to present. I showed a video of an interview I did at a local shoe store—me standing between two black dudes—and I called it my Oreo-cookie interview. I had a fake cell phone in my pocket as I stood in front of the class, and I made it ring halfway through my presentation, pretending to tell my classmate Kareem’s mom that “I can’t talk just now, babe, but I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight, if only you could please wear that red nightie that you know I like.” I then called back to Ashley’s presentation, making a remark or two about the absurd idea of saving yourself for marriage: “Where will you get your creativity from, if not a few preliminary romps?” I demanded, heroically. “And God help you if you get to your wedding night, and your partner is bad in bed. What then?” I threw my arms up in puzzlement as a series of muffled laughs rippled through my juvenile audience. “What will you do then, I ask you all? Why not try it before you buy it?” And then there was something more about the evolution of the basketball shoe.

My teachers—Ms. Armstrong and Ms. Campbell—sat silent at the back of the room, expecting something like this, clicking five points off my grade at a time, finally cutting me off and inviting me to spend the duration of the class in the hallway. Good for them; what a jerk I was, that desperado making a mockery of their classroom. I would have appealed to bring back corporal punishment if I were either one of them.

I spent two months in Honduras rounding up those rascals. And maybe that was the commencement of a lifelong effort to atone for the terror I was all the way up until I skittered off to college and got serious.

But maybe I’m exaggerating how tough it was to control those little darlings down in Honduras. Even among this roguery, every day was fresh and exciting for all of us. We sent the baddies home, and the rest of us read books. We made bracelets out of beads and string, and then I helped tie them around the kids’ tiny wrists. We learned how to run the diamond of the kickball field counterclockwise and how to throw the ball at an opposing player to get an out. (If only their proficiency with their hands matched that of their feet.) We dodged horseshit as we rounded the bases and paused momentarily for the cows when it was their turn to graze through. We crafted the solar system out of papier-mâché. We drew. We painted. We sang. We ran dizzy bat races, no doubt a first in El Porvenir. We ate bananas and pineapple or rice and beans on a tortilla during snack time. We played with puppets, the children giggling hysterically about the characters having the same broken, mispronounced Spanish that I myself used. We went to the beach and learned to Slip ’n Slide on a flimsy clear tarp that John managed to scrounge up. We stayed in to do our stretching exercises and learn English phrases when it poured, but played outside in a drizzle.

These kids were tough, and they were competitive. We played Steal the Bacon, and that plastic bottle in the middle mattered. They wanted that bottle. They needed that bottle. They focused everything they had on that bottle. They scratched for that bottle. They plotted to get the bottle. Tempers rose. Nothing else in the world mattered except latching their fragile fingers onto that bottle.

I think we lose some of that enthusiasm as we grow older.

These kids were witty, too, just like the nine-year-old class clowns back home. One day, we were doing an opening circle exercise, each person describing their hero. Some proudly declared their mom, their dad, or a grandparent their hero. Others, a famous soccer player or historical figure. Luis said the Incredible Hulk.

“Okay,” I said, probing further, “but why the Incredible Hulk?”

“Because I’m like him. Most of the time, he’s a normal guy. But he can always get angry, and his muscles puff up.” He pushed his shirt up to his shoulder to expose his flexed right bicep.

His sister, Esther, hollered from across the room. “Look at you, Luis! You don’t have any muscles!”

“That’s because right now I’m normal,” he shot back. “Don’t make me angry.”

I made the beans for their snack one Wednesday. Unanimously, the kids decided my beans were . . . less than delicious. “Terrible,” they said to me, no hesitation. “Too dry. No flavor. They smell rotten. Did you use chicken stock . . . ? Water . . . ? You just used water . . . ? Who taught you that?” Do you have any idea how bad your beans have to be for the gracious poor kids of Honduras to detest them? Nauseated from hunger, they still turned down my beans. Ivana, a gorgeous volunteer from Slovakia, made beans the following week, and they couldn’t get enough, but mine went virtually uneaten.

The girls taught me how to string a proper bracelet, and the boys taught me how to work my way around a defender. I showed the girls how to do a push-up and a sit-up the right way, and I showed the boys how to do a chest bump after a score. I showed everybody how guys dance in the States.

For two months, I got to know Kevin. And Esther. And Keni. And Yolani. Lisbeth, tall and gangly for her age, begged me to sit next to her during story time. Breny laughed at my pronunciation every time I spoke. Pretty much every time I saw him, Daniel asked when we were going outside. Suany just wanted to make necklaces, her fingertips nimbly shifting through the beads to find the perfect color combination. Herles just wanted to play soccer. Carlos asked when we were going for a ride in the airplane. Tapping on my arm like a little woodpecker, Javier pestered me for leftover snacks, and Oscar didn’t say five words as long as I knew him.

Everybody has their favorites, just as so many of my teachers along the way picked me and my little band as their least favorites. For me, my favorite from the beginning was Luis. Curious and mischievous, he also minded when I told him to put his breeches in his seat and listen up or else I’d make him eat my beans.

Once I’d surveyed the lay of the town and developed a daily routine—bike to the church for morning activities, walk to Oscar’s living-room gym to lift weights during the lunch hour, return to the church for afternoon activities, bike home, make guacamole, read, eat, relax, go to bed—Luis started creeping in my shadow during the day. I’d arrive early to find Luis sitting on the step of the church, waiting for me. He was only thirteen but he was already making attempts to impress the ladies by spiking his hair, keeping his teeth white, and wearing a dab of cologne that he scavenged from who knows where.

“Adán,” he’d ask in Spanish as he scampered a few steps behind me on our way back from playing outside. “Is every road paved in your town back home?”

“Sure is,” I’d say to him, and he’d reply with a smile and an “Eschúchele.” Listen to this guy. He always said, “Listen to this guy.”

“And a lot of people have cars?” he’d ask.

“At least one per family,” I’d tell him, pacing slowly so he could keep up.

Escúchele. And your mustache. All the other volunteers are growing mustaches for the month of November. Why does your face have only about six hairs?”

He inquired about snow and skiing and what I did for work and how much money I made per day and whether I had a closet full of clothes back home or just the two shirts I always wore in Honduras. “Escúchele.” He asked me about my girlfriend, referencing scripture. “It says Adán y Eva, man. But I never see you with any Eva.” Curiosity filled his eyes as he skipped over a puddle in the street.

“I’m still looking for her. She’s missing. Let me know if you find her.”

And that’s how it started, right there on that grungy road with Luis. “Adán sin Eva” quickly spread across town as my new nickname—Adam Without Eve—and for six weeks, inquiries came at me from the street sides of this small town from people I’d never met. “Dónde está Eva?

I told them I’d located forty-seven Evas online, but none of them had returned my e-mails. I told them she was on her way, not ten minutes behind me. I told them she was at home cooking. I told them she says hi.

They’d pass me walking to the store with Ivana. “Ay! Adán sin Eva. Pero, Adán con Ivana!” Ivana and I had been hanging out a bit, and that was great. I was working my game. Now these adorable little children were mocking me around every corner.

Biking the last leg to the church, I sped down the thoroughfare in approach. Ahead, all my little tykes stood on the steps of the church. As soon as I pulled up, they cried in unison, “Adán sin Eva!” I glared at Luis, since he’d started this “Adán sin Eva” business. He just laughed. A few of the kids would run to me and valet my bike, asking about Eva. “She ate some bad fruit,” I told them. “So, she’s at home sick today. She offered some to me, and it was tempting, but I didn’t take it.” We’d hug, high-five, unlock the church, and get started on the day’s activities.

Then came the last day before Christmas break. We threw a party with food and games and a piñata, and we made paper snowflakes and greeting cards for our parents. Anthony stared up at me, and asked, “Adán, instead of eating my lunch, can I wrap it up and take it home to my mom after the party?”

All the planning, all the rounding up, all the times I waited patiently for them to quiet down, all the lectures, all the energy I expended making the round-trip by bike—twice a day each way—all the money I spent on little artsy knickknacks, all the lice that Sarah found in her hair, us demanding her to return to the volunteer house to boil her sheets and towels and all her clothes, all the effort just might have been worth it.

 

When I’m seventy, my grandchildren, all six or seven of them, will sit around my La-Z-Boy at Christmas, and they will want to hear stories about my one-year journey. The aroma of a honey-glazed ham and turkey and green-bean casserole and stuffing and cheesy hash browns and mashed potatoes drifts softly into the living room from grandma’s kitchen. Two pies—pecan, my favorite, and pumpkin, which I don’t care for—are cooling out back on the screened-in porch. And my grandchildren will ask me questions.

“Why is it”—one of them will ask looking at an old photo, probably one of me casually posing with my muscles flexed atop a Maya ruin—“that you used to be young and handsome and now you’re old and wrinkled?”

“This is the circle of life,” I will tell them, before mentioning that their bodies are already slowly beginning to shrink and wrinkle like fallen leaves and they will look like me soon enough. “Right there around the eyes, the creases,” I will point out to whichever one of those impish little nippers posed the question in the first place. “I see you’ve already gotten a head start.”

“Did you meet the Dalai Lama?” they will ask. “Did you buy anything for Grandma? Like a scarf or something? Did you see any Asian people? I mean, like, real Asian people. Not like the ones with funny accents that we have in the United States.”

I’ll try not to be the contemptuous old man, but I’ll have to wonder whether there’s any creativity to any of these inquiries or whether a few of my grandkids will need to be tested for learning disabilities.

Then, a raised hand from the corner will catch my attention. One shy grandchild will sit alone, having sat silently this entire time. When our eyes meet, he’ll wait, hand still raised, for me to acknowledge him. Good Lord, son. You needn’t raise your hand to speak in this household. I’ll point to him.

“What is the one place you enjoyed the most during your journey?” he’ll ask, and I’ll be curious why it takes the most intelligent ones so much time to gather the moxie to be more outgoing. Why are you sitting in the corner? I’ll wonder. Please don’t sit in the corner. Are you listening to the rest of these questions? You really are the only hope for this family.

This question, though, about the one place I enjoyed the most will be a question I’ve long pondered. The one place. Maybe it won’t be fair for me to think about these things, since I’ll have enjoyed the trip as a whole, and every individual spot from start to finish will have been new and exciting and held its own flavor, and besides, our greatest adventures are the next ones—whether those adventures are a segment of a ’round-the-world trip or just hoping to finish dinner without our teeth falling out. Great places we’ve been, great places we will revisit, great new places still left for us to discover. Right? Nevertheless, though, we all have that special place in our past. Maybe it’s a moment, or maybe it’s a location—maybe it’s a particular look in a woman’s eyes or maybe it’s watching the sunrise over an unfamiliar and exotic horizon. It’s useless, perhaps, to hope to return there, but maybe it’s enough to have a picture painted, etched forever, in our minds. That one place; that special place.

“Honduras,” I’ll say, and this will grab everyone’s attention. They’ll all scoff at me. “Honduras!” they’ll yell, looking one to the other as if I can’t possibly be serious. He must be kidding, this antique of a man. “Honduras?” they’ll ask again, just to make sure they heard me correctly. “You fought bulls in Nicaragua and rode an elephant in Thailand and hiked Abel Tasman in New Zealand and bungee jumped in Slovakia, and you’re telling us the place you enjoyed the most was Honduras?” They haven’t heard favorable reports from anywhere in Central America and especially not from Honduras.

“Yes,” I’ll say. I settle down into my chair. “Honduras.” But I won’t explain it to them. They won’t understand; no elaboration will be sufficiently convincing. Somehow, such experiences shed merit as they pass from occurrence to anecdote. “You’ll just have to go see it for yourself,” I’ll tell them.

Honduras.

I don’t necessarily have a particular affection for Honduras as a country, nor would I even put it on a top one hundred list of vacation destinations (save for the Bay Islands). But when people ask me the one place where I wish I could have frozen time, I will tell them to put me back on that field with those children in Honduras. Those children, one or two wearing a pair of shoes, a couple in bare feet, most of them in sandals. The sun searing my neck, salty sweat draining into my scratches and cuts and scabbed mosquito bites, burning like flowing lava. A dehydration headache and a stuffy nose lingering from the germs streaming through the air and passing from hand to hand.

It’s three o’clock, an hour shy of close-up time. I’m exhausted, muscles groaning and begging me to lie down and be still. Two sessions of activities with the kids; weightlifting during the lunch break. The soccer field is that vast blend of trampled grass pounded into the mud with net-less goals gaping to the north and south.

Carlos, eight years old, zips over to me with a wide smile that can’t possibly be replicated. He looks up and into my eyes. He makes his appeal. “Adán!” he pleads. Man, that smile. “Adán! Avión!” He raises his arms up to me. It’s airplane time; three o’clock is always airplane time, and as soon as he mentions this, the herd drops the soccer ball they’ve been kicking among them and thunders toward me. Assembling around me, they cheer one another on while awaiting their turn.

One after another, I hoist them up by their waists, grunt as I stretch my arms over my head, and sail them through the air. I run fast, careful to keep from slipping in the muddy grass. I make each flight as thrilling as I can while keeping a little gas in the tank for the next flyer. They open up wide, arms and legs extended to capacity, and they set themselves free. These kids had a small lunch at home, maybe a little rice and beans, and some beans and pineapple will be served for dinner. Their dads cherish them but work too long and too hard to have any energy to play with them at night, and their moms will have a list of chores that continue long into the evening. They’ll sleep three or four to a room, sharing hard, scratchy, fifteen-year-old mattresses, and they’ll wish their parents could afford just one more fan to keep the sweat from beading all over their bodies while they sleep. But right now? Right now, right at that moment out on that field, they’re soaring through the air, no worries. The breeze plays across their faces; the air welcomes and embraces them and makes them forget. One after the other.

Adán! Avión! Vamos!

I extend my own arms up, lift them over my head. I slow down, searching for that second and third and fourth wind, but they want me to pick the speed back up. “Más rápido!” they chant, and who am I to take them for a ride in a puddle jumper when they clearly signed up for a ride on an F-15? I pick up speed.

Más rápido!” they scream. “Más rápido!

We soar from one end of the field to the other and back. Again and again, one plane at a time, twenty little birds following behind, their laughter echoing through the soccer field and bouncing off the trees and cracked plaster and wooden homes around us. Everybody is smiling now, eager for their turn. I’ve caught my next wind. They want to dive—y’know this business of flying in a straight line is fun enough but still not quite as fun as finding a wild current to jolt this plane from the ground to the sky.

So we catch a drift. We swoop and we soar. We’re at the mercy of that burst of air now; it’s out of my control. They laugh and bellow for more. And life is good.

I wish this moment would never end.

But it does. Just like that, we have to go inside for story time. This frustrates them for five seconds or so—they’ll play airplane until next Tuesday if given the chance—but they quickly get excited about which story we’ll be reading. To which land will we travel today? Will Dr. Seuss be there? Curious George? That fierce dragon from yesterday’s tale? The ugly duckling? There’ll be more time to fly in the avión tomorrow.

Yeah, Honduras. Sitting there at seventy, I’m imagining that my life will have mattered to somebody, if no one more than my family. It will have been a great life, and if I keep walking my two miles a day and taking my cholesterol medication religiously, and if that savage dog next door doesn’t dig his way out of his backyard and kill me first, maybe I’ll squeak out some more years. I should probably go easy on the whiskey, though, and the second helpings at the dessert bar aren’t helping. But looking back on my year, that great year I had in my twenties, if given the opportunity to pick one place to which I can return, I’ll want to be back on that field in Honduras. Miserably hot, no water in sight, shade an illusion, no air conditioning to look forward to; and I couldn’t possibly have cared any less. I just wanted to see those kids’ eyes sparkle.

I just wanted to take them for one more ride in an airplane.

Adam Shepard´s One Year Lived is available now at www.Amazon.com. For more excerpts
and to view photos from Adam´s journey, visit www.OneYearLived.com.