The days are darkening quicker and quicker. The winter solstice hurries in. By six o’clock the sky gives over completely to night and I feel as if it’s midnight. I want to curl up in bed and sleep. It feels to me as if I just got through winter. Oh right, because I did, somewhere on the other side of the equator. I already had my winter solstice once before. I think, “The winter of my discontent happened the summer I lived in Peru.” I’m not discontent; I just like the sound of the poetry. It’s raining a lot these past few days. Rain here in Cieneguilla is a drizzling softing of moisture. The cold seeps under your skin and lays a blanket of shivers around your bones. I put on an extra jacket and wear socks with my sandals—I don’t feel the shame I probably should for committing this horrible fashion faux pas.
|I really should apologize|
One of Walter’s longtime friends, Edwin, comes over on Sunday afternoon to shoot the breeze with Walter. He’s one of those guys who likes to have a lot of girls around him. Walter tells him, “Don’t try anything with her. She’s a world champion in Judo and she’ll hurt you.” I don’t deny it, though I was never a world champion, never even a national champion, but sometimes a little lie serves a greater good. Edwin doesn’t come on to me directly. He does, however, try to get me to agree to go away and come back with two of my friends for him. “Tell them I’ll give them Spanish lessons. They’ll learn Spanish in six months, no, better they stay for a year,” he says, his eyes twinkling with mischief. I laugh. “And do they need to know how to cook and clean?” I ask. “Oh no,” he says, “I’ll serve them on a silver platter, like this,” he takes the ash tray off the table and demonstrates, “breakfast in bed every day.” I can only shake my head at him.
“Have you finished your career?” he asks me, meaning my college education. I tell him yes and he says, “So you’re what, twenty-five?” It’s a nice compliment and he can tell I think so when I say, “I’ll be thirty-three tomorrow.” I’m glad about my age, I like where I am, but isn’t there always something nice about being thought you look younger than what you are? I guess not always, I didn’t really appreciate it the time the cashier at Tom Thumb thought I was twelve years old when I was seventeen. “Did you ride your bike to the store?” she asked me.“Your birthday is tomorrow?” Walter asks from the other room. “Really? I guess I’d better take you into Lima tomorrow after all to fix your internet then since it’s your birthday.”
My unlimited internet access had turned out to be a controlled plan and for whatever reason, one that completely confounds me, it isn’t possible to upgrade a plan over the phone. I’ve been using Walter’s mobile internet chip to check my emails and scurry around online when I can. I didn’t realize how much I like to be linked in on my own, how I like my independence and how I like reaching through cyber space to stay in touch.
On Monday June 20th I do indeed turn 33. My sister calls it “Your Jesus birthday.” I like that, though I hope for my sake I don’t end up on Golgotha. When we cross paths in the kitchen Walter says, “Happy birthday” and gives me a fatherly hug. Jose and Geraldine smile big and tell me, “Felicidades.” It’s Monday (as if that means anything bad to me here in Peru), it’s raining, it’s cold, it’s winter, but none of that matters. It’s funny how celebrating your own life can be so satisfying.
About 11:30 Walter and I catch the bus that takes us to Lima. It’s crowded and as people get off and on at the many stops there’s a constant shuffling of seats like the game fruit basket turnover. I take pictures in my mind of all this but not with my camera because today I don’t want to feel like a tourist.The street cleaners wear masks as they sweep the dirt sand dust out of the street and back onto the medians or into a trash container. Is it human nature that drives us to make order of the places where we live? Here in Peru the people make order of the dirt, sweeping it, taming it, even while it settles down on everything and everyone.
At Movistar it only takes the girl a few keystrokes and clicks of her mouse to alter my internet plan. Walter had to go with me to do this because the plan is under his phone number and his Peruvian DNI (which is like a social security number) and his signature is required on the papers she prints up for us. I ask her twice to make sure this new plan is really one with unlimited internet access and repeat the amount (which is less than what I thought I’d be paying per month for the original plan I had) per month a few times. She must think I’m stupid, but she reassures me. Although we’ve got things squared away the new plan won’t activate until Friday the 24th. I can handle a week without constant internet access, I tell myself, even as I plot to use Walter’s device when I can.We have to wait a long time on the corner of the street to flag down the right bus to take us home. Half of the buses that go to Cieneguilla don’t stop at the roundabout. “They leave you in the middle of nowhere,” Walter says. “You have to be sure to ask them if they go to the Ovalo.” Thirty minutes goes by. Maybe an hour. I’m a little tired of waiting and getting hungry so I pull out an apple. “You came prepared,” Walter says. I smile and keep on munching. You don’t want me to get too hungry, I think. Always be prepared, my motto intones in my head. I should have offered him an apple too. A birthday gift apple to him. Now I wish I had. I won’t be that rude again I tell myself now.
Eventually we get on a bus. Right away Walter starts talking to the man next to him about Peruvian politics. I listen with half my mind and with the other I daydream, staring out the windows, watching the people in the bus around me, and listening to the chatter.
|Humidity + hair = frizz|
With a drizzling mist descending on me, I walk home, grateful for the time to myself and for the exercise. It’s a good day to be alive. It’s a good day to be me.