Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"

Monday, July 11 – Goodbye Cusco

The time has come, the Walrus says, to pack your things, pay your bill, say your goodbyes and catch a bus to the airport. So I do. I get in the bus with the locals and place my bag on my lap to keep it out of the way. At one stop a lady and her four year old son get on. They take a spot on the small bench in front of me. On the seat next to me sits an older woman. The ladies know each other. They talk about mutual friends, how much Victor (the four year old) has grown, how big, how just like his father he is. I half listen to their conversation. I smile at the little boy. He gives me a shy, unsmiling look. “Hola,” I tell him quietly. His mom zooms in on me. “Oh, que linda. Dile hola (Oh, how cute. Tell her hi),” she says, speaking of me as if I’m not really there, or as if I’m behind a glass partition.
Victor says nothing.

“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Tell her your name, Victor,” his mom says, “Que preciosa (how precious–or if you’re from Texas the translation equivalent would be “Bless her heart,”),”she tells her friend about me.

“How old are you?” I’m still trying to break the ice with Victor, but I’m on the verge of giving up.
He holds up four fingers. Success!

“That’s great,” I tell him. I’m exhausted. What a conversation.
“He’s really big for his age,” the lady next to me says. “He’s big just like his father.”

A few stops later Victor and his mom leave. The ladies bid each other goodbye.
“Chau, Victor,” I say.

“Dile chau, Victor (tell her goodbye, Victor),” his mom says, “Que preciosa (Ain’t she just the cutest thing. Foreigners are just the quaintest)!”
I stay silent for the remainder of the trip. How precious.

The bus drops me off at the outskirts of the airport. I walk across the street and through the chain link fencing and I’m in. I check in at the Peruvian Airlines counter, mill around a bit then head for security. Days earlier, a lifetime ago, I’d packed for this trip. Perhaps thinking the Boy Scout Motto of “Always be Prepared” I’d brought along a corkscrew. Now this is a corkscrew that made it through the 2011 Relentless Purging of Things. It made the cut to come with me to Peru with approximately 100 other pounds of clothes and flotsam. Barely. Good on you, Corkscrew.

I remember thinking when I packed for Cusco, “If I need to open a bottle of wine, I’ll have this corkscrew with me.” I don’t remember thinking, “This is a metal object with a somewhat sharp end that might not make it through security and if they confiscate it then I won’t have my own corkscrew anymore.”

The Limeño security agent had looked the corkscrew over, opened it up, folded it back together and nodded. He’d only taken and thrown away a very thin metal nail file to which I had really no emotional attachment. I’d been relieved. Happy even. “Oh Corkscrew, what was I thinking bringing you along?” I’d asked it then. “So glad you made it.”
Not once during my stay in Cusco, despite my numerous drinking excursions, did I use the corkscrew. I didn’t even think of it while I was wandering around in ruins, or gazing down into valleys, or reining in a pony that wanted nothing else but to be back home, or while dancing to funky songs in Mama Africa.

I’m sure you can see where this is heading.
I put my bag on the conveyer belt. I don’t even bother taking off my shoes. I hadn’t even bothered to make sure all my liquids were three ounces or less or crowded all together in one quart sized bag. This is Peru.  

The guy behind the x-ray screen gets down off his stool and picks up my bag. “Is this yours?” he asks me in Spanish.
I admit to it.

“Do you have a corkscrew in here?”
“Yes,” I say.

“Take it out.”
I rummage through my bag and pull out the corkscrew.

He takes it. He opens up the screw and looks at it.
“It’s not dangerous,” I protest. “The security guy in Lima let me bring it through.” I sound stupid, I know. But I’m trying my darnedest to keep it. We have a history, that corkscrew and I, it came with me all the way from Colorado. I kept it from among so many other things I let go. It’ll be lonely without me.

He heartlessly throws it into the forbidden items bin. When he turns to his coworker he says, “And she’s from the U.S. You’d think she’d know better.” He doesn’t know I’m standing right here where I can hear? I’m angry and he’s justified. I should have known better.

I practice the Zen I learned when exercising the 2011 Relentless Purging of Things and say, “I am not attached to that corkscrew.” It feels like forsaking a friend to say it and like the Carpenter I shed a bitter tear.


  1. At least they didn't take your gun!

  2. I lost a Swiss army knife given me by Chelsey just to get on a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty.