Monday, September 19, 2011

Auld Lang Syne in Miraflores

September 19, 2011 – Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?

No way! God forbid! May it never be! But first things first. My friend Nicole sends me an email a week or so ago which says: Hey! How's everything in Peru? A cool friend of mine is going to Lima and then cusco.. Landing sept 17th. Any chance you'll be around and would be willing to hook up with her? Let me know. No pressure of course!
My brow furrows for one second when I wonder what exactly she means by "hook up." I snort and tell myself to get my mind out of the gutter. Then after a pint-sized panic where I think, "I wonder if this friend will want to tag along with me on the IO-50 while I teach classes?" I respond with a, "Hecks yeah, a cool friend of yours is a friend of mine."
Time passes by and I hear nothing. I nearly forget. But a shadowy memory of this potential encounter hovers like a deaf-dumb poltergeist in my mind. While I'm walking to the internet cafe to print out the material for my Saturday film class I think that maybe Nicole's friend doesn't want to hook up with me.

Hey, I think in protest, but I'm cool too.

Dispelling my insecurities, later, on Saturday I get an email from Sarah: My name is Sarah, I am a friend of Nicole and she gave me your contact info. She said you are living in Lima? I just arrived yesterday. I am going to be in Peru for two months and will be doing a volunteer gig in Cusco for the month of October. Do you have any recommendations on where to go in Lima, or in Peru in general? Also, if you are up for it, I would love to meet! I am currently in Miraflores.

Miraflores? This is perfect. Miraflores is a safe and well-trod stomping grounds for me.
I scan my September calendar. I’ve got Sundays free. “I’d love to,” I tell her. “Would Sunday work at about 1:00? We could walk around Miraflores or whatever.”
“I would love to walk around,” she writes me back, “but I don’t know how the weather will hold.”
I’d like to say, me neither, but I can’t. I know exactly how this weather will hold. It’ll be gray and cold and dreary and drizzling and bone-seepingly chilly. After all, it’s winter in Peru. I haven’t seen the sun once yet in this one hundred years of my solitude. The sun will never shine again. It’ll be like this for the rest of my life. (I get fatalistic if I don’t see the sun for days in a row.) I had a frantic moment the night before when Diego came over for the Film Culture Class. It was cold in the apartment. Meat freezer cold. I set out his popcorn and brewed up some coffee. I pulled out the fleece blanket for him to use while we watched The Gran Torino and found a shawl of Katrina’s for myself. “It’s cold in here,” he said, shaking the blanket out and wrapping it around his shoulders.
“Will this winter NEVER end?” I asked him.
“The weather is nice and warm in December.” he said.
“December?” my voice rises with a tremulous pitch. “It doesn’t get warm until December? What about spring?
He assures me that spring is coming and that warmth will be here soon. I curb my sudden and (nearly) overpowering terror. Spring will come.
But for now, Limeñan weather is always damp and rainy and chilly. Weather schmeather. Oh, cool friend, we won’t let the weather deter us.
Sunday morning dawns. As if to rub my nose in the fact that although I might have been the Fortuneteller of Cieneguilla I have no say over Lima weather the sun is shining full blast. Blesséd sun. Perfect day. Qué fortunes. I take it easy. I don’t do a lick of work. I call a sister. I call my mom. I eat my first breakfast of avocado and apple doused with lemon juice and a touch of salt. I drink a cup or two of coffee. I have a second breakfast of quinoa with banana, maca, and lemon juice. I clean the dishes. I putter about. Around noon-fifteen I take my keys in hand and head out the door to catch a bus. I’d warned Sarah that Lima buses don’t operate with European transit efficiency.

Even with my skepticism in hand I’m only 8 minutes late.
I speed up the elevator to the tenth floor. She’s not in her room. I use the hall phone to buzz her just in case she’s napping or has a phobia to knocks. No answer. So I take the elevator back down. There she is in the lobby waiting for me. “I was afraid that was you,” she says. “I saw you go by.”
She’s been in Lima less than forty-eight hours so I spare her the cheek kiss and give her a brotherly hug instead. We’re already like old friends and we exchange details about how we know Nicole as we head out into the sunshine.

I take her for the tour of Larco Mar, the Parque de Amor and the Mirada. She’s fun. She’s cool. She’s comfortable. She’s wearing a Threads 4 Thoughs T-shirt. We’re totally kindred spirits at least in clothing. I’m wearing a Threads 4 Thoughts T-shirt with a T4T long sleeve over it. I don’t point this out for fear of being sappy. I don’t know how else to say it but that she feels like a person who could be from Colorado.
We cover a wide gamut of topics such as jobs, life, poverty, family, writing, publishing, world changes, health, goals, debt, Buddhism, Cusco, anger, and living in the now, just to name few.  
I’m afraid I jabber on. A floodgate of words has been unclasped and I gyre and gimble in the wabe. I talk a lot. Shut up every now and then, I tell myself, for everyone’s sake. You sound conversationally desperate.  
We sit on a bench just past the strange statue in the Park of Love watching the hang gliders (wind sailors?). Even with all the tourists and venders and the regular citizens of Peru there is a calm there. The sound of the waves stills my soul. I need this.
A shadow darkens my vision. I hear those first words of a sales pitch. We’d gone a long time without one. I’m a little surprised we haven’t been bothered before this. I put on my “No thanks,” face and look up even as my ears register something familiar.
A green coat, a scruffy face. A baseball cap and a crooked smile. A voice that says, “Cheapy-cheap.”

Julio! My old friend from the Ovalo in Miraflores. On that day a lifetime ago when I thought I needed solitude so badly only to discover I really enjoyed hearing him tell me about his life.
His face lights up with recognition just as mine does. “Amigita (little friend)!” he exclaims opening his arms for a hug and putting his cheek out for a kiss.
We’re both ecstatic. We’re both incredulous.
“It’s been maybe two months, right?” he says.
“I know!” I say. “What are the odds? How have you been? How’s business?”
“So so.” He’s been to Hauraz and back. He tells us it was so cold there. He’s back in Lima for a week then he’s going back home to Cusco for a month--“So I can dance salsa,” he says, moving his hips and getting a gleam in his eyes--before he hits the road again.
I tell Sarah he’s from Cusco and she tells him she’s just about to go there.
“Don’t forget your coat and gloves and scarf,” he says.
Then he pulls out the old sol coin with the llama on it. “Here’s that trinket I was going to give you the last time we met if you bought something from me. For a U.S. dollar. you can have it.”
It’s something unique and special. I take it in my hand. It’s got a llama on it. I remember this. He’d tried to use it as incentive for me to buy something the last time. Then he reaches in his pocket and pulls out another one and hands it to Sarah. “A memory of Peru,” he says. “You can put a hole in it and wear it on a necklace.”
“I don’t have any U.S. dollars on me,” I tell him. I grin. For you, a special price! “I have a sol.”

“You said, “Next time I see you I’ll buy something,’” he reminds me with a smile and a laugh.
Oh shoot. That does sound just exactly like something I did tell him. I should buy something now from him. He’s my friend. But I don’t. In retrospect I wish I had. I don’t have a lot of money on me at the moment and I don’t know what Sarah and I will do for the rest of the day. But ten soles would have meant a lot to him. I mean, ten soles means a lot to me. I hand him back that llama sol. Sarah hands hers back too.
We part on good terms. I wish him all the best. He wishes me all the best. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet again.
Cheapy-cheap, Cuidate, Chau.

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