Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cast Thy Bread Upon the Waters

November 17, 2011 – Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters or the Great Bread Quest

I’ve got a sudden hankering for bread. I abandon my ironing board desk, turn off my music which has been drowning out the screams of The Screaming Kid and burst out of my study.
“You want some bread?” I ask Katrina.
“Sure,” she says.

“I’m going to see if the Bread-Cart Man is at his spot around the corner.”

I’ve had a minor stomach bug since Monday and not very many things sound good yet for eatin’. But finally my appetite has returned and I figure I need to keep my strength up now that I’m caught up on sleep, pretty well had my system cleaned out, and am nearly back to hydrated.
Since my resolve to get back in bad-kick-ass-ninja shape a month or so ago, I’ve been working out every morning, stopped with the bread consumption I’d lapsed into since coming to Peru, and gotten back to a higher raw diet. I feel better this way. That is until I fell under the weather.  In this moment, with my stomach saying it’ll cooperate once again with food type things, I figure a piece or two of bread won’t undo my hard work, especially since all I’ve had in the past forty-eight hours is two bowls of oatmeal (yes, cooked), a mango (perhaps an unwise choice), and a bowl of blended cauliflower and potato soup (which Katrina made and was absolutely fantastic).

I grab a handful of Nuevos Soles and head out. It’s gonna be a short venture so I don’t even check my face or hair in the mirror. I’m more or less dressed. I mean, I’ve got on jeans and a fleece. I’ve got my flip-flops on over socks. I’m really styling.
The Bread-Cart Man
Down the stairs, out the front gate, around the corner. I scan the street. The Bread-Cart Man isn’t there. He’s always there. What the heck? I used to always see him in the mornings when I caught a bus to Surco to cover Katrina’s classes while she was in the States. These days I see him when I come back in the evenings from my own classes with Joaquin. I figure he’s like a permanent fixtures on that street. Now he’s nowhere in sight.

He must be around the next corner by the Bodega.

Well. Heck.

I’m at the San Felipe corner Bodega so I duck inside and ask the young guy if they have bread.
“Only bagged loaf bread,” he says.

Not exactly what I’m wanting.
“Thanks,” I say, and flit out. There’s a gas station about half a block away. They have a variety of things as gas stations so often do, and sure enough they have croissants. But they’re overpriced and look greasier than what I’m wanting. Bleh. So I continue on my Bread Quest.

From some rooftop a wolf whistle floats down to me. Seriously, dude? I don’t think I’ve brushed my hair in about three days. But hey, whatever floats your boat. I just shake my wild haired-head and trudge on.
There are about eight hundred little Bodegas (like corner stores) in the Jesús María district where I live. I’m out, I’m walking, I might as well go a little farther. The first Bodega smells like dog food. With reason too, for right beneath the wooden produce shelves are open bags of dog and cat food. The smell isn’t helping me return to full strength and health. I grimace, avoid holding my breath, and leave.
I get two strikes for swinging at the next two Bodegas. They’ve got a little more going for them since they don’t smell like dog food, but neither one has the bread I’m looking for. I decide to go four strikes for an out even as I remember that I’ve seen an actual Panaderia (Bakery) somewhere in this complex of buildings.

My excursion isn’t a wasted venture as I’m getting adept at assessing the contents of Bodegas. This next one is cleaner. More organized. No dog food that I see. No bread either, but I spot some avocados in the produce stand. I’d made a spinach, carrot, zucchini raw blended soup the night before and it hadn’t quite hit the spot--tasting more like a green smoothie than a smooth soup. I know an avocado will help cream it out. And since I’ve eaten all the avocados I climbed and picked at Casa Del Gringo I’ve got no other recourse than to buy my paltas now.

I pinch and squeeze the avocadoes trying to feel out if there’s one ripe enough for today’s use. They aren’t quite as soft as they should be. There’s one though, that feels close.
“Un sol cincuenta (1.50),” the lady behind the scales tells me. She puts my avocado into a clear plastic bag and hands it to me.  I give her two soles. My merchandise in hand I start to walk out.

“Your change,” she says.
“Oh yeah.” Apparently I left my mind at the apartment. “Gracias,” I say with an embarrassed smile and a different shake of my head as I take my fifty centimos. She smiles back and bids me a good afternoon.

Next stop, the Panaderia.
As if I’ve got a magnetic homing device in the bridge of my nose I find it with no problems. I gaze longingly through the window and see with delight the exact bread I want. It looks warm, fresh baked, desirable.

Of course, the bakery is closed.
Maybe God doesn’t want me to have bread. Maybe a few pieces of pan will actually ruin all my hard exercise and right eating. Maybe. Nah. By this time I’ve made quite a circuit. I’m only a few blocks away from Metro Grocery Store. Well, I tried to buy local. I tried. Right?

I keep on.
Through the park. Past cuddling couples. Past playing little ones. Past dog walkers and skateboarders. I glance cursorily at two people on a bench. I’m not looking to make eye contact, but I inadvertently do with the lady.  

“Yo tengo espárragos (I have asparagus)!” she exclaims. And to prove it she shoves forward a bound cluster of shoots. Sure enough. It’s asparagus.
“No gracias,” I say. I’m looking for bread. If you’d had the bread market, girl, I’d have been all over that. It’s about niche marketing and meeting customer needs. On another day… I cut myself off from my internal dialogue, leave the distracting asparagus pusher behind me and keep on my Quest.  

The avocado is swinging happily in its bag from my fingertips. Oh! The avocado in its plastic bag. And I’ve got no purchase receipt for it. Bodegas don’t give out receipts for just one thing, if ever. And I’d left the apartment so quickly I hadn’t grabbed my purse-bag. After all I was just going around the corner for a piece of bread. I don’t want the Metro employees to think I got the avocado at Metro and try to charge me for it. The avocado is too big to fit in my jeans pockets. My fleece doesn’t have any pockets. I don’t think the front security guard will hold it for me until I come out again. So I do what all sensible people do—I stick the avocado up my fleece’s sleeve and hold it as unawkwardly as I can under my armpit. That’s not suspicious.

I exude Honesty as I tong some bread into a paper bag and go stand in line at the Express Checkout. The cashier and I exchange pleasantries and I avoid wiping the sweat from my brow as I pay for the bread, take my receipt and pray that the avocado stays put for just a little longer. I don’t think I can run very fast in my flip-flops if I have to make a quick get-a-way.

I’ve never felt so guilty for not doing anything wrong before in my life.
No one suspects a thing.

I act normal as I pass the front security guard. I fall into step with another just-finished shopper.  I’m safe. I walk three quarters of a block before I let the avocado fall to the end of my sleeve and dig it out. I drop it into my Metro plastic bag and walk guiltily home.
I dole out Katrina’s bread and take mine back to my study with me. It’s no wonder I gave up bread. It’s way too much work to get.

1 comment:

  1. Makes one appreciate the "loaves and fishes" story even more, huh!