February 7 – In the Swing of Things and a Non Creepy Date
After being away from my apartment in Jesús María for a biblically sounding forty-six days, it’s a relief to return, unpack my bags and mill about listlessly until I catch up on sleep. I don’t immediately jump back into a “normal” life schedule. I’m exhausted. I’m stretched thin. I’m temporarily adventured out. I move the little rocks and crystals on my window sill around and catch myself saying, “It’s good to be back. It’s good to be home.”When Sunday morning comes I gather myself up and go flag down a bus for Miraflores. I’d emailed Rodney my schedule and suggested a coffee sometime after my return and he’d replied, “Of course, coffee - lunch - wine and dessert. Sunday the 22nd, it's a date as far as I am concerned. I've missed you and not in that creepy Peruvian male way. LOL I'll be glad to have you back for our wandering discussions about everything in general and writing specifically.”
So it’s a non-creepy date and I’m on my way.Rodney waits at Café Zeta. He’s just had breakfast with his friends Tim and Lourdes. I’ve already eaten my post workout breakfast, but my stomach is growling again and second breakfast seems like a great idea. Rodney gets another cup of coffee, I order my food and then in between bites I tell him in elaborate (but truthful) detail about the last month and a half.
I feel like a little kid with that constant cry of, “And then, and then, and then, and then!”At one point Rodney interrupts, “Stop! I want to hear the end of this. But first you finish your food. While you do that I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to.”
I shut my mouth to talking and open it up for eating. Rodney tells me of the new book he’s working on and the bad guys and the good guys and the gruesome nature of the murders his hero has to solve. When my plate is scraped clean and the bill is paid, Rodney says he’s planned us a nice walk in Barranco if I’m up for it. And of course I am. Due to his height, Rodney seldom takes the buses, so he gets us a taxi and our driver drives.Barranco is the bohemian district of Lima, known for its artsy musical nightlife. I’d walked down a street or two and seen the tall trees when I came with Sarah and her friend Will Crookshank back in September. But each street here holds a secret and I want to hear them all.
Rodney lived in Barranco when he first moved to Peru and he used to walk a long path each morning. He takes me to the spots he loved the most and tells me the secrets that he knows. We pause at the red house, fancy gated door where Victor Delfín, the sculptor who created the strange kissing sculpture El Beso (The Kiss) displayed in the Park of Love, is rumored to live. I press my face up to the bars of the gate which locks us out of the museum and take a picture of the intricate branching of the tree above me.At the Bridge of Sighs Rodney tells me that those who make a wish and then hold their breath the entire length of the bridge have their wishes come true. I take a moment to settle on a wish, hold my breath and walk across.
I join Rodney at the railing and we gaze down at the hordes of people heading to and from the beach. It’s summertime, finally, in Lima.“Do you know the story of the Bridge of Sighs?” Rodney asks. I shake my head and he goes on, “There was a rich young girl who used to live near here. And every day she’d look out her window and see a young sweeper boy working to clean the streets. She fell in love with him. And he fell in love with her. But when her father found out he had the boy sent away. Every day after that, the girl would look out her window and sigh because her lover was gone.” Rodney pauses, “Supposedly, if you stop to listen, when the air is just right you can hear her sighs on the wind.”
I strain to hear the heartbroken sighs of forbidden love, and only catch the joyful noise of the people all around us enjoying a summer weekend in Peru.
We stop for a moment to watch a few couples take their pictures near the statue of Chabuca Granda, Peru’s own composer and singer of Música Criolla. Two guys ask Rodney and me if we want a song. We shake our heads but they sing anyways. When we turn to leave, Rodney gives them a sol for their music.
Next to the old church is an overlook with a whitewashed cross. Rodney points to it. “There’s a story about the founding of Barranco. You don’t mind the stories, do you?”“I love them,” I say, and I take a picture of him.
“A group of fishermen were out on the sea when a menacing mist settled over everything. They feared for their lives and prayed to God and to the Virgin Mary. The story goes that they saw a light in the shape of a cross and rowed for it. When they arrived safely to land, there was no cross, but they knew that God had saved them. So they brought their families to that place, set up a cross as a memorial and that’s how Barranco was founded.”
We walk past the church, past the vultures roosting there, and go around the corner. Like a tourist, I lean up against the scenic viewpoint’s rail and gaze out to sea. I think about throwing a coin in the wishing well, but figure I should work on one wish at a time.
“You bet.” Rodney gestures me inside the nearby restaurant with an inviting wave, and I lead the way up the spiral staircase up to the balcony. We find a good seat just out of the sun and order a bottle of red wine and some afternoon snacks.
Built up the hill behind us are houses and apartments. The terraced gardens look like half-hearted attempts at recreating the Incans’ structures. A group of vultures circles one of the buildings. “There’s a superstition about circling vultures,” Rodney says. “It means that a witch lives there.”“A witch?!”
“I was walking with two of my Peruvian friends one time and we saw some buzzards circling the house we were just about to pass. They both crossed the street and crossed themselves.”I think about witches. I’d just finished a story about an earth witch. And that makes me think of Glinda the Good and her question to Dorothy: “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” I wonder what kind of witch lives in that house just behind us where the vultures fly.
The shadows get longer, the bottle emptier, and our conversation never flags. Though we do settle into a comfortable silence every now and then.“It’s the sign of a good friendship,” I say. “When you can have a comfortable silence.”
We both smile and fall into a new quietness. After the moment passes and the last drops of wine are drunk, Rodney asks, “You ready to see a little more?”“Yes,” I reply.
We tour more of Barranco all the while talking of things like the cost of living, ocean view homes, museums, churches, art, graffiti, haunted houses and simplicity. Then we head back towards the place where we started from. Out on the malecón (the ocean view walkway) we take our time to admire the flowers, listen to the sound of the waves, to look up for witch-warnings and to hear the secrets in the air. We walk from Barranco all the way back to Miraflores.
“You want to pretend we’re rich and go get a drink at the Marriot?” Rodney asks.I feel all kinds of rich, so I agree.
We settle into the plush seats. I order a glass of wine and a vegetarian stir fry. Rodney gets a Pisco Sour and a meal of his own. There’s an American Football game playing on the TV at the corner of the bar. There’s a woman and her young son playing cards at a table near us. There’s a group of suited business men and women working some deal. There’s a loud American couple recounting their day. We’re just another pair in the room; telling secrets, living to the fullest, being rich in happiness.Out the window the sky is changing. Rodney and I turn our faces and:
We watch the clouds wait at the skirmish linegather
and draw in close over
as the sun goes down
We part ways at my bus stop. Rodney continues up to the edge of the curb to catch a taxi back to San Borja where he lives. I flag down the 19 and sit back in the rickety seat with a smile. One last vacation day and how well spent it was. Tomorrow I get back into the swing of things. I can’t wait.