April 9, 2012 –Kissing in the Park
It’s been a long week. I’ve been roughing through a bit of pain, a lack of sleep, a disruption of my schedule, a handful of story rejections and a general dissatisfaction with my work. I need a restart button so I accept an invitation from Tim and Lourdes to go do yoga in the park followed by an afternoon at the beach.Saturday morning I pack my bag and head out.
I met Tim and Lourdes through Rodney. Tim is Canadian and has been in Peru for several years. Lourdes is Peruvian. They met at a language school and fell in love. They’re (as Tim called me once) “Good People” and fun to hang out with. I’ve been out a few times with them for breakfasts, coffees, and or lunches.
I’m meeting Tim and Lourdes at Tim’s apartment. I take the combi just past Miraflores, get off a couple stops too soon and have to ask two girls at the corner if I’m going in the right direction towards the sixth block. I’d crossed the street and the numbers that were going up are now going down and I don’t feel like wandering around like the children of Israel in the Wilderness. The girls look at each other and shrug unknowingly. But they’re helpful. “One second,” one of them tells me, “I’ll go inside and ask for you.” She ducks into a shop. A moment later she and the young guy tending the shop come out and, after he looks up and down the street, he verifies that I’m going the right way. I thank them and walk three blocks up. I’m early. So I sit on the curb just outside the building and wait.
I don’t listen to the honks and shouts and noise around me. I raise my hearing above it and tune in to the parrots who are gossiping in the nearby trees. It’s peaceful there in my solitude.“Amanda?” Lourdes says from behind me.
I turn and smile.“Did you ring the bell?” she asks me in Spanish.
“No,” I tell her. “I was really early so I was waiting just a little bit.”“I was early too,” she says. “I walked for a while in the park before I headed over.”
She rings the bell and after a bit Tim comes out. We exchange cheek kisses and the three of us set off briskly. Parque Reducto is five minute away by foot. It’s already a hot day. I’m feeling self-conscious in my yoga clothes for the silly reason that I often wear my yoga pants as pajamas and I feel like I’ve left the house improperly attired. The pants are also too long and I’ve safety pinned them up so I don’t trip over them. I tell myself I am dressed normally and decently and to chill out.Parque Reducto is filled with people. It’s Holy Week Saturday and what better place to be?
There’s an organic market outside the park and hippy-type people just like me are milling about. There are a lot of gringos, some artist types, and dreadlocked twenty-somethings. Families with their children are enjoying the calming presence of the trees. There’s a group class learning how to dance with folding fans. There are people with their dogs. There are some dogs with their people.“There’s the yoga instructor,” Lourdes says. She motions at him and we cross the park and go set our towels-mats on the grass. “Come on,” she says, “I’ll introduce you.”
The instructor’s name is Josué. He and I kiss cheek to cheek. On the professional level this greeting still seems foreign to me. Strange. I’m reminded of the epistolary admonishment in the New Testament to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” and I smile to myself on the inside. This kiss isn’t holy, just introductory. Then I think of the children’s book A Kiss for Little Bear when one of the creatures complains about “Too much kissing!” I’m glad no one can read my thoughts when I think them.“Have you done yoga before?” he asks.
“Some,” I say.
More ladies show up. We make a circle and Josué starts us off with hands in prayer position.
I’ve never done yoga in Spanish before and I strain my ears to hear the instructions. We aspira and exhala. We take the forma de la perra (downward dog) in between neck stretches, leg raises, Tree, deep breathing and some balance postures. I look up at the clouds that drift over the blue. I feel the deep peace of the tall trees. I telepath “Be careful” to the ants that crawl across my mat. From the sides of my eyes I watch the people watching us. I have this absurd pride that I can do the forms prettily, and this shy tremulousness that I’m being seen. I try to let all those thoughts and cares vanish from my mind and concentrate on the ground beneath my toes, the beingness of the moment, and the inhalation and exhalation of my breath.An hour later, after some time in Savasana we all but say Namaste and roll our mats up. Josué thanks us for coming. We thank him for the class. Everyone kisses everyone else. One of Tim and Lourdes’s friends from church has come with her six month old baby. The baby is getting lots of attention as babies do and I’m wanting to go check out the organic market food. Tim wants to as well. I think Lourdes is indifferent about it. But, nevertheless, we herd up and head toward the front of the park, past the lady practicing sword-art, past the musicians, past the front fountain and then we’re clear.
We’re not clinging to each other and I drift off to see what fares I can find while they drift to see what they can see. To my great delight I find some Brussels sprouts. I haven’t had them since I’ve been in Peru. I’ve just not found them. So I buy a quarter kilo. Dinner is gonna be happenin’ tonight, I think. I don’t think I could have been any happier unless I’d encountered some kale. It’s those little organic things in life.Tim and I get a hummus, spinach, mushroom, et al filled wrap for breakfast. Lourdes isn’t hungry. Yoga stretched and somewhat fed, we start the walk back to the apartment.
“Well, ladies,” Tim says. “What do you think?”“If you’re still planning on going to the beach, and if the invitation is still there for me, I’d love to go,” I say. “If not, I’m good for heading on home.”
With that small push from me for further adventure they say okay.
Back at the apartment we get changed into our swimsuits.
“If you want to leave your bag,” Tim tells me, “I can take it to my room and lock it up. We like to go light.”I’d brought water and snacks just in case, but this is serious swimming. So I leave it all behind. I take just enough coins for transit fares. We don’t even pack towels. This is hardcore beaching.
We take the metropolitano – the closest thing to a subway train in Lima – to Barranco. We cross multiple streets, walk down the stairs, and go down the pathway to the beach. It’s not as packed on this Easter weekend as I’ve seen it before. This is the end of summer. The weather is perfect, just so hot that a shocking cold ocean swim sounds delightful.“It’s not so crowded today,” Tim says.
“We’re superstitious,” Lourdes tells me, meaning Peruvians. “My mom wouldn’t ever take us out on Easter weekend. Especially not to swim in the ocean. She said the earth was moving and that it was unlucky to go. But since I’ve been with Tim and he doesn’t care about that, we’ve gone to the beach over la semana santa and everything is just fine.”There’s a kiosk lady selling things at the back end of the beach who is kind enough to watch our sandals and outer wear. Tim has left his things with her before.
“Señora, hola,” Tim says. “Do you mind if we leave our things with you?”“Tim has friends all over town,” Lourdes whispers to me.
The lady gives us permission with a half-suspicious, half-recognizing glance. We thank her as we unshoe and derobe. Then we hop over the scalding sand and splash wholeheartedly into the water.“Are you a good swimmer? We usually go out a ways,” Tim had said. “Then we swim about twenty minutes and that’s it.”
It sounds perfect. I’m always down for swimming. And I’m grateful for another chance to enjoy the summer in such a summery way. There’s seaweed floating around. We weave around it, head out past the foam.“It’s choppier than usual,” Tim says, floating a few paces away from both me and Lourdes.
“The earth is moving,” Lourdes says.These waves feel gentler to me than the water I’d swam in a month or so again. But I don’t care. Oceaning is still new to me. Just amazing.
It’s the kind of day I’ve been needing. I float face up, feel the sun on my face and the weightless calm of soft motion all around me. I let the water support me. All the stress I’d been holding sinks from me and sifts to the ocean floor.We swim for a bit then drift our way back ashore. We dart back over the sun scorched sand, collect our clothes and shoes and take the metropolitano back to Tim’s apartment.
I’m not completely dry when I get on my combi to go home. But I sit on my towel-mat so I don’t leave an uncomfortable seat for the next bus rider. I settle in next to the guy on the double seat and hope I don’t smell too much like sea water and grime. I lean back and sigh happily.What a day. Yoga in the park, a ¼ kilo of organic Brussels sprouts, communion with the trees, time with friends, a swim in the ocean and sunshine--how much better can it get?