Summer is fading. The days are shortening. The breeze shivers under a colder patina. Inside the apartment I catch a chill and think about putting on a long sleeve shirt. I watch the slip of sunshine cross over the building outside my study window and suddenly crave that warmth. I need some uninterrupted hours to read through the latest edit of the book I’m working on. I also need some sun and some fresh air.So I pack a few things, slather sunscreen on my face and walk out the door.
“Hasta luego, chau,” I say.
It’s about a three mile walk to the ocean view at the end of Salaverry. I take it slow. I cross streets carefully, ignore the taxis who honk to let me know they are available, and don’t pay attention to the “que preciosa,” and the whistle I get from a worker who’s doing some kind of construction on the top of a house.It’s a perfect day for an excursion. The heat envelopes me and I embrace it. This is how summer should always be.
From half a block away I spot a Bread Cart Man. I’ve got a few apples with me, but who knows how long I’ll be gone. I may need more nourishment to fuel me for the walk home.“Disculpa (excuse me),” I say, coming to stand next to the cart and another man who’s munching on some bread thing. “Do you have any with apple?” The bread cart men have a wide assortment of bread treats, most with a meat filler. The apple tart is the only thing I’ve thought safe enough to meet vegetarian standards. I probably wouldn’t eat it at all if I knew how it was made. The whole innocence is bliss thing is, for the moment, bliss.
“Sí,” the Bread Cart Man says.“May I have one, please?”
He opens the side door and selects an apple tart for me. Puts it in a plastic bag and hands it over.“How much?” I ask him.
“Un sol cincuenta (1 sol fifty),” he replies.I give him the money. “Gracias,” I say. I stick the tart in the top of my bag and turn to walk away.
“Are you Peruana?” the other man asks me.“No,” I pause to tell him. “I’m from the United States.”
“Muy bien,” he says with throaty enthusiasm.“Gracias,” I say again. I smile and go.
I wonder what he meant. Was it very good that I am from the United States? Very good that I made a bread transaction in Spanish? Very good that I’m alive? I’ll never know. But with that praise still ringing in my ears I make it all the way to my favorite ocean view spot.I sit with my back up against a tree and turn my face up to the sun. Not that far from me, the waves crash, the steady rhythm of the water pulses in and out. Above me, a flock of green parrots go squawking by. A mourning dove calls out sadly. The melodic songs of at least three other birds filter through the trees, and I look for them, but can’t see where they are.
Several chapters later a little black dog skirts the space around me. He eyes me to see if I’m a threat, decides I’m not and circles three times to sit on the grass nearby. Just then two dogs and their walkers pass by. The hair on the little black dog’s neck bristles, a low growl comes out, he stand and backs away.
With them gone, the little black dog finds his space safe once again and selects a new spot to nap in. We sit in companionable silence.
The chapters add up. A group of kids gather behind me and chat. Their laughter and the music from their radio blend together into a note of youthful happiness. The ice cream man announces his presence with a noise like a duck call. A police man bicycles by. Another policeman motors past.I hear them abstractly. Every now and again I look up to see what’s going on around me. To look out at the ocean and feel its calm presence. To glance up at the sky and appreciate the blueness of it.
When my apples are eaten, my read completed, and my sun requirements fulfilled, I brush the ants and dirt off my shorts, take a final view of the watery horizon and walk back home.Stay with me forever, Summer, I love you.