Two hitchikers' backpacks ready to go.

Tagging Along

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…Travel stories about love in Lima, Peru…

 

Kissing sideways makes sense between us. I grab around her waist and we spin around. She becomes the only thing in focus, and the rest of the world is blotted out in a wisp. Her chocolaty eyes look at me and I feel that I’ve never known anyone before in my life.

We went together to drink beer and smoke the old hookah from The House of No Ends with Andres. He told me it was the first time that he’d used Camilo and Franco’s hookah since he’d inherited it from a parting Camilo, who resides now over there across the blue in Holland.

Weeks went by with a little routine of me working and her working. I wrote more articles. I eventually landed a job writing for hostelbookers.com. And she would come back and we’d spin and roll and sit and stare.

We ate well, or poorly. We drank wine sometimes, and sometimes we also watched movies and she would fall asleep on my shoulder. These times were perfect times, and they were unpresuming.

During the days when she was gone and I was alone in the apartment, when I wasn’t letting the scourge of Wikipedia cut my time in half drawing me in to read about the USS something or another, because in fact the art of being lazy depends on the direct correlation with how much faith you have that there’s going to be something to eat when you open the refrigerator, but when I did and there wasn’t sometimes I’d just go hungry but I didn’t care, I’d stall. I wrote about Turkey, about Paris and London and a million other places. I wrote a business letter for scapz.com, and began writing for the hostel website. I wrote and I wrote and I read more about Okinawa or the Saratoga or Nimitz class carriers.

Sometimes link clicking in Wikipedia landed me on depressing pages, like the one that explains how the richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, spent one billion dollars to create his high rise home, called Antilla. Sometimes, despite your happiness, you need a newspaper or the internet to remind you that there are horrid people.

Her coming back to the apartment was like some kind of abstract liberation from my self-imposed prison of thought.

“Why don’t you get out and walk somewhere?” she’d ask.

“I dunno, I have things to do,” I excused myself. “I don’t really like Lima.”

She never enjoyed those words coming from me, but she knew that I wanted to get out. I knew that she was already planning on it before I showed up at her door.

“You’re not coming with me,” I told her, “I’m coming with you. It’s your trip.”

She would smile and her glassy chocolate eyes would look at me and I don’t know what else. The curtains moved in the breeze whenever we left the door open. Or water dripped from the faucet into drowned bowls floating grains of rice. The neighbor lady laughed her joyful and horrific laugh that bounced off crackling walls scaling up and out into the air hot and hurried. And we laughed at the laugh and ate chicken with sloppy salad and fries.

One day I saw my friend Lainie. She came with her son Miro to Mayra’s apartment with a salad and olives, and we cooked pasta al pesto. When she spoke I could hear California creeping up involuntarily to give that ever so famous valley whine to her utterances.

“Chael it’s been so long! How are you? We’ve passed each other how many times now? Man, it’s been two years. Two years can you believe it, since you stayed with us in Guatemala.”

“Two years. I left Guatemala back to Mexico for another 3 months, then headed back to Guatemala, which I crossed in a single day,” I said.

“One day? No. Way,” she replied.

“Yea a trucker let me crash on his top bunk while he drove all night. Actually, I got to El Salvador and a few days later I started writing on velabas,” I said. I looked at Mayra, and could see that she only understood a little of the conversation. She turned and spoke with young Miro, who manages in Spanish well enough.

“That’s right, how’s that going?” she asked.

“I like to write. I’m actually writing for hostelbookers now. Actually, right when I decided to send you an email to see where you guys were, I found your blog on hostelbookers listed as runner up for best family blog. Heck I remember when you guys were talking about creating a blog when we were still in Antigua.”

She smiled wide and grabbed my wrist. “Chael, yes, you know, I remember discussing that with you. We’re making upwards of 800 dollars a month now. Raisingmiro.com,” she said.

“How’s that? I never see any adds on your site.”

“No no, they pay us to put links on our site to theirs, and you know what? It has nothing to do with how much traffic you have. Your site has a rating at prchecker.com, and the higher it is the more weight it throws around. The more sites with higher pr rankings that you can get to link to your site, the higher it will show up on searches,” Lainie said.

“I had no idea about that.”

“Yea, so they pay me to put a link on my site to theirs embedded in an article. And I’m connected to a bunch of other top bloggers as well to share links,” she said.

“You know I write those articles. I’m writing one right now for travelswithanineyearold.com.”

“Hey, she’s one of my friends! Small, small world,” she said. Her bright blond hair was glowing under the dim orange light above our heads, and against the walls it seemed to blend in.

I spoke with Miro, her 10 year old son, about zombies and zombie situations.

“A human who took steroids becomes a super beefed-up zombie,” he taught me. I would think about that for days to come.

We finished eating and everyone seemed full. Mayra and I went with them to the main avenue and wished them well. I thanked Lainie for teaching me something about connectivity, and the following day I began teaching myself PHP.

I taught myself HTML when I was young, and began using angelfire.com to host websites in the early 2000’s. Lainie had remarked that angelfire was ancient, and I knew she knew what she was talking about, having lived a Los Angeles life as a internet marketing firm head and 6 digit earner. I knew angelfire was old.

So, when I’d finished learning something about PHP, javascript and MySQL on w3schools.com, I transferred velabas to a new, 21st century host, you might say. For the next few weeks I would balance my time writing for hostelbookers and revamping the entire website.

In the meantime I was in love. What kind of love but damn it all love.

Her concrete brother finally allowed me to get to know him, and I cooked and talked all night in front of Mayra, her sister Ale and brother Edson, being crazy as I am. They liked me well enough I suppose because no one said shut the hell up what are you doing being so damn lunatic you fool. Did the road make me nuts or have I always been?

Her sister’s life drama wreaks havoc on the family psyche it seems, but it’s a drama that doesn’t need to exist. She’s the type who involves her time exclusively in facebook, that horrible thing that gives you stuff to do and bastardizing any romantic notion of self, such that Descartes might’ve said: “I’m tagged therefore I am”. She sees stains on tight pants where I cannot. She blasts reggaeton as though increasing the volume will somehow convince me that that music makes any sense.

“Goddamn I hate your music,” I told her.

“What? But whhhhhyyy Chael? It’s awesome. Your music is boring.”

“Your blood must be constantly boiling, you know?”

“Ah hahah, Chaeel,” she said.

“No really, this music is just carnal desire and nothing else. It might be ok to move to, but I need content. I can’t watch a visually spectacular movie if the dialogue is crap.”

“Ok so what do you mean profound?”

I looked at her, not wanting to be challenged for an example. I sighed. “I dunno.” I grabbed a bottle of juice on the table. “Reggaeton sings about the juice being orange and that it’s on the table and that it tastes so good and when you drink it you feel happy, alright? My music sings about the juice coming from oranges which come from the ground and someone might’ve fucking pissed there.”

It was no secret to Mayra that her sister was somewhat shallow, but sisters will be loved and love.

The days passed rapidly. Within a week I’d shifted my website to a new host and updated everything. Besides a changed layout, I added a new contents page, food and work, map page, link up page, useful maps page and more. I built it all with PHP, got rid of HTML frames, and optimized the titles and headers to inundate the search engines with a single keyword: “hitchhiking”. It has much less to do with wanting to deck out the site in SEO than with the whole process being, for me, fun. And so it goes.

I saw one of my old French friends at his hostel when he came through town. We drank like reunited friends will do. There was a Japanese guy at his hostel.

“It’s putain rare to see a solo Japanese backpacker,” I offered.

“Yea,” Martin giggled, “but this guy is great. So funny. Man, he lives in Paris and makes his living as a musician. The harmonica man.”

I turned to the Japanese fellow. “I don’t mean to be too direct, but could tell me what you think about the idea of professionalism in Japan?”

Right away I saw that he was what some people will understand as being a ‘character’ when he leaned in close and whispered, as though someone who shouldn’t overhear might, “this why I leave.” He blew into the harmonica for a long moment before descending the scale in a slick bluesy way. Cigarette smoke rose from the ashes amongst which a broken one sat. It blurred the musician’s face and made him look ethereal, but the tunes drew the whole group in, and we had a little concert.

Mayra left her work, and apparently everyone wished her well. She told me something about her boss scoffing at her that she wasn’t headed out with Jesus in her heart, and I wish I were there so that he could’ve seen that I look somewhat like Jesus after all.

We bought a tent, and Mayra bought a backpack and sleeping bag. When we set up the tent to try it we climbed in and lay down on the cold plastic. We talked about space. When we argue she’s like a mirror.

I cannot deny that I’m hesitant to be traveling as a couple, but this was the only way. I couldn’t stay in Lima, but nor could I have continued on that lonely path without coming back. And now we’re off together, and she’s on her journey and here I am to tag along, albeit we steal for the horizon with thumbs to block the glare.

Two hitchikers' backpacks ready to go.

Two hitchikers’ backpacks ready to go.

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