The House of No Ends in Lima.

The Lima Chapters

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CHAPTER 1 – Limatimes Solidarity

Franco’s eyes hid behind his glasses, the bent light reflecting back at me through a thick lens. His curly black hair shivered when he shook a nod in the affirmative.

“Yes, it is illegal.”

The long wrinkled tube of meat looked like Italian chorizo. Franco had a contact who had a contact who knew a guy who hunted dolphins from now and then. On this particular day in the House of No Ends, Franco showed up in the evening with the baguette-shaped dolphin meat under his arm.

“So it’s illegal because dolphins are precious, yea?” I suggested.

“Sure sure, but huevon, I only eat dolphin maybe twice a year,” he said, “so I don’t think that’s exactly dynamiting their population. It’d be sustainable if people only ate it once a year, I’m telling you.”

The meat was almost black, and it was tough. It had that agonizing fishy smell to it, but after chopped and drowned in white vinegar and put on a saltine cracker with parsley, tomato, and avocado, it tasted exotic. Man, it’d be good with a nice and warm French baguette, I thought. The real difference between bread here and bread in France is that here, putting the bread in a plastic bag improves the quality.

I looked around the place. Everyone shared bites of the rare meat. The House of No Ends now had a few French, a Venezuelan, and the Catalans and us. Another Catalan artisan had showed up with his Ecuadoran sweetheart. Felix became known as Catalan Dos. I would go with him and Catalan to the center of Surco and watch them sell their jewelry. They’d make on average about 4 dollars each time they went out to parchear.

One night brought party to the house. A couchsurfing party. The kind of party that could get crazy. Pisco was flowing like rivers around the place. Camilo cried out in jest, “How would Mario handle this, how would he handle it!?” Dozens of bodies stood around, swaying in their own ways. Everyone moves differently. That’s why I can’t dance. My movement is not deemed pretty. In fact it might be considered offensive to some.

The House of No Ends in Lima.

The House of No Ends in Lima.

 

Smoke from this plant or that choked the air, the steamy top giving the party its ambiance. I spent much of the night talking with a journalist. She had a perky personality and dark endless eyes that peered out from behind square wire-rim glasses. Her milky-white hands cupped around her glass of wine. Her knuckles looked cold. I watched her delicate fingers wring her wrist as she was telling me something about accountability or ethics in broadcasting or something that I couldn’t quite follow. I felt my ears perk as I snapped out of a trance. She was staring at me blankly.

“Are you ok?” she asked.

“Sure sure I’m fine I’m just… I… I guess I really just don’t care at the moment.”

“Huh?”

“Come outside,” I said.

I kissed her in an alley around the corner. Foreheads rested together and she said she couldn’t. “Eres lindo y todo pero no.” Almost as abruptly as I’d cut off her conversation, she was gone from the party. I never saw her again. I bet it’s because she saw how I dance.

The next morning came with headaches, the afternoon swooped in and it was then night again. Again and again the days came and left without so much as a whisper hello. Nights were marked with hookah and Mario or movies when Camilo and Franco would come back from work. “You lazy bums, we work for a living! But right on, huevones, right on.” One night Camilo and I appeased our nature to enter into heated debate. He is an economist and can argue with numbers, and I’m more or less a social theorist that can argue with hazy facts. It was a great until-4-am discussion.

Travel Drawing of the Center of Lima

In the Center of Lima, I created this travel drawing of the old carved wooden colonial balconies and porches.

 

The living in the House of No Ends went on unhindered by unnecessary obligations or pointless landlines. Catalan Dos made avocado-milk-sugar drinks every morning. A killer anti-headache concoction. A Slovakian couple showed up to collect their things they’d left at the house months before. When they were gone they had gifted me a jacket, some socks, and long johns. I’d been thinking of buying more cold-weather clothing. So it goes.

 


 

CHAPTER 2 – To Sell or Not to Sell

Election Day arrived.

“You’re goddamn right I’m in favor of a coup d’etat,” said Camilo when the news of Ollanta’s win came in.

“I made the mistake of talking to my mom,” Franco said. “She’s pissed and turned into a racist, yelling ‘why do those goddamn Indians have to vote!?’” Super Mario Bros became Franco’s escape from the overwhelming pain of being on the losing candidate’s team.

Camilo got high and lay on the bed, a dead stare into the television set. With an indifferent tone but as sure as shadows he commented that, “Bowser wastes his military budget on plumbing and turtles.” He cocked his head to the side. “Everyone in Mario world is with Bowser… Mario wins and becomes a dictator and makes all the turtles wear Mario masks. At least Bowser left them their freedom of expression. So much for democracy.”

The days of the Election went by slowly, the stress evident in the blank stares of our hosts when someone would have the audacity to mention it. But their energy and optimism about their guests did not fade. Always new faces showed up at the door. “How long have you guys been here?” they would ask when they’d see us making semi-sexist jokes with Franco and Camilo or yelling obscenities at movies or praising Skyline. In a few weeks it was almost like a micro-click that we’d created, between Catalan and me and our hosts. It was our shared love for Mario, and our shared joke about Skyline, etc. Limatimes solidarity motherfucker!

“You should sell your drawings,” Catalan suggested. He was standing next to his purple display of earrings and necklaces in the street. Catalan Dos had laid out rings and bracelets on a green cloth as well. People passed by like walking cold shoulders.

“Think people would buy those drawings?” I asked.

Catalan has a rough manner of voice when he spoke, bringing deep sounds from his gut and meshing them with the dulled ssss sound so common among the Spanish. “Seguro que si. Of course yes,” he said. “All you have to do is talk with the people, sell your drawings.”

I took to drawing quick sketches like a maniac. A sturdy glass pane served as my sketch surface. The pencils were gifts from Christmastime or ones I bought way back in Guatemala. Some things that appeared on the white sheets of paper were vulgar. A giant close-up of spread legs as a Coca Cola ad, a naked woman pinching a used condom, a big-breasted ugly scissor-hands woman at a bar where one man is insisting to his friend that she’s not worth it. Some drawings were more innocent. A cat reading a book on how to be a cat but written by a dog. A man looking down a road, a single sign that read “wrong way”. A pencil with hands and legs writing the word “crap” with his graphite bum. I’m gonna have to censor myself….

I decided one night to go with the Catalans to sell. They set up their places, laying out the jewelry on red or green felt. I set out my drawings on a black cloth and weighted them down with tree seeds Catalan Dos lent me. People passed by and now the cold shoulders were my burden as well. I noticed that if I sat to draw while I waited more people would stop. Nobody was buying the drawings. I scribbled “Solo 3 soles” on a piece of paper for the passersby to see.

Artesanos en Lima, selling on the street.

Artesanos en Lima, selling on the street.

 

“You have to talk with the people,” Catalan advised.

“I’m nervous, I dunno if that’s my thing.”

“You have to learn how to manipulate the people, keep them around, get your shit in their hands.”

Of course Catalan was right. I handed drawings to people when they’d start looking at them and sure enough they started to buy. I let Catalan do the talking. I made 10 sols during the night, not a bad catch.

After a quick free meal from a chef who wanted to feed us, since he’d traveled himself, we began the walk back to the house.

“How did you like it? Are you going to come parchear with us tomorrow?”

I ended up returning with the Catalans a few nights more and for the next few days I supplemented my budget with a free meal thanks to some quick drawings. But alas the salesman life is not for me. The artists in the street are indeed salesmen. But salesmen aren’t selling a product as much as they’re selling themselves. I hate it. …What I like is that people are interested enough to spend money on my work, but the catch is thus, I wont sell.

 


 

CHAPTER 3 – Ayahuasca

“Napoleon, Hitler, Kim Jung-Il, Mussolini… it seems dangerous to have little guys in power. There should be a height limit.” Camilo drew in a breath of the thick shisha smoke and spoke as it slowly left his mouth, diluting his voice. We were all sitting around the hookah once more. Family Guy was on the television but there was no sound. We passed a beer back and forth. Catalan Dos and his Ecuadorian mistress had left and now it was Camilo, Franco, young Andres from Venezuela, Catalan and I.

“Ahhhhhhh, that feels good man. Yes.” The short airy effects of narguile had reached my head. I spent a moment flying in the sky.

Franco was smiling. “It’s hitting bien, huevon.”

Camilo reached out for the clear yellow-stained tube, “Pasamela. Pass it here, huevon.”

“Concha su madre!” replied Franco amicably enough. The slang in the house is a local blend of the times. ‘Huevon’ means man or asshole depending on your intention, and ‘concha tu madre’ means fuck your mom or your mom’s vag, depending on your grammar. The words crossed lips with such frequency that I began assimilating the jargon.

Nights ended with Camilo and Franco falling asleep first, everyone scrunched together on the beds, and me dragging myself upstairs to pass out on my mat. I woke up late every morning but one. I had a mission to accomplish.

I hopped the metropolitan transit system and rode it the hour or so into Lima center.

The busiest of streets are swarmed by buses, the helpers yelling “suba suba suba!” to anyone not already aboard, even if you are so obviously not looking for a bus. I hoped my face looked comfortable but hard. I let my feet give me strut as I made my way down Tacna avenue, taller than most everyone. Most streets are named after some other place in the country. I suppose that makes it truly central.

Tall blocks of concrete buildings like giants loomed overhead, and gray skies doused the sun, hidden behind a glowing gold patch of haze. A long part of the sidewalk took me on a marble way under the overhanging buildings past open-air shops selling everything. 220, 218, and then finally arriving at 216 Tacna avenue, the address Camilo had given me of his contact. Mama Theo we can call her.

I peered into the shop. Shining figurines of Jesus and the saints glistened at the entryway and from high shelves I let my eyes fall to the back where behind a long glass counter sat two women. A backdrop of more shelving displaying teal candles and thin boxes of incense sticks grew dark behind the women. The smell was an indoor smell, and it got thicker as I made my way to the counter.

One woman was younger and obese. Her plump face squeezed her eyes hidden. This must be Theo. Camilo had told me that she was big. He’d also told me that all the shamans buy from her.

The other, older woman watched me approach, like a hawk eyeing its prey. She was old. I could almost hear the aging in her body.

“Hello. I’ve come on an errand for a friend of mine. Do you sell Ayahuasca?”

The older woman smiled, her crooked teeth seemed to smile too. “You want the high huh?” She laughed.

“How much is it?”

Mama Theo spoke up: “50 sols,” she stated plainly.

“My friend Camilo said that it should cost 40.”

“Ah Camilo we know Camilo.”

“I came on his behalf.”

“It’s 50 sols.”

“Dale, ok then. I’ll by two dosages.”

The wooden stool creaked as Theo stood and walked to the end of the counter. There was a bottle tied to a string, hanging idly. She brought the bottle over. A thick red-brown liquid splashed around inside. She unscrewed the top. It smelled like fermented wrath.

“So you just drink this and that’s it?”

The old woman chuckled now. “Heat it a little before you take it, and then goodnight, friend. Drink your dosage and that’s it, heavenly dreams for 6 hours.”

“Dreams?”

“Something like that. Living dreams.”

Theo poured two small cups of the stuff into a Sprite bottle. It didn’t look like Sprite. A milky yellow froth fizzed to the surface after the lady had finished the transfer. The color was like a matte copper, not unlike the hue of bricks in dying light.

“Thank you.”

“Enjoy gringo!”

Ayahuasca comes from a jungle vine here in Peru. It’s not unlike San Pedro in that it is a hallucinogenic, natural plant. Only, San Pedro contains mescaline (like peyote), while ayahuasca contains large quantities of DMT. Several of the Amazonian tribes have used ayahuasca for millennia in ritual ceremonies or as a medicine. They say that the state that ayahuasca induces prepares you for a curing. In their tradition, the ceremonies are conducted by a shaman. Today, being a shaman is profitable work here. Foreigners pay hundreds of dollars for special retreats where ayahuasca sessions are held with shamans. There have also been plenty of cases of shamans raping their customers. In the jungle the minimum you can buy ayahuasca for is 150 sols. I didn’t want a shaman and I didn’t want to pay that much. I wanted to be in a safe, comfortable place with good people. The 50 sols didn’t appear out of nowhere. Remember Sierra’s 300? Spend on crazy stuff she’d said.

Camilo would be leaving for a voyage in Brazil on Saturday. It was Thursday evening when I returned to the House of No Ends. Andres and Catalan examined the smelly drink. I placed it in the freezer. When Camilo showed up later I learned that he was leaving Friday, and that we couldn’t wait, we had to drink the ayahuasca that night.

It was not fear that I felt. It was tension in my muscles. It was something that choked my mind, since I couldn’t possibly have expectations. Before San Pedro I had never taken any hallucinogen that had any real effects. A little pot here and there, maybe one too many brownies once, perhaps drinking too much from time to time, but never anything that altered my reality like San Pedro. I’ve never been cautious in the traditional sense, but something like that.

Franco showed up later and by that time we were all laid out on the floor watching a horrible movie called The Mechanic. 8 o’clock, then 9 and 10 o’clock came and went. Camilo was passed out.

I kicked Camilo’s feet, “oye come on man aren’t we gonna take the drink?”

He squinted bloodshot eyes, “no.”

“Aw come on I don’t want to take it alone.”

He moaned out angrily, “you can’t always get what you want gringo.”

We wouldn’t drink the ayahuasca after all. I suppose I’d have to drink it alone the next day.

The next day I woke late and spent most of it cooking and cleaning around the house. Andres and Catalan had gone to a different part of the city to sell jewelry, and I was alone. I watched “Capote” and then took the DVD cover upstairs to draw it. That’s when Camilo showed up. He stormed in the house. “Gringo! Where are you?”

“I’m upstairs.”

He stomped up the metal spiral staircase, ducking to avoid where the ceiling hangs too low. His short curly black hair looked disheveled. He had mischief in his eyes and stood eagerly in front of me in his mustard yellow knit sweater. “I think I have come up with the most irresponsible idea imaginable.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked only half-interested.

“The plane leaves today at 11 at night. My parents are coming to pick me up from here at 8. It’s three o’clock now. We should take the ayahuasca. By the time my parents show up we’ll be coming down off the effects. It’s very possibly the most irresponsible thing I will have ever done in my life.”

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca. Source.

It was decided. We rushed down to the fridge and divided the drink between us. The wrath smell was diluted by the chill of the fridge, but it was still potent enough to make us gag. Camilo put a disc into the DVD player.

“Family Guy? Are you serious?”

“The last time I took ayahuasca I was watching Family Guy and I knew the effects had started because Peter walked clear off the television screen.” Camilo had the plan set and ready. “And besides the effects don’t kick in for a half hour, just enough time for me to watch a new episode and for you to watch one you’ve probably already seen.”

I had no idea what to expect. We plugged our noses and drank. It was in. Ingesting means no going back. We sat to watch Season 10 Episode 5.

Tired…

“Shit Camilo I’m really tired.”

Time passed, barely paying attention to Family Guy…

Ugh.

“Heavy eyes..”

The lights seemed to get brighter.

“Camilo.”

I watched Camilo in his seat. All of a sudden the arm he was resting his chin on fell, and his head sank. His reflexes caught him and he turned toward me. His movements looked painful. A smile stretched across his face. “Hahaha. Shhh, haa.”

My muscles went limp.

“Camilo, damn, my body has decided to not work or what?”

“That’s it man, this is it,” said Camilo as he forced himself to stand, the episode coming to an end.

A few minutes more and like that, oblivion had found a way to express itself. Ayahuasca. Like dying wind, time suddenly grew quite. We wobbled into the kitchen area. Camilo pointed at the rack holding all the spices and pots and pans. “Wow, it’s awesome.” He held his hand up to his forehead. “The division is beginning, my mind is separating, vvvvoooooaammm.” He gestured outward with his open palm. We both seemed to have trouble keeping our balance as we stood admiring the kitchen.

Everything moved, just like in San Pedro. The floors took to looking like snakes, the walls vertical oceans. But the surfaces were multi-dimensional, with hallucinations on top of others, like looking into the waters of an azul pool and seeing fish swimming at different depths, a window into another world, as it were.

“Camilo, this is similar to San Pedro, but my mind, man. It’s much more about my mind. Yikes friend, this stuff is powerful.”

We roamed upstairs and somehow Camilo ended up lying in his room and I on the oriental rug in the unfinished room where I’d been sleeping. When Camilo had showed up with his idea, we’d taped a black sheet of plastic over the window to blot out the light. I curled up on the rug and let the ayahuasca take me over.

Everything was fast and slow at once. The reality seemed to turn or expand and shrink again. I couldn’t tell whether my eyes were opened or closed, and in either case the things I perceived were bizarre creations of my mind messing with the normally inanimate things in the world of the waking eye. I saw beauty where normally there is none. My senses were heightened to an extreme. I was seeing into a place where normally you cannot. I could hear the air being, I could feel the rug as though it were my own skin. Everything had an odor, so many odors that I couldn’t rightly describe them! My tongue worked miracles in my mouth. It slid over the contours of my teeth, felt my gums and the inside of my lips.

I picked myself up and carefully navigated the spiral staircase back to the kitchen. I’d left an oily pan with pieces of potatoes still sitting on the hot plate. I placed one of the little cubes of potato slowly, deliberately and almost (dare I say it??) lovingly to my lips, letting them feel the potato as I opened my mouth. The cold taste was stunning and beautiful. If only I had some foie gras…

…Time must have been passing, but I was not participating…

Dizzy but aware, but not aware and somewhere lonely and away, worlds away, but wait this is here, this is the same world. This is everything I know and knew and ever will know. I could see the future and talk with the past, and the present went on and on, beyond a single moment. Life was rolled up into a legible, breathable entity.

My breathing was heavy, my heart rate increased rapidly, and I rocked back and forth humming a solid note, banging my chest to create bursts of sound. The sound put me into a trance and my rocking was denting the air waves wading in front of me. Was I seeing reality? Was reality showing me something or was I stealing a peek at its better half? I became the dominant force of my existence for the first time, and the philosophies that came to me in that trance were something epic. It seems almost trivial to say any more, for words are fallible.

I stood and walked to the wall, where with my face close enough to kiss it, I spoke to it. The wall did not talk back. My hearing was savagely sharp, and I could almost describe the contours of the mortar between the bricks just from the echo of my voice.

“Chael!” Camilo murmured from his room. I walked to his doorway. He was wrapped in a blue sleeping bag. My faculty of speech had almost failed me. “Camilo why… Camilo. Why do, why is the light on? I talked to the wall.”

“I heard,” he replied.

He got up and went into the bathroom. I heard the shower and the toilet and the sink. Some throwing up. Ayahuasca causes that, which is one reason the tribes believe that it’s a cleansing agent. That I didn’t throw up that night might not be a good thing.

I remember thinking “How the hell can he do that?” referring to his ability to use the bathroom tripped out as we were.

In retrospect, I think hours must have passed with us on our respective trips. Camilo emerged from the bathroom. “Let’s listen to music.”

“Somehow that idea is the best idea I’ve ever heard.” I had some kind of bizarre love for the idea, the idea to listen to music… my god it’s beautiful.

Downstairs Camilo somehow had the ability to set the music.

“This is shaman music. From shaman. From the jungle. Usually it’s that they use to chant when they’re doing their purges or whatever.”

The music was dancing before my eyes. Sweet tones and tough drumheads banged out and sanitized the air. Darkness engulfed me and then suddenly the light shone out brilliant from small sources, like the red button on the DVD player, or the blue glow around the CD. Camilo set up the hookah and began sucking in air through the tube to get it going.

Dici, the cat, sat against my leg. My fingers pulled through her fur. I spun my own hair around my other hand and thought how incredible it was to have hair so long for this journey, so to speak. But with the cat it was more incredible. My touching the cat let me into her head, there to form some kind of wild instinctual connection between us. I felt her steady breathing and sensed her fear and hesitation. I’d petted her plenty of times before, but this time she succumbed to my touch and stretched out, apparently in ecstasy. That cat felt more cat than any cat had felt before.

The music changed to an old North American Indian chief conducting a rain dance, the soft chanting not unlike my bizarre trance earlier upstairs. The hookah was going strong. Camilo blew huge billows of smoke into the air. Within the smoke, faces manifested and looked at me peculiarly before they dissipated into the clean air. I took the tube and sucked in, acutely aware of the bubbling sound emanating from the base. I blew the smoke into my hand. The smoke changed from blue to green to purple and all the colors of the spectrum. I hung my head and breathed with the hookah for a time, letting the smoke wrap around my hand like silken clothing. Everything had a life, everything had importance. The life around me was strong, intentional, bonding and breaking but always moving. Incredible.

“I wouldn’t want to do this with a shaman,” said Camilo. “I don’t need a shaman. Some random guy you don’t know trying to get into your pants.”

“I don’t think I’d like to do it that way either.” I struggled to get those words out. Camilo was uniquely intelligent, and the trip affects everyone differently. For me it killed my linguistic capacity.

“Your trip is your trip, you know?” He sucked in some smoke and blew it out. I saw a man surfing waves in the cloud. “My trip is this, this is what it’s supposed to be for me. I think with a shaman you go on his trip. Or he busts your balls this way or that.”

“Have you ever taken ayahuasca with others?”

“No this is my first time, And I’m glad we’re doing it.”

There are no words to describe the appreciation I had for Camilo. I learned that taking ayahuasca with another person means that you will have that animal connection with them as well. I felt I had a unique and optimized insight into Camilo’s person, his being.

“You have to be careful with whoever you take it with. Like if a girl has been raped by her father or something, and has deep problems hidden away in their subconscious, they’ll go crazy. It will destroy them completely.”

“Well how did you know I wouldn’t flip out?”

“You’re Buena onda. I can tell about people,” Camilo responded.

“Have you ever taken other drugs?”

“I never take anything that can damage my brain. Cocaine, meth, opiates, too much pot. I have a good brain. I’m very confident about my intellect. I don’t want to hurt my mind.”

I blew a few smoke rings that transformed into blue stars twinkling into nothingness. I liked to let Camilo talk. He was sharp, his intellect like a fine-tuned harp. Hell, his bedside reading was Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adult Asperger Syndrome.

“Hey, yo, what if you take this with someone bad… I mean evil to the core. What a crazy trip that would be,” I suggested.

“Yeah yea, muy malo, like someone absolutely horrible. Hitler, or Mao!”

“No, no, maybe someone worse, I mean totally evil to the core…”

Camilo had a big smile and rocked forward, “you crazy man, Hitler isn’t bad enough for you?”

“He discriminated, he didn’t just kill everyone.”

The music shifted again, this time to a slow electrical beat, fuzzy sounds and burly blops of base trickled into the air.

“Oye Camilo would you ever drop this ayahuasca with your parents?”

“Absolutely and definitively no. No never.”

“I think I would. My parents are open.”

“Mine are conservative. They know I take drugs from time to time, but never man, never in my life.”

“If I called my parents tomorrow and told them to fly here to take ayahuasca with me they would.”

“Are you serious?” Camilo didn’t believe me. “They’d come here to take drugs?”

“No, they’d come here to see me. But if I speak from… you know like, from my heart, about it, they surely would try it.” I stared into Camilo’s unbelieving eyes. “This is amazing. You and I haven’t talked about anything particularly different tonight, but somehow we know better. If it’s possible to know my own blood better, how could I not want that?”

Camilo and I were stretched out on a mattress smoking hookah and hallucinating madly. Everything was so easy to understand, everything was so clear and uncorrupted. I didn’t have any questions, only answers. To what? To what… I’m not sure… because words are fallible, once more. The effects were disappearing slowly but surely, and I felt a profound sadness. My senses began to return to me and my speech faculty improved. The last hour or so was an incredible sigh of gratitude for whatever, for this, for that, for it all, the whole mad thing.

“Can you believe it Chael?” Asked Camilo. “Those tribes have been using ayahuasca for thousands of years. Before Machu Pichu, man. Before papas rellenas. Before the Spanish, before the Incas even! It’s been used, and here we are, seeing that world somehow, right?”

A knock came at the door. Camilo shot up and turned on the lights. The lights were painful to bear, my dilated pupils already on overload. It was his parents. They came in and I introduced myself. I could see instantly where Camilo got his smarts. His father was Portuguese but spoke fluent Spanish and English. His gray hair was parted on the side, and his yellow vest was of the same color as Camilo’s sweater. His mother was tall and had a strong face. I perceived a keen resolve about her. I realized that the ayahuasca effects were allowing me to see these people with that incredible appreciative eye. These were Camilo’s parents. They had to be, because it was too perfect for it not to be thus.

Camilo packed his things into a plastic bag and shoved them into the recently cat-piss-soiled backpack. I shook hands with his parents and hugged Camilo with a laugh forming at the corner of my mouth. We were still tripping balls and he was about to board a plane. And with that, they were gone, and I was alone with my mind.

That night Franco showed up first and we went out for some Chinese food. “I don’t care how much it costs I just want to eat a lot of food, I haven’t eaten since 10 this morning.”

“You drank it with Camilo?”

“Yeah.”

“Bien, huevon. That’s awesome. It really makes me happy. You know, I was thinking, darn it, I’ll drink it with him if he can’t find anyone else to, but I’m really glad you and Camilo did it.”

I tried to explain my experience to Catalan, Andres, and Franco but it was too difficult, even the next morning, after the night of screaming headache pain, when my Spanish had returned to me. It was and is so difficult to express. What can I say? The ayahuasca trip is a language in itself, and language, my friends, is hard to put into words.

Camilo and Franco in Lima

Camilo and Franco in Lima.

 


 

CHAPTER 4 – A Girl

Catalan and I had decided to team up to travel together for a bit. Andres was heading our way so he would also come with us. It was Saturday and we would leave on Monday. Franco had insisted, and we happily collaborated on one last hurrah.

Franco cut up some more pieces of Dolphin meat and soaked it in the white vinegar, serving it to the guys on saltines. I hastily prepared some potatoes. We were in a hurry, the party would not wait for us.

We were also drinking pisco from a big label-less moonshine bottle. Before long Catalan’s eyes stopped focusing so well, and Andres would lose his train of thought. My head wobbled. I thought the ayahuasca trip the day before would kill me this day, but I had to celebrate one last time with the boys before we left the House of No Ends behind.

When we were all four of us pleasantly inebriated, we hailed a taxi outside and piled in. Catalan brought a water bottle filled with pisco so as not to pay drinks at the club. City scenes and street lights flew past us, the world a bit more shaky than normal.

I was still flabbergasted by my experience of the previous day, and I still hadn’t quite organized my thoughts and opinions about the journey. The taxi pulled up at the main square in Miraflores. We all staggered up to a single doorway. The doorman gave us little couchsurfing stickers to put on our shirts to get in for free. A couchsurfing gathering, as it turned out, but we ended up not hanging with the other CS there.

“Alright let’s us find some ladies!” shouted Catalan as he took a chug from the bottle he’d snuck in.”

“Thank god the music isn’t that shitty club music you have to listen to in movies,” I suggested. It was electronic music, but slow.

We drank and let random girls take photos with us. My sense of time left me. I was standing with Andres bobbing back and forth like an unsure foreigner in a nightclub… … yes, well, I was standing with Andres when a pair of lonely girls in the middle of the dance area caught my eye.

“Oye Andres, look at those two. We should go ask them to dance,” I shouted over the music. “Come on follow me.”

We walked over to the pair. I lightly placed my hand behind one of the girl’s elbows and she turned and looked at me. She was beautiful. Not only am I not usually the guy to have the gusto to walk up to lady strays, but I’m also not the guy to walk up to stunning lady strays, or much less the guy who gets to dance with them. But alas, those aspects of my identity were on leave or something.

We skipped introductions and began to dance. We talked too, shoutingly. As the music dug deeper into our veins and our willingness to think about our moves became less, we got close, and our ears were almost touching. I let my hands fall on the curves of her hips, pulling her closer. From time to time I swung her out and spun her around. When she’d move back to me, I saw that her eyes were soulful, her smile lovely.

The night was stolen away. Franco and Catalan were pursuing dance partners not far from us. Hours passed. Andres disappeared, and the girls were discussing leaving.

“We’re going to go,” said the girl.

“And what if I came with you…”

“Well we’re going to go back, to sleep.”

I tried to make my intention very clear. She suggested I could accompany them, but I didn’t think I’d have a chance. I was also thinking about Franco and Catalan and I didn’t want to get left behind. And like that, the girls were gone.

Andres showed up and we left, piled back into another taxi and drove back to the House of No Ends. Apparently Andres had met an older woman who invited him into her car outside. So it goes.

Franco was disheartened, “Really I think we’re a bunch of suckers. No one really won tonight did they?”

“That son of a bitch whore said I smelled bad,” said Catalan about something.

“Oye, guys,” Franco was addressing Andres and I, “those girls you were dancing with were rey buenas, really good looking.”

We drunkenly scampered into the house. I passed out quickly.

Sunday morning. One more night in the House of No Ends. I woke to a strange feeling. I felt like warm butter. I found myself thinking about the previous night, about the girl with no name, about all the things I wished I’d thought to talk with her about. I wanted to tell her about my trip, about my drawings. I wanted to ask what she does, I wanted to ask her if she knows ayahuasca. I closed my eyes and could see the girl’s face clearly in my mind. She was on my mind.

I moaned and turned over a few times. I wanted to redo that night. I wanted to lean in close and whisper solemnly in the girl’s ear, let me know you, I want to know you, but I want to know you elsewhere… why couldn’t I have met you walking on the street, or in a park, or helping you pick up your dropped books in a café, I don’t care if it’s cliche…

Downstairs the others were awake.

“What happened with the girl last night man?” asked Franco.

“Those chicks were good catches, fellas,” Catalan chimed in.

“The girl I was with suggested I could accompany her but I thought it was pretty clear nothing would happen. I was pretty clear about what I was looking for,” I said, hesistating. I didn’t seem to agree with what I’d just said. Was I really just looking to get laid? Was that it?

“You blew it,” said Franco. “She was asking for you to violate her.” Yes, we speak rather violently in the House of No Ends.

“What? But I made it pretty clear man, and in my country most don’t play those games.”

“You in Peru man,” reassured Franco. “You had a chance and ya blew it.”

“Well, it’s probably better. I woke up this morning thinking about her. I can see her face still man. Hell I think I got a crush. Last time this happened was long ago in Mexico, and I keep traveling, left that possibility in the past.”

“Are you serious?”

I thought about it for a moment. “Yea, too bad I didn’t get any of her information.”

“What’s her name?”

“I don’t remember. The girl.”

Andres gargled some water and spat it into the sink. “Hey, my girl’s name, I just remembered it.”

“Your 40 year olds name or the gal you were dancing with?” Franco jostled.

“The gal I was dancing with. Liz. That’s it.”

“Oye look her up on facebook man!” Catalan yelled.

He sat at the laptop and opened the website. After a short search sure enough he found his girl.

“Look in her friends,” I said, “wait. This can be dangerous.”

“Why dangerous man you have to do it,” urged Franco.

“I want to travel. This kind of stuff happens all the time. Aint no such thing as a soul mate, there are soul mates, and you just have to choose one, but you meet em all the time. I want to travel but if I let myself follow crushes, let em grow into something, it’ll stop me dead cold in my tracks.”

“Screw you,” said Franco, “you gotta do it. Who’s talking about soul mates anyway? You gotta mesage her man! Don’t let love pass you by!”

We laughed, “oye it aint love.”

“Hey guys I found her!”

We scrambled over to the computer screen. Profile picture. “Yea that’s her,” I confirmed with a strange eagerness. “Mayra. That’s right, her name’s Mayra. Let me send her a message.”

I wrote a message: Hey remember me? I’m that half-drunk guy you danced with all night last night. I hope it’s ok that my friend Andres found your friend, and that he searched for you on my behalf. I had a good time talking with you. To tell you the truth dancing and going out to clubs really isn’t my thing. I woke up this morning and felt like I wanted to get to know you better. Maybe we can meet each other again. Go for a walk or eat something. Let me know what you think. And I’m sorry that I didn’t accompany you home, that was my error

The next morning Catalan, Andres and I would get on the road for Ica, the desert city. Andres would stay one more day to use Catalan’s weed contact to stock up before continuing his travels. I didn’t know what I was doing sending that message. “Catalan,” I’d said, “this could really fuck things up.”

“Just go for it man, don’t worry so much.”

 


 

CHAPTER 5 – Travel Buddies

Catalan and I woke later than planned, but the door was open and we were out of it. It was a difficult parting. Franco left for work after an honestman’s handshake farewell. After so long in the House of No Ends, I had a sick feeling as I left, as though I wasn’t yet supposed to. But Catalan and I took to the pavement, hopped in a bus with uncomfortable luggage, and finally arriving at a tollbooth at the southern limits of Lima.

The hitching felt slow, but after only an hour and a half we got a ride with Jimmy in his delivery truck. Another Jimmy.

The sun slowly began to surface from the sea of haze in the sky. Little by little the heat pressed down. Jimmy let us out 3 hours later at the crossroads to Pisco. Pisco, home of Pisco, the Peruvian liquor. We would not go there. Our destination was Ica, the dune city.

Division of my brain hemispheres was obvious. I like to travel with others, but I’ve traveled so many days alone that I’m like an old man stuck in his ways… but everyone is stuck in the ways that work for them. Frustrations that clouded my mind I had to suffer silently and then they’d subside. Stupid things. Techniques of hitchhiking, techniques of traveling and getting food, what to talk about and what not to talk about with drivers, the tone of voices we use, who we let help us and who we ignore.

Alone at the crossroads I joked around with Catalan. “Oye, you think the girl, Mayra, you think she’ll respond to my message?”

“Ojala que si, but yea man for sure she will. It was a decent message, you didn’t come off like some guy just trying to get a piece of ass.”

“Well I hope not.” I don’t even know what I’m doing.

“Are you going to go all the way the back to Lima?” he asked with a sort of drop in his voice, seemingly unbelieving.

“I think so.”

“You’re in love.”

“Come on man, don’t belittle me like that, it’s a crush if anything.”

“One dance, and in a club, what’s more!” he reminded me.

“Yea, I wish it hadn’t been a club, but I can’t help that anyhow. I need a change man.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want to travel, don’t get me wrong, but all the time it’s the same general thing over and over. Every kindness is a surprise to me, but after all, the things that happen traveling are very similar it seems to me.”

“Right,” offered Catalan.

“I never have real problems, real anxieties… dude, my life is almost perfect in that sense!”

“What do you wanna change it for? I mean, what are you talking about really?”

“I think I’m talking about drama. I think. I don’t know after all what’ll come of it. What’ll come of anything? But man, what a thing a crush is…”

“You’re obsessed,” he proclaimed.

“Bah,” I denied.

We laughed and hit each other and then a couple of Australians pulled over in a plume of dust and we hopped in. A half hour on and we were in Ica.

Sands swirled in tiny sand devils over the streets. We hauled our packs to our shoulders and thanked our benefactors. First we ate a cheap meal, then I looked at the internet. No message. Catalan jostled me about it but I didn’t mind.

In Ica we stayed two nights in the off-white 3rd story room of our host, Ricardo. Ricardo wasn’t around most of the time. I lay on the mattress staring at the varnished sugarcane pane ceiling, a single struggling light bulb lonely in its place. Travelers who had stayed here had all written messages, hundreds of them, all over the walls. I drew a self-portrait caricature. The eyes I drew looked somewhat forelorn. Ugh.

We visited Huacachina, a “desert oasis”. It smelled foul, the oasis being the breeding ground of phony tourism, walkways built up all around it and ridiculously priced restaurants offering what they can’t deliver. We met some other traveling artesanos, a Colombian and a girl from England, and set up Catalan’s jewelry next to them. Later on, Andres showed up, having left the day after we had from Franco and Camilo’s. It was a warm reunion for being only a day apart.

I wandered alone into the immense dunes of the surrounds. Dune buggies roared passed me and left their tracks in the sand. I scaled several large dunes and took in the distant horizon’s drastic relief, white sand on black shadows; a collage of delicate curves in the desert expanse. Beautiful.

The desert dunes at Peru's Huacachina oasis.

The desert dunes at Peru’s Huacachina oasis.

Huacachina Desert Oasis

A travel sketch of Huacachina, a Desert Oasis in Ica, on the coast of Peru.

 

We all left the next day. The previous night they got high and I stared at that light bulb. Of all the sockets in the world, you’re there, aren’t you? Catalan talked about his obsession of buying a van back in Spain (or, with his precision, Catalonia). Andres talked about his friends in Venezuela and how we had to visit him when we arrived that far north once more. I talked about the girl from the club.

But now it was the road again. Hitching in 3’s is near impossible, so this time Catalan would leave after Andres and I. We walked to a stoplight an hour out of the city, but no one would lift us. Finally we jokingly signaled a police car, who graciously took us to the edge of the city. Sometimes cops are good, sometimes shitty, isn’t that right, everyone? We thought it was funny that we’d been in the cop car with a big bag of pot.

They used their policial powers to flag down rigs, but eventually it was a pick-up truck that took us… 3 minutes away. A few more hours of walking and waiting, a ride here and a ride there, when finally we got hauled away in a big rig, ironically just after different cops told us to take a bus.

The long road went on, paved like the swift swipe of a sword straight into the unknown. The desert is a sleepy place. Sometimes, the silence is too much to bear and it must be broken. We talked on and off with our trucker friend. He let us out a couple hours down the long desert road at a place called the Nazca Lines.

We walked around a cabin at the base of a lookout hill, hoping that we wouldn’t have to pay. We’d opted for the hill, since the lookout tower that was built there cost 2 soles to climb. The Nazca lines are thousands of years old giant designs in the earth. They’re best viewed from a plane. A few planes buzzed around in the air. They looked so small. At the top of the hill we could see lines that continued into the great distances around, but we could not make out designs.

An hour more and we were gone, walking out via a dirt road we’d seen from the hill. A motorbike security guard yelled cruelly from the side of the road and we went over to him. He read us the riot act about how we’d disobeyed signs prohibiting entry to the plain, that he had called the cops. I brushed him off and we walked away. We were able to flag down a rig before any cop showed up.

At the city of Nazca we found Catalan already there, his parcha set out, the metal articles of jewelry glimmering in the blue sky sun. Finally blue skies.

“Hey guys! I’ve been here waiting for three hours!”

“Yea, well we hung at the lines for a while,” responded Andres.

Nazca was filled with backpackers, pretty girls, and not a mototaxi in sight. When the sun had almost reached the horizon, we packed up the parchas and my drawings which I’d laid out to sell, just in case, and hit the road. We filled our bottles with water. “We drink that water from the tap but it can hurt you,” some Nazcans had said. We’ve all been travelling and drinking the tap water for long enough to be able to handle it.

I dug into Sierra’s 300 and purchased a 2 dollar fifth of Pisco for the night. Well, it wasn’t pisco as much as it was alcohol. We wanted desert. We wanted desert camping.

It was already dark when the hike began. We made our way for an hour and a half back down the road we’d come from. Darkness hugged us all around. “Catalan, get your machete out.” I held my umbrella at my waist, and became aware of my knife. Andres was disturbed. “We shouldn’t walk here.”

I knew we shouldn’t. I never break my rules, but since we were three semi-big guys, I felt fine about the walk through “the bad part of town.” We passed sparkly prostitutes bending their fingers at these three passersby. A trucker we’d asked to take us a bit further out took an iron rod and bashed the windows of the truck we’d thought was. I wanted to run at him but Catalan and Andres didn’t want to get involved. They probably saved me from a broken cranium.

Finally a little bushwhacking after we’d walked another hour out brought us to a sandy spot cradled in a set of rocky hills that looked sharp under the full moon.

“Perfect,” Catalan cried.

“We could be a bit further out,” Andres said with a smirk.

“Would have had to leave a lot earlier,” I’d said.

Well, the spot was made. Tents set up. Fire made with some dry prickly wood. Everything in the desert has a spike or thorn or something else to offend your skin. I reached a calm and comfortable drunk with the pisco and the guys smoked a bowl. We cooked some vegetables on Catalan’s alcohol cup of a stove and on the fire Andres had built. We talked about the differences between boys scouts of America and those of Venezuela. I talked about the outdoor program at Oregon. I had to brag… “We had to learn to tie 20 knots behind our backs just to be allowed to go on the trip in which we had to pass a further exam that had us get a ‘victim’ 2 miles out of the bush over vertical cliffs and hazardous landscape with eggs tied in his socks. Break ‘em and you fail.”

In the morning a grumpy old hag of a woman decided to yell at us that we shouldn’t have been sleeping on her property. This was the first time I’d ever been so poorly received, even with the explanation of we tried to find where to ask permission, but we couldn’t, and we didn’t want to sleep alongside the road.

We walked back to the gas station we’d passed in the night and took free showers and washed our dirty clothes. The gas stations along Peru’s coast are all rightly stocked with such services. The sun was intense and seemed to beam at us with a vengeance. “Damn it’s hot,” Catalan said, sweat spraying from his lips. Luck had it then, that a trucker gifted us a 2 liter bottle of mineral water and offered to take us back to Nazca. The day began perfectly.

And the day went perfectly. It was a day of more selling, more successful 2 sol meals where normally they cost 5, and a day of artesanos. We met many other artesanos in the street. There’s a comfortable solidarity between them. One artesan does not walk past another without greeting them. It’s easy to tell who is of the ilk, because they are either hauling their merchandise around, juggling some sort of trinket, or are dressed in loose colorful clothes with rips and tears.

“Wow, Chael, your technique works wonders man.” Catalan was referring to the ‘go to a restaurant and ask for the most food they can give you for 2 sols’ technique. It doesn’t work in pairs so we took turns guarding the parchas while the others searched out restaurants to eat at. I myself ate one memorable meal of potatoes and chunks of pork over steaming white rice, papas a la huancaina on the side. We also took turns running to the internet from now and again, I always checking to see if I’d received a response from the girl.

The Colombian and English girl from the oasis at Ica showed up and set up their parcha next to ours. I disappeared into the tourism office, where they lent me a computer freely to write, and when I returned to the parcha, Catalan told me I’d sold 10 soles worth of drawings. It was an older Belgian woman who purchased what I considered to be my three best drawings on display.

The dusty city of Nazca, Peru.

The dusty city of Nazca, Peru. Source.

 

Another group of artesanos passed by and there were greetings all around. Argentinians. Everyone either seems to play an instrument or juggle. I realized I play an instrument and juggle. Hmm.

As night approached, a girl who Catalan had sold a piece to offered to host the three of us in her house, just like that. But it was not a house we wanted, it was the desert.

“Oh, I can take you to a great spot,” she said, smiling at me in particular.

Andres, Catalan, our two artesan friends and I packed up shop and followed the girl across the shiny tiles of the main plaza. The Argentinians were lounged on some benches.

“Hey we’re going to camp in the dry riverbed, you guys want to come?” Catalan shouted.

So our group became 9 backpackers with our Peruvian hostess. We crossed the city in the dark and descended into a wide arroyo filled with smooth river rocks and sand. On the far side of the stretch, along a bank of rock, we pitched our tents and lit a bonfire. The Argentinians took out their intruments. The serene sounds of djembe and mandolin filled the air. The Argentinian girl had a melodica, a hand-held set of piano keys played by blowing air into a tube. Andres then serenated the group with his classical guitar playing.

Our group of travelers around the fire in Nazca, Peru.

Our group of travelers around the fire in Nazca, Peru.

 

Our hostess was named Rosario, and she was paying me an awful lot of attention. I took to the bottle of pisco with a furry. By the time I was drunk the moon had broken through the clouds and coated the whole place in light. “I just want to say..” I muttered, “that it’s a pleasure to be with all you guys.”

I offered to walk Rosario back to her place. 15 blocks, past sketchy looking characters at the underpasses, the night owls stalking the loose plastic bags floating in the cool night air. At Rosario’s door we decided I’d come inside.

An hour later I was clenching my knife as I retraced my steps back to the riverbed, unsure of the dark figures leering at me from their shadows. I’d stayed at Rosario’s for a spell, and fulfilled the lustful desire, if it was indeed what I was looking for. I didn’t feel satisfied, I felt wretched. I couldn’t get my mind off of Lima.

The next morning I packed my gear. “Catalan, I’m going back to Lima.”

“The girl?”

“If there exists a thread of hope, it’s a fool’s hope. Yea, I think I am going back to Lima a fool.”

“What about your French friend?”

Quentin was one of my first couchsurfing buddies, and we’d crossed paths several times in Europe. He was going to be in Arequipa, only 12 hours from Nazca. I wanted to see my friend, but the pull was greater to the north. I had thought he was going to continue to travel and we would intersect, but he had changed his plans and would take a flight from Arequipa to Bogota. It was a girl he was after.

“I also want to do what I’d been planning anyway. I’m going back to La Oroya and then to Huancayo and Huancavelica,” I said.

“Well right on man, I had a good time traveling with you. Send me your website alright? I wanna see what bullshit you wrote about me.”

“Take care man.”

I adiosed Andres and the Colombian and Englishgirl. My mind was empty as I walked back across the city, alone on the road once more. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing. It has been a week and that girl hasn’t responded to your message you idiot.. My logic tried to convince me, but I would have none of it. I was Lima-bound again.

 


 

CHAPTER 6 – Return to the House of No Ends

I walked for a couple hours back to the gas station outside of town. There, I had the quick luck of meeting Hernan and Alan. I threw my pack into the delivery truck and squeezed into the cab between them. They were vulgar and whistled at every piece of ass that looked somewhat feminine. I felt rejuvinated.

“Where are you going gringo?”

“Lima,” I responded.

“So are we.”

And so I had the ritual explanations and small talk that I always share with my curious rides, and the road opened up before, the horizon a beckoning beacon of what’s more. The sleepy desert, the Nazca lines, where they insisted they pay for me to climb the lookout that Andres and I had skipped. Alas, there were some drawings in the pampas below.

The Nazca Lines.

The Nazca Lines. Source.

 

And onward, hours and hours more. When the sleep tickled the corners of our eyes we blasted music and Hernan insisted that I translate sounds like “Losing my Relgion,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” and “Yellow.” Our trio sang out, almost yelling over the swift passing air at the open windows. Alan pounding on the dash like a crazy drummer and Hernan dancing the robot as he steered the wheel.

And in 7 hours I was among a bustling night market scene at the Atacongo bridge in Lima. An hour walk and I was back at Franco’s and Camilo’s, back at the House of No Ends. The feeling was righteous: I had not been ready to leave Lima the first time. There was still no response from the girl, but I didn’t mind. Franco and I greeted warmly, him glad that I was back and I glad to be back.

That night we went to his friend’s place and ate dolphin, chicken, and olives. I sipped on a real pisco, Franco having heard my stories of the latest travels, assuring me that 4 sol pisco is dangerous.

Among his friends we discussed my bizarre situation of waiting for a response from a girl I’d met only once in a club. The conclusion was that no one thought she’d yet seen the message. “Just message her friend or sister, you said you’d met them right?” Asked Bruno. “Yea,” I’d said. And that was that. I’d try once more. The door was not open, nor was it shut… it was just lurking halfway open, and that wouldn’t do. I needed it shut in my face in order to continue my journey.

That night took us to a club with 70s Peruvian rock music, but I was beat from the day. The beautiful girls all around us didn’t cause me to blink an eye. Franco and I ended up back at his place sprawled out, one last Family Guy episode showing for us both.

“I want to treat you to a real ceviche in my home neighborhood,” Franco had said. “Take the number 10 bus. It’s purple. Get off at Galeria Brazil and call me.”

And so it was. I woke and he had already gone. I took the bus across town and met him in the square of his hometown neighborhood. The square reminded me of Mexico City. These massive cities are cities of cities, really. They’re metropolises.

Franco introduced me to some friends. Many of his friends are married with children and are badgering him about when he’s to get married. “What about this French girl you’re going to see?” they would ask. Franco would leave the very next day for France, a 4 month journey to see about an interest. But he’d insisted that marriage was not his deal. The pressure he was under from everyone appeared difficult to bear. It’ll come my way in my thirities I suppose… here it comes in your twenties.

The ceviche was a bombshell of glorious taste exploding all over those god-given tastebuds on the tongue. I felt like I was eating something I should only eat once, the taste so discriminate. The fish had been soaked in lemon juice to cook it up with onion, chocolo soft and crunchy, and chicharron. The spicy aji sauce added the tinge and scooping a bit of the lemon juice into the bite added the tang. We drank chicha morada, the purple refresco made from the same color corn. We also ate leche de tigre, another mariscos treat, and also fried fish eggs. Can you believe it? Fried fish eggs… ughghghgmmm.

That last night we spent sharing tales with his friends in a yuppy neighborhood, but everyone there was buena onda, particularly the father of one friend who talked to me about Chicago.

And the next morning Franco had packed all his things.

“What do I do if there’s an electrical fire?” I asked.

“Don’t throw water on it. That won’t happen.”

“Anything can happen man!”

And for the second time I said goodbye to my new friend, and he was gone.

And I was alone in the House of No Ends. After all that, I was alone with my mind again. What am I doing… All I knew was that I wanted a date with that girl. It’s as if, just to see. Like, I just want to make sure of something.

For the next few days I sat around the house. I skyped home, and I watched movies. I laughed loudly watching Bruno with the commentary switched on. I started thinking philosophically as I washed clothes in the bucket upstairs. I understand how dirt works, I thought. I watched Spun. What drugs get you high by seeing them, or hearing them?

 


 

CHAPTER 7 – Whether She’s Now or Never

 

I was back in the House of No Ends, with nothing to do but wait. I took Franco’s suggestion to heart, and changed my CS ‘couch status’ to allow travelers to contact me. Franco’s buddy Andres became my buddy. He would show up for several nights at the house and we’d smoke hookah and sip on pisco. I played backgammon with him and his enamorada, his girlfriend. Otherwise I just laid around and ate food.

When are we ever living in the present, in the here and now? Ayahuasca helped me in that regard, but there are other ways. Videogames or tv, or movies, allow you to be in the present, but I can’t quite say that I ever felt like I was living in the present when I was high on those media. However, sitting around with nothing to do is an awful way to live presently. I sat and stared at the blank walls. Alone with my mind. And when hypotheticals of the future or lamentations over the past bore me, my mind rested, and I was left by myself in the now. But it was never for long, because I was still thinking about facebook. I was thinking about that message.

And then one day at the ritual checking of my inbox, there were two new words posted on my wall, in common facebook jargon. “Como estás?” wrote the girl.

The following day I was rubbing my hands together, shoving them into my pockets, walking around in circles and then rubbing my hands again. I stood in front of a gleaming red and yellow sign, the global insignia if ever there were one.. McDonald’s it read. It was 3 pm in Miraflores. I think I was nervous. Nervous. A wreck, they say. Then, I caught sight of her coming toward me. The girl. Mayra. And she’s beautiful.

The night rolled out in front of us. To solitary parks where we sat on benches, to art gallery where we cocked our heads at bizarre photographs, to cafe where I dropped dollars but I didn’t care. Teaching each other our persons or learning our ways we drifted out over the city, two people in a big city, there to wander without a care, to steep in presence, in now, in right now, until I’d be alone again waiting for the next day, the next chance to see her there in front of me.

And when the next day comes, my words other-worldly to me as they sneak whispering from my lips, gliding across the quiet space between us to her ears, like divulging a secret… I’m only here because of you. Purposeful were the movements then as we enveloped one another, and slowly brought our lips to bare. That adamant embrace. That melting. That kiss.

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