First Day

Could it be that the writer in creating his characters, imbues them with aspects of himself that he is not even yet aware of?  Perhaps in writing of these unconscious aspects, they are aroused from their slumber to become as pertinent in him to himself as they are in his characters.  Of the nameless man who did nothing, I wrote that to him, nothing at all was remarkable and of late, those words have been continually brought to my mind for the unshakable neutrality with which I have been regarding everything.  I spent the night on a tile floor as innumerable people walked and chattered past, I know nothing of the land I presently occupy, and the language is spoken with a celerity that assures difficulty for one who is desirous of learning yet none of this is remarkable; I am calm.

And anyway what is remarkable besides that which disturbs one’s calmed, neutral state to either the extent of pleasure or amazement?  I prefer this balance of mind that allows me to look at everything as natural and necessary over what may be regarded as no more than an intrusion on this state.  In trying to discern the point at which this change into a balance of greater stability came into being, I cannot but look to one significant occasion as, if not the cause, at least in part responsible for this imperturbability.

It must be the performance that elevated my standard for beauty for I am of those men who find the remarkable to hold aesthetic significance above all else.  The remarkable is beautiful and since my encounters with beauty have been limited to music, it is natural that I have remained at such a new degree of ease—considering my position—as this.  It is an unshakable contentment that resigns itself to me if only I meet three conditions: that I maintain a pious heart, that I abide by the commands and suggestions of that very heart, and that I refrain from idleness and the negligence of my ambition.  It seems to me that I need only uphold these obligations to myself and I shall be safeguarded from the emotional and spiritual imbalance that results from the material and our attachment or preference to it.

Only a fool would not long to be indifferent as to whether it is a mattress or the tile floor of an airport on which he rests when rest cannot be further delayed.  The time is here to leave the airport and behold this city.  I believe I will be with an idea as to how long I would like to remain here by the time I return to these pages—first impressions are not lost on me.

Approximately eighteen hours have passed and as I anticipated before I closed these pages, a firm enough impression has been implanted in me to have formed an idea regarding the time I am willing to give Lima.  At leaving the airport I was ambushed by a number of cab drivers, all of whom so pleasant as to offer their cars for my pleasure, for sixty soles.  Once sixty was brought to fifty, I joined a man of swarthy complexion who did not take long to remind me of what Spanish has lingered in my memory from high school.  No sooner did we leave the line of cars in front of the airport than we joined an even longer one that seemed to extend beyond time itself.

The congestion in tandem with the cacophony of horns and oppressive air of heat and pollution served to remind me of those overcrowded and repulsive cities in India and the idea followed to spend no more than three days in this city—such was the first impression of this place, but I only nodded and postponed judgment for when I returned to these pages.

My breath was kept short for want of as little intake of defiled air as physically possible until that became no longer necessary.  After some sly maneuvering to escape the drudgery of traffic, the ocean became visible and as if that was a sort of requirement for the air to become tolerable, I was again able to imbibe the abundance of air to which I am accustomed.  The poor driver was made to circle the neighborhood for much longer than he would have liked for the apparent obscurity that only a few seemed to overcome when introduced to the name of the complex.  Of course, we eventually arrived but not before a sort of visual and linguistic scavenger hunt as he looked for the orange building while I looked for the Spanish word for orange.

I was met with a test by misfortune, whom I left dejected and disappointed at passing with neither difficulty nor concern, when a vital strap of the backpack snapped—the banal mistress did not expect that my strength sufficed to carry the load in hand.  With my paltry memory of a few words, I was able to convey that my friend lived in the complex and that I desired entry; I was let in.

Although I had not seen him in half a decade, there was no remarkable change in his appearance and not because he looks as he did then, but because he looks as I remember him to and I remember him to look as I saw him on the internet—it is an unfortunate trade to make, losing the opportunity to marvel at physical changes for uninterrupted communication.  The feeling found in catching up after so many years—indeed I am still of an age that leads me to consider five years as many—is a pleasant one, the more so when it is with a friend for whom one sincerely wishes good fortune.  I indulged in this pleasant feeling as I learned of his activity in the period of our estrangement and he of mine.

It is late and I must sleep so I will condense the activity of the day, although I resign the great pleasure of vivid recollection by doing so.

From his room we went to a street made verdant by the numerous trees casting their shadows on the streets until we came to a park named after John Kennedy for some reason I am almost interested to learn of.  On the way, I was made aware of what a good friend I have: sparing no moment, he began to inform me of the diversity among Peruvians, the pride taken in their culinary prowess, the differentiated major cities deserving one’s time, the corruption within the government and blatant economic disparity, the tendency towards liberal ideas, and the advantage of some districts over others, all the while we walked to areas notable for either what they offer or what is to be found within them.

We spent some time along the height of a cliff to which the district extends and on which the greatest vantage point is available to anyone interested.  Here I learned of the impressive quality of Peruvian pot, available at rates that would embarrass anyone who bought any in the states.  I was introduced to the strategic aspect of surfing and was made to countenance my neglect for the sense of taste.  To be in an area where the taste of food is actively improved by means of herbs and spices and sauces made it easy to notice that for so many years I have not given a thought to taste of food.  With this in mind, we went for lunch and I made a point to pay attention to the taste of what I ate, but it is not that simple to develop a care for something.

What did gain significance immediately was how fresh the food not only tasted, but felt.  Chicken, fries, and a salad would feel to my stomach as an iron ball if eaten in the states but here, there seemed to be a seamless integration of the food into my system.  How can I refrain from holding sheer disgust for the United States when everywhere else I have been has fed me with food that my body itself prefers for the good to be found therein.

We are told when young that we are what we eat and for good reason.  Is the man who eats food tainted by the byproducts of the voracious desire for efficiency and profit not going to be tainted himself?  ‘But organic options are available!’ may posit a desperate voice seeking to justify more itself than the country accused.  That does not satisfy me.  In a country so vast as the United States, rich with fertile farmland, it is not impossible to make all options organic, not just those destined to fall only in the hands that can afford them.  That a nation believed by its inhabitants to lead the world still does not ban and destroy that which is indubitably harmful to its people is no less than abhorrent.

It cannot be ascertained from what I have written until now since I jumped so quickly but by the time we got to the restaurant we had walked miles under an unrelenting sun—I am typing this some days after the entry itself was written and my skin has started to slightly peel as it has never done before.  Exhaustion came quick after we ate and so at returning to the room and after two games of chess, we both slept for recuperation.  Needless to say, a sofa does not cripple the body as a tile floor and the nap was more effective than last night’s sleep.

At waking we went to a resto-bar where I conversed, resumed with the piece that has evolved into something far more dense than I initially expected, and watched my friend perform for the pleasure of his heart, the entertainment and appreciation of those in attendance, and the sum paid to him for doing so.  From there we met with two of his friends, brothers, who at once became mine as well.  One was kind enough to guide me in what I ought to do for finding a job here while the other provided me that particular sort of pleasure found in a conversation with an ambitious man.  The four of us went to two events—the first marked us with pentacles and the second required the inconspicuous passing of a ticket and the interference of a reasonable man for an anticlimactic entrance—reminiscent of social gatherings common in college environments.  Another taste of Peruvian pot followed before we retired.

To be sure, none of this is remarkable yet I enjoyed this day for its being eventful, extremely so if contrasted with what I had just two days prior.  It is the opportunity for an eventful day without having to drive for nearly an hour that attracts me to city life and it is the natural beauty, diversity and kindness in people, and the potential to learn quickly by means of consistent exposure to the language and customs to be found here that has already served to develop a fondness for Lima.  My impression of the first moment was rendered null by that of the first day: I will not be leaving for some time, at least not of my own accord.

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