Love, Flamenco, and a Moral Dilemma

How is it that only now, I have come to notice how the sun flickers as if in desperation to draw one’s eyes, in the final moments before it sets?  The natural beauty of a mountain engulfing the sun as its rays cling to the ocean and produce a variegated scream that may be heard just as well as seen, is sufficient to stun an individual.  Even after it has set, it continues to resound as a remnant, discoloring and enlivening the clouds, mercenaries to be bought and sold without difficulty for they are contented with the awe they inspire in men as compensation for their troubles.

A strange sensation has just now inundated me: I lifted my head from the page and turned just slightly, surely instinctually, and beheld the colored stones on which I sit and the numerous people to be seen lying on the grass, walking along the path, and sitting on this same stone structure resembling a gate yet made innocent and even aesthetically interesting by the diversity in tint, and felt a great wave, not unlike those I see extending from the landscape only of a different element than what I see, no less perceptible to the senses but of a different aroma and not so daunting but instead, congruent with the very soul for it is a wave of love.

Love for this city that at once allows for exposure to the natural beauty of the Earth and man; the former accentuated by the height form which it is accessible to the senses while the latter is enhanced by the genial ease that seems to characterize those around me.  And how could one be uneasy with such a pungent breeze, neither persistent nor frigid but somehow with an understanding as to how to please man; how could one indulge pernicious thoughts when the lush sound of waves may be heard despite the distance separating us from them?  It did not take long for me to become so infatuated with this city, but how could it be otherwise when my exposure to it came as a reminder of my preference for the urban environment?

Naturally, the one with love for his brothers and sisters would prefer the area that provides him with uninterrupted access to them—what liberty there is in knowing that one may stroll from one’s bed three hours past midnight and yet still find other souls roaming along the perpetually lit sidewalks.  Of course this is not unique to Lima and it is a thing I would likely enjoy more in the states if only for the absence of the language barrier, but not many cities known to me offer such a breeze as this.

From Miraflores to Barranco is a delightful walk that, if taken along the cliff’s edge from where the water is continually visible, brings one to encounter dogs and lovers, differentiated from each other only so far as a very vague suggestion goes.  There seems to be less reserve in displaying affection here than anywhere else I have been—what, if not this, can make the prospect of a relationship appeal once again?  I sit now in a park with a visually appealing church painted in a jolly yellow in front of me and with a statue nearly in front of me—I can only see its back from here—that has already been preserved in countless photographs in the short time I have sat here.  Numerous trees and families surround me to give a very lively impression; how many options there are for one who seeks only to sit and enjoy a surrounding conducive for positivity.

A woman who appeared to be my age approached me not long ago and revealed herself to be a vagabond gaining the means to travel from one country to another by selling handcrafted jewelry.  What an inspiration this Argentinian woman was to me!  I am wont to curse my pitiful inability to recall names but now, I am nearly grateful because such an elusive beauty as hers is beyond even names.  Her smile made infectious and affectionate by the liberty she enjoys is imprinted in this quartz now around my neck as it is in my mind.

What a contrast between the effect she produced and that which I suffered earlier after a brief yet intense interaction with a round and aggressive man, emphatic either with drugs or some aversion to something he saw on or in me, who yelled at me to take off my bag as he approached with a determined and, I confess, intimidating gait.  It is not difficult to evade the corpulent and with a side step and hastened pace, I left him behind.  How exciting it was I cannot begin to describe but it was at least two blocks before my heart eased itself—how could I explain to such men that there is nothing of use to them in the satchel and that they probably wouldn’t be able to read my handwriting anyway?  I only appreciate the opportunity to know an intense pang of excitement, but that is easy to say when it comes to nothing.

Now in a restaurant reminiscent of the garages in which food is served that I daily attended in Thailand, I write as the Asian dish cools.  The diversity in Peruvians has yet to cease amazing me; the few I met in the states gave the impression that the people are homogenous and what a false impression it was!  Afro-Peruvian, Japanese-Peruvians, and Chinese-Peruvians are among the many who diversify the population and spare the observer from what boredom results in seeing an undifferentiated mass.  How attractive a woman whose appearance suggests neither more nor less than Chinese roots becomes when she speaks fluent Spanish!  The kind lady who served this massive heap—did my manner of speech give me away as American, it must have or else why such an extravagant portion, the consumption of which feasible only to Americans?—revealed to what extent the language of the Chinese diminishes what natural beauty may otherwise be irresistible.

Indeed it seems common in Lima to find irresistible beauty.  A bit of roaming brought me inadvertently to Parque de Barranco where I was brought to a position of prostration before beauty as it exists only in the joyful innocence of a woman and her smile.  Another traveler caught my attention with the gemstones she sold—it had been so long since I found uncut gems that I nearly forgot of my fascination with them—and after learning of her ambitious enterprise (and after succumbing to the seductive accent with which she spoke) I was nearly powerless.  Only reason and its generous counsel allowed me the strength necessary to move forward after I added an amethyst to my collection and showed her mine; The reminder of the futility in attachment and the superfluity of sensual pleasure renders an appreciation of the aesthetic character of a woman sufficient and thus it becomes a simple task to smile and say farewell without turning one’s head.

A few steps from the woman was a sort of square surrounded by people and as with any congregation of my adored brothers and sisters, I joined to notice a musical performance.  A man playing a guitar while simultaneously producing the melody with a traditional flute captivated me—few instruments as that flute, the name of which I will soon learn, have been able to affect me not because of the song played, but because of the sound itself.  From there, after he played a song or two, could be heard percussion and the crowd quickly assembled to a similar square nearby, and for good reason.  A group of Afro-Peruvians were playing on a percussion instrument I could do no better in describing than by saying is a box.

Their talent was impressive and at one point proceeded to play a sort of fugue with their boxes that I could not have imagined possible prior to watching it.  All that they did was made pale in comparison to the dancing of four girls in cryptic robes—one red, another orange, a third yellow, and the fourth, white.  I would be committing an offense if I limited the description to ‘dancing’ for it was more than that.  There was a fierce violence to their movements and expressions as would be expected in warriors and it stripped the elements of grace and sensuality so common in dance and replaced them with a solemn, passionate control of their limbs’ loss of control such as is found in ceremonies used to either banish or summon evil.  In this too was a beauty of expression evident as it is always so when all that serves to dampen sincerity is eradicated and before I knew it, I was enamored.  But as is expected of anything so physically demanding, its duration was limited to how much a body can tolerate and after a vigorous round of applause, I once again migrated to the first square where delight filled my heart before I came to learn that it was a flamenco performance.

The rapidity of the tempo overcast with the sonorous baritone of a female’s voice in tandem with the immaculate movements of a dancer in red held my complete attention just as they did an inexhaustible smile on my face.  The dancer in particular moved with a passion that was so palpable it came to possess the music itself and put it under her control.  With the mind under the spell of captivation, it cannot but understand the flamenco dancer to be conducting the music with her unrelenting movements to give the impression that if she stopped, so would the music in spite of the instruments being struck with helpless hands.  It may be good that this language barrier still stands or else I would not have hesitated to remain until the very end just to fall on my knees and reveal the entirety of my love to her mercy—how can such a reaction be controlled before the woman who can command even music?

As though the vacillation of states, exposure to magnificent sights, and the wound made by the arrow of love were not enough to satisfy my heart and its voracity, I was provided with one of those things that serve to truly enliven life with the excitement of a challenge, that is, a moral dilemma.

A taxi that driver pulled up to me and with the tone of a man desirous of help, asked if I had a hundred soles bill to exchange for the two fifties he held.  In the back sat a woman that led me to assume it was for her convenience that the request was conveyed to me.  I gave him the bill and he gave me the two before a genuine expression of thanks was also given to me.  Later when I came to pay for dinner with one of those bills I received from the man in the taxi, I was told it and its companion were fake.  Herein lies the exciting aspect of it all: I am with the choice to either accept the loss as a byproduct of external cunning and internal naiveté or I can find a place to spend the bills and simply slide the problem along to another—I learned in the taxi ride back to Miraflores that such a thing would be easy as the driver nearly put the bill in his pocket before I stopped him and asked him to validate what I was told about it earlier.  It did not take long to make a decision despite the devil’s seductive justifications because regardless of how it is looked at, whether in darkness or under the sun’s light; held vertical or at an angle, it appears as immoral to cheat another just because I was cheated.  Anyway, I would pay one hundred soles for the opportunity to exercise my conscience so it may just as well have been a valid transaction; who could tell me otherwise?

Such a rich day as this can only be found in an urban environment and needless to say, I love the place that gives me so much to enjoy for the first time.  However, I still feel as no more than a tourist and it seems to me that to find a job is the only remedy to this sense of detachment all tourists must suffer.  Only time will tell if I am to become more here.

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