Lima (before or after the jungle)
I’m walking in a scouring light on the Calle Madrid toward Óvalo Bolognesi. Sometime after 12. I’m in Lima, before or after the jungle. Nothing to do, nowhere to be. A blessed gap, an intercession. I feel each moment as frivolous and unpronounced, as fierce and pregnant and full of sap as it really is. The pressure gone, the suction of mind, the inextricable mind-made world. The sun untouchable, inlaid in the sky. A filterless high blue, ebbing way beyond to heavens. Absolutely blinding imposing a stillness. I see the green of these grass riviera that bord er the street. The grass somehow thick, stalky overgrown. Yet so kempt and manicured. The Óvalo is a roundabout in the Parisian way, a meeting point, a focus and I find my way to the centre-point where a couple of benches sit, set on a stone criss-cross path within the wider wedges of grass. The traffic going around on its way. The oval under shade. From blinding sun to a kinder shade. A Mediterranean shade, like the South of France. A shade where noise abates. A shade where life stops and waits. I sit and watch the dogs meander, sniffing, breathing, panting. No people. They seem disparate, a man here, a girl there, all walking these dogs, and then back to wherever home is, suggesting siesta, a lunch, life within the refuge of their concrete walls. I apprehend remnants of Borges in his depiction of the Argentina I’d taken from the short stories. It is before or after the jungle, it doesn’t matter. It is before or after Iquitos, everything is the same. Everything is as it was, and as it is.
When does anything happen outside the mind? When is before really before, after, after? What is the true sequence of things in a man’s life? I can’t remember what happened first in my life, or if I can, it doesn’t really seem so ordinate anymore.
When I walk back to where I stay, I see a shop and without going in I glance at the ramshackle holdings piled up inside and out. Cartons of fruit outside, the whole place old and unlit. I go in and see things stacked up skyward, two, three fridges full of cokes sprites Peru’s versions of fizzy drinks and things on top of the other on bare wooden shelves and no room to move and squeezing past a young man to buy myself four spindly bruised bananas. The smell: clean and musty and spicy and slightly damp. Everything obscured by things and goods and packages of things which are supposed to be held back in the dark. It isn’t sinister, just obscured. I realise we are away from the sun. The sun is not to be worshipped or just adored blindly.
I walk out and on. I haven’t expected these houses. I hadn’t expected anything old and solid. Full of colour. I think of pinks and azures and violets, the outside low front concrete walls, undulating in a pattern and an iron grille and then in contrast, adjoining or opposite on the other side of the street, the high blocks of condos with their ocean vistas, their teetering sharp on the edge of this cliff, their precarious godly perches, looking down onto kites and crests and tankers and the low watery fog that wafts in from the coastline. The coloured houses, incongruous, outliers. They lie low in their centre of gravity, settled, secure, set up with flowers, azaleas and geraniums and bougainvillea, lots of rhododendrons. Their walls are blessings. Their numbered plates ornate and mosaicked, glaring in the whiteness.
Holy indiscriminate uncensored jungle. Repository of fear. Where the indigestible violence of nature reigns. Where I can’t come close to a comfort or safety. At night, the blackness unpunctuated but by the slenderest tint of moonlight. Some stars. A lamp light. The battery-fed torch. The sentient noise takes hold, like a shroud, like a unit of noise. You can’t break it, you daren’t even speak. I lie in bed and wait for what will never recede to recede. In sync with the bloody heartbeat. The throb. I can’t stand this unpunctuated black, with me gone, dead sucked into nothing. In some way this is what life is, a slender sentience, a breathing, a body consciousness in the flotation tank of darkness. Life at its bare minimum is somehow unacceptable.