Sunday, June 30, 2013

Post Script: Rules of Machu Picchu

After the smoke clears in Peru, what is left? I distinctly remember Machu Picchu as a place where all things break; rules, relationships, restlessness. Back in 2008, there was a sign that stipulated the following: 1) no food and drink allowed (I carried a bottle of water with me, maybe two) 2) no shouting (I sang atop Huayna Picchu) 3)no urinating. Although rule # 3 was improvised by me, I am quite sure there was an unspoken law against this, and probably broken by many (like my companion)as the restroom at the entrance was so far from the rest of the site it was inevitable someone couldn't control himself.

In times of crisis, we discover ourselves. Our true, authentic self is bared in all its glory and all its ugliness. I came back from Peru knowing I needed to change my life. And I was resistant until change happened to me. Career, love, health, everything came crashing down like debris from a burning skyscraper, and in vain I searched amid the rubble for who I am. I learned that I write, thoughts flowing into stories, a river of consciousness that became real under my pen or my word processor. I was the channel. I write because I have a need to be understood, to share, to materialize a fantastical vision awakened somewhere between dreams and reality. I write because it is my connection to the universe; I write because I am compelled to write, and it is as natural to me as eating or sleeping or talking, except that sometimes I forget myself, my true self and the writing itself becomes dormant.

I also realized that I am confused about love. If the passion was intense and you truly believed you were in love, shouldn't you feel something after a love affair ends? I found that I felt nothing, complete indifference and nonchalance. Nothing residual, nothing nostalgic, none of the lingering desire or regret that always seems to accompany a love story with an unhappy ending. Was it romanticism that was conveyed in literature and Wong Kar Wai films, but simply doesn't exist in this all-too practical life? Did I only imagine I was love, but was actually in love with love itself? Or was it that negative things outweighed the good, and I was too exhausted with trying that there was nothing left to remember?


Saturday, June 29, 2013

L'eau Vivre in Lima

Lima was an engaging city. The saffron colored San Franciso Cathedral, emblem of the capital, could have been just as easily named after Pizzaro as much as the saint from Asissi. I remember the vibrant yellows of the historic city center, Spanish Neoclassical and baroque architecture, and the sunniness of the Peruvian disposition. And above all, a French restaurant.

L'eau Vivre, Living Water, was an elegant, high end joint boasting the best French cuisine in the city, run by French Carmelite nuns. Housed in a exquisite pale pink palace, the walls were reminiscent of salmon and delectable strawberry macaroons. Rumors of a serenade of Ave Maria accompanied dinner, but we went for the far less expensive lunch menu. L'agneau and vin du rose. For the dessert, les crepes au Cointreau en flambe. The match lit the alcohol, and I saw my partner on the other side of the dancing flame, his features somehow blurred by the proximate heat. I blinked and continued to eat, the flavor of intoxication burning my tongue. Suddenly, I realized he was not what I wanted, the very fundamental fiber of his being was so different from mine. I swallowed as he continued to talk, to charm the nuns with his fluent French. I nodded, catching a word here and there about adventures and promises and oh so many wondrous things. When they wished us a lovely future together, I began to feel sick inside.

Then we were promptly ushered out, as the lunch hours were 11am-1pm and we had apparently overstayed our welcome. The guests dissipated and I took an inordinately long time in the rest room, as ladies sometimes do. The restaurant was sealed shut, and we sat on the bench across the street, deciding where to go next. The nuns scurried to the side of the building, where a queue was already beginning to form. The men and women who gathered were dirty, unkempt, and their stench was unmistakable, drifting across the thoroughfare. They carried stained bags and tattered parcels, and we knew they were homeless. Then the nuns began distributing soup, a piece of bread, and a potato to all who waited. The line magnified and stretched as we watched, and they ate ravenously, perhaps it was their first meal in a while. Yet they all had the same hungry look in their eyes, even after their appetites were satiated.

I had seen that look before, in ubiquitous places and on the faces of strangers as well as friends. Then I thought about hunger, my own hunger for the wonders of this world, and intangible things that my partner could never understand, as he hungered for things equally alien to me. I thought about all things that one would risk to fulfill that hunger, an amorphous spirit that always seems to plague us, all the things that we want. Want. Desire. Desperation. Perhaps we are all hungry.