We stared out at the blue of the Pacific Ocean. A warm breeze caressed the skin and brought the smell of the sea. The canopy placed on the lawn over the tables at the restaurant Javier in Barranco protected us from the sun. A bottle of a dry red wine sat on the table in front of us as well as an appetizer of tequenos con queso with a guacamole dip to the side. After a toast, “Salud,” we sat in retrospective silence enjoying everything that lay before us. For the first few moments we reveled in our own thoughts. Maybe they would be shared, maybe not; it was to be our last outing together before Amanda left for the US. She will spend a few days in silent meditation at a retreat and then head to Houston to board a freighter for the trip to Germany. There, she would catch a train to Sweden to spend a few weeks with a friend before heading to Italy. I can imagine her finding a small apartment in the Tuscan or Umbrian countryside. Sitting at a small desk, staring out the window, absorbed by the light reflected on the rows of grape vines. A glass of wine at her elbow and a half finished story on the screen of her laptop.
I don’t remember how the silence ended or who uttered the first sentence. But, the conversation turned from casual talk of people we knew and keeping up our writing to the book I had just finished. “The Master,” a book by Colm Tóibín, covered five years of the writer Henry James jr. along with flashbacks into his past. Amanda was keen to discuss the death of James’ best friend and author Constance Fenimore Woolson. Historically some say it was a suicide and others say she simply fell from the second story window of her apartment in Venice. Before I had finished the book I was convinced it was a suicide, now, I’m not so sure. Amanda seemed taken by the method, if it was indeed suicide. To make the decision to take the leap and then have those fleeting moments when you knew changing your mind was not an option. I’m not sure I ever thought about it in this manner. I do know jumping is not for me.
We watch sailboats leave the harbor. It’s a perfect day for sailing. I tell her that I regret that we weren’t able to take the cruise around the islands just off the coast of Callao.
“Hopefully you will return,” I say.
“I will,” she responds. But, we both know, things happen.
From there we talked about books we have read, my favorites, her favorites and ones that need to be read as time permits. Amanda had given me quite a selection in the past week. Too much weight to carry on the plane, besides, she has a nook now and thousands of books can be carried by hand. We talked about writing, our goals for the immediate future. She had given me a short story to read some time ago. Sky Cats who lived in the sky above a land of immense heat and sand. A conquering race, they preyed on the land dwellers. Our trip to the deserts of Nasca and Huacachina has inspired her. She hopes to finish a collection, something along the lines of “The Martian Chronicles.” I admire the way she can be enthused by places and things, words stolen from a conversation, a person met by happenstance. The way a story formulates in her mind, brewing like a fine cup of coffee. She is most certainly a word thief, a character she has inspired in my mind. One who takes the words of others and creates spells of power from them.
The clouds and fog move into the coast and the sun floats to the horizon, another bottle of wine appears. Amanda has just finished the lunch she ordered. A vegetarian lasagna that is delicious. She shared a bite with me. I had another appetizer, the Causa de Pollo. She talked about food and how changing her diet had saved her from Rheumatoid Arthritis. She shared her dislike of sharing food with others. Think of an episode of “Friends” where Joey refuses to share a bite with his date but gets upset when she won’t share her dessert with him.
“I come from a large family,” she said. “Sometimes, firsts is all you get.”
I smiled as she told the tale of an old 6’4” boyfriend who used to ask for a bite and devour half her sandwich.
Amanda fits the image of the wandering writer/artist to me. She is an earth mother, voluptuous and embracing yet independent and world wise. She cares, is open to others but defensive and afraid at times. I learn, in this our last meeting before her departure that she loves to dance. Immediately, images jump into my head of bare breasted women, heads thrashing as they cavort around a fire begging mother earth for favors. She takes that away by telling me how much fun she’d had at a club a few nights earlier dancing to throbbing Latin tunes. I am a little jealous; I don’t want to share my friend.
The sun drops and night moves in. Our conversation turns to the more serious sides of life; right and wrong, death and the death penalty, religion and the Gods with a dash of politics. A chill drifts in from the ocean and we both shiver. These are heavy subjects best discussed before two bottles of wine have been consumed. We give it our best though and have the forethought to appreciate each other’s convictions and ideas. It’s now 9pm and the latest I have been out in a long while, especially here in Peru. It’s time to go. We settle the bill and head up to Aveneda Grau where Amanda will catch the bus that takes her to Jesus Maria and a few blocks from her apartment. The stroll to the avenue is quiet. We both know it will be a long time before we can have another day together like this one. As her bus pulls up, I grab her in a big bear hug, kiss her on top of the head and tell her I’ll miss her. She hugs back and tells me the same. Suddenly, she’s on the bus and gone. A taxi pulls up.
“San Luis con Las Artes,” I say through the window.
“Diez Soles,” he responds.
I climb in and head home, etching this day in my brain. Amanda and I are alike in so many ways. We both love our independence and time alone yet yearn for social interactions. She is a writerly sister, a supportive friend and I am going to miss our get togethers. How odd that we had to come to Peru to meet. Fortunately, communication is much easier in this day and age. E-mails, Facebook and our web postings will keep us in contact. Buen viaje y buen vida mi amiga.