From Arequipa with Love

5 min
Sitting on the grass from the inside of the flowerbed, as if the metal bows were there to protect her, not to prevent her from trespassing on the garden, she concentrated on the phone screen. A young woman of Andean traits, in a bright face. Jeans, sneakers, basic black T-shirt, hair casually stuck on top of the head. Oblique eyes, protruding nose, black and smooth hair fighting with pale skin. Indian and Spanish blood, mixed.

From where I am, I can hear a melody coming from the device, American pop music. A boy of the same age, dreads and tattoos all over his body, approaches and puts himself very close to the girl. He holds a cylinder of paper, wood or leather, maybe. Coiled in the cylinder, multi-colored braided rope bracelets, seeking buyers.

He pushes the cylinder towards the girl. She repels the object, but smiles and removes the cigarette from his lips. She swallows the nicotine, give the boy a kiss and give him back his butt. He takes advantage of the proximity to get the phone out of the girl's hand. Presses a few keys and then take the mobile to his ear.

A third woman joins the group. She stomps, smokes with arrogance. Young, piercings on her eyebrows and ears. She has shaved blonde hair close to the scalp on one side and shoulder height on the opposite side. The left ear, besides the piercings, has a black, matte reamer. Colored tattoos on the neck and arms. She wears a black leather vest, jeans shorts with fishnet pantyhose. Short, black boots, too.
The woman tried to pluck the girl from there, but she responded with grunts and continued with her eyes nailed to the screen. The thumb of her right hand ended up in her mouth. Gnaws on an already non-existent fingernail. The almost fetal position, the finger playing the role of the mother's bosom, everything in the posture of the girl screams vulnerability.

A couple holding juggling on their hands with a child of around two years old on the woman's back, passes through them. They exchange monosyllables. Another Indian-looking girl, this one with a darker skin. She seats on a shadow with the child. The boy carries all the juggling. He heads to the crosswalk.

The semaphore turns red to vehicles, and he starts his presentation. He comes back a few minutes later holding a huge sandwich and a Coke. He eats it until he gets tired, drinks all the soda from the can and gives the rest of the bread to his companion. She waited quietly, with her eyes glued on the food.

The light-skinned girl surrenders to the insistence of the blonde in the boots. She grabs the cylinder covered with string bracelets and descend the wide in my direction. I go towards her with a smile on my eyes and the wallet in my hands. I approach her softly; my smile now reaches my lips.

Then I ask if she's the creator of the pieces, what kind of material she uses most, if it is easy to find the fibers around here. She reciprocates my smile and becomes beautiful. Relaxes and talks to me.
She and the boy are from Arequipa, the city of the three volcanoes in southern Peru. They hitchhiked from La Paz, where they lived for years, to Rio de Janeiro. They suffered with the heat, with the traffickers, who did not believe they were not drug addicted – not even a few coca leaves you brought?

But mostly they suffered with the accent of the cariocas in the Cidade Maravilhosa. It was hard to understand what the natives were saying. They met Marcela, the girl with half the head shaved, former student of pharmacy, who has a family in Curitiba. They came together with her to try life in the land of the cold.

¬ Oh, you three are friends, then?

¬. We're boyfriends and girlfriends, actually. Some lovers are lifelong companions. Some are a lurch in your life. Others are friends who wrap you in a hot blanket when nostalgia hits on a rainy night.

A dove landed on the edge of the fountain and drank water gently, while students played poker on the side of the church, smoking and drinking beer straight from the can. I made an innocuous remark about the different ways of loving, all valid as long as they provide happiness. The girl felt compelled to continue, even more excited.

¬Some boyfriends are cotton candy, pink. They bring the feeling of euphoria from childhood for five seconds, but leave behind a nauseating heartburn, like a hot and fast love affair. The three of us are a bit of all this for each other, depending on the occasion. We may be affectionate, crude, sweet, but, above all, we are journey companions.

A principle of turmoil arose from the poker wheel. Natural of the game, and age of the players. Someone must have bluffed. I continued to try bracelets. The girl was not shaken either. Almost metaphysically, she defined her trio.

¬. Perhaps we come from the dust of the same star, we recognize ourselves by the colors of our auras.

I was confused by the explanation and believed the speech should be moved by lysergic acid or other similar, contemporary compound. To dodge that trip, I asked about her family, about her childhood. The result was not much more coherent.

¬. When I was still a child, I believed dreams were a real alternate world, full of tasks. If I were to fulfill all the tasks successfully, a wish would become true when I was awake again. Since I was young, I wished to have a great love. Today, I have two.

The mid-afternoon sun hit the girl's face. I noticed that the iris of her left eye was dotted with green as if the color had tried to invade the space dominated by the brown tone. She kept rambling.

¬ Love is a house. All rooms must be occupied. The only people who stay alive are those who have inhabited love completely. The ones who have not been bullied by any room, or any door. Quarreling and caressing with delicacy, both have the same importance, stay together and separate afterwards. It is essential that each corner of love be used. Otherwise, ghosts grow inside it. Abandoned rooms and houses become dusty, smelly.

I had never imagined love described in this way, compared to a house, having to be occupied entirely. I noticed the secular houses that surrounded us. I tried to imagine them as they should have been inhabited before they were taken by historical heritage. Their rooms today would probably be covered in dust and mildew. The girl kept talking, regardless of my attention.

¬. From the first time I met Marcela, I felt like kissing her. I needed to prove if she could feel love as well and trusting other people. It was never just physical attraction. Every time we're three together, we're complete. There's no right or wrong.

I had to agree with the young philosopher. I didn't inquire more about her previous life; it was clear she wouldn't talk about it. I chose two bracelets, one in shades of red, orange and lilac and the other all green, with an elaborate braid. I paid the double of what she asked me for the pieces and insisted she used the change to buy a chocolate or a candy she liked.

The girl surprised me once more. With a cascade dripping out of her eyes, she justified:

¬ Laughter and crying look a lot and the soul sometimes needs to cry to be happy. I need to live before I get all wrinkled, gray, just like an empty house down the street.

¬. What is your name?

¬ Mercedes.

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