Ollantaytambo, Peru


They were the stars of another hemisphere, flung in unfamiliar patters. This time, the constellations were easy to discern, being three-dimensional and in a vague kind of unwieldy motion, like balloons at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. We started up the road out of the town. The walls and shadows and street and sky were perfectly painted by some deceased magic realist. A lonely banner, the kind that advertises gas station openings, flapped over the cobblestone street. “A party!” said Holly.

“There is definately a party,” Steve and I agreed.

We admired the stone wall and the garbage can in front of it. We decided to clean up all the litter in the empty plaza to make the view more aesthetically pleasing. We admired the results of our cleanup effort.

Further on, the road turned to dirt and the stars were even brighter. The Milky Way was spread across the sky like fuzz from a dandelion. All over the valley, dogs howled and barked at the echoes of their howls. Far away on the mountain, the tiny lights of cars wound their way down the switchbacks. I began to discern subtle differences in the smells of the different mountains.

I got thirsty and just then there was a store. We had walked to the next town. The store was located at the exactly genesis of all space and time. I was fortunate to buy a bottled water there.

Inside the store at the exact genesis of all time and space were a little boy and two older guys. We all played a game of checkers (me and the little boy vs.). We lost, badly. “It´s the only way we´ll learn,” I sighed to the boy, in what I hoped was correct Spanish. He nodded ruefully in agreement and we shook hands.

Back out on the road, we stood silently, looking at the stars, the mountains, the outlines of trees. There was a point where the mountain met the Milky Way and we watched it and watched it until we all saw a shooting star and gasped in unison.

They said there was “mesclun” in the green drink we drank but it didn´t taste anything like it does when they juice greens at the health food store. I did feel great after I drank it, though.

Much later, after the walk back through town, after the dog that threatened us ran off and was replaced by a new dog as if they were changing shifts, after I spent some time on the balcony with a particularly amazing spiderweb, after the man who had painted all the paintings told me all about them and we agreed on a number of important matters, after the eternal joints and cigarettes that circled the room for hours had all burnt to stubs, after the movies and the sandwiches, after the owner of the bar into which we had locked ourselves had passed out cold, after we had coaxed all the dogs into lying on us for warmth, the dawn was breaking and the men were cleaning the steps of the church. I walked across the plaza and the men waved me over to them. Each one of them introduced himself solemnly and I nodded and shook his hand. One of the men said something about “hands.” I didn´t understand.

“No entiendo,” I said.

“Sus manas,” he said. “Limpio o soucio?” (Clean or dirty?)

I held out my hands, turning them over. “Limpio,”I said.

The man held out his hands. “Soucio,” he said, with some flourish.

“Es verdad,” I agreed, though I wasn´t sure if it was as simple as all that.

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