Tonight, I drink tequila from a Dixie cup, in honor of a full sink, in honor of its effect. Outside, seven men slouch in sloppy ovals, slugging cheap beer and aguardiente. Smashed. I am watching them from a red plastic chair—one of two in my kitchen—thinking about the lid I kissed earlier. At some point tonight, a trash bag will blister open. I am hoping the culprit will find my kiss: a thick mauve imprint of longing and thirst, indentations and all.
My 3rd floor apartment overlooks the Colombian Andes. Mùsica popular cuts through the night like headlights. Dogs yelp. Sound travels differently in a barrio. Here, there are no quiet hours, no inconvenience; without noise, the air stifles.
It has been almost six months. Some of these streets I know very well. The people seem friendlier, friendly enough. Last week the ocobos were in bloom. Practically all of the trees puffed like cotton candy sticks, petals the color of rosewater. Now time and rain have laminated everything on wet pavement. The branches look arthritic, so thin! A book I’m reading says sadness comes from viewing transient things as permanent. I think I agree. There exists the urge to collect the fallen blossoms, somehow Velcro them back.
What I want most is to be rendered invisible, but my hair has never been so loud. Earlier today, I bought an arepa from a street vendor. It sizzled in butter atop hot black coals. There was string cheese inside and it rubber-banded when I pulled it apart. I sat alone on the curb and ate, feeling conspicuous and dumb—traits all too familiar.
Once, someone draped cowhides over flaking metal, below a towel of old McDonald’s toys. There were other things too: Tasers, screwdrivers, patterned bags, goblets, and velvet portraits of la Virgen, mass-produced for capitalists and Catholics alike. To the left, a heap of shoelaces all tangled up, like instant ramen. I looked for utility in the assemblage, as if there exists some, any, in desperation.
There is a one-armed man who carves mangoes, gives them shape—sharp ridges like an artichoke. He paints them with honey and chili powder, assembles contempt in plastic. Today, every day, fog binds to the mountains and traffic takes on new meaning. All the puddles stay full of cigarette buoys, while the smokers go hungry. Light is sparse, siphoned through palms that punctuate the earth like javelins. Their huge pineapple heads are distilled fireworks of a distinct, tropical green. I am working on adapting; on getting used to grayness, and steady rain. In the absence of seasons, I anticipate less, dance more.
The smog from the buses hides my shame. But sometimes, I welcome the opacity. It plumes big in the sky, leaves the engines like a spell. There are junk and shit piles too, but I like them; I like the disregard, the realness; I like the unpredictability of buying an avocado with a fifty-percent chance of being rotten inside; I like the cracks in the sidewalk that lightning-bolt out and the congenital distrust of a people pulled by history; I like how car horns, and the calls of morenos wielding megaphones to sell fruit I’ve never heard of, comingle with the sad, honey wail of a baby held in the arms of an indigenous woman banging two sticks together for pesos or bread ends. Life here feels furious and rushed. There is no time for contemplation, usually. Seeing is believing, and believing hurts. So we keep ourselves busy, our heads down, lost in the entropy of a churning world.
There are some things I’ve noticed, am noticing. Impulsivity can debilitate but it can also animate. I am soft, and much more addictive than I once thought, smoking everything down to the filter. I own many books, almost all of them unread. I live in the hypothetical. My bathroom mirror has permanent toothpaste stains. My being necessitates: miso soup, company, dim, greasy days. When I was younger, I used to force my eyes open underwater. This was before I knew better. Now I fetishize it all: disorientation, crying—the warm stinging blindness of pooling tears.
The outlying ridge is peppered with lambent orbs, homes, which in daylight appear busted and vulnerable in the way ornaments do in the weeks after Christmas. But now, with each sip, these same homes glint and coalesce as beautifully as schooling fish. And I am hot with feeling, remembering how long ago, someone I loved told me I looked best at a distance, that if anyone got close enough to actually see me, they’d run.
I am afraid this may be true, so I have chosen a head start.