I open my eyes after hours but only minutes to see you are there, right above me, looking down–slightly smirky smile in silhouette against the tree branches above, a face quickly turning into missing me, kissing me–months since we last saw each other. You take my hand but not my pack, leading me following you up cobblestone streets to a creaky old hotel and that’s all I remember after that, this beginning–all new.
Hot springs soaking, you, me and an old Ecuadorian couple–we watch them go from the hottest hot water nearly burning, to the waterfall, the icy mountain frigid washing over them–back and forth like this for quite some time. We ask them finally why, saying in broken English they believe it was the key to living a long life, this resiliency, the extremes becoming not so different from each other. We try it ourselves, and there, I tell you, cold equaled hot, hot equaled cold, again and again. Things that happen under Andean skies, magical things, came together–the dream of longevity and soaking skin in Inca spirits, ancient waters in a valley of a mountain.
It didn’t feel like home, the ramshackle little house in Cusco, our shanty love–you slamming doors one day, leaving, saying nearly yelling, ‘I cannot do this anymore,’ – but coming back much later after walking, with eyes shining saying, ‘Let’s keep going.’ And while you were gone I read your journal, writing I feel trapped tied at the hip, stuck, with her now for three months, traveling place after place, hotel to hotel–so little room for me to breathe here–but even still I say, ‘Ok, let’s keep going.’
There is no proof but it happened there in the dark that night just as we turned towards each other blindly, both feeling that moment of silence pitch black, unspoken our bond–when, suddenly, the brightest flash of light came between us. A momentary glow, your eyes wide open, starkest of white–seeing each other mirroring the other in the light–a force striking down from the sky, from the Inca gods above. As quickly as it happened it was gone–dark again, and with rollercoaster hearts racing and stomachs in our throats, we took off running as fast as we could towards land. Finding shelter under an awning just before it started to downpour, we hovered there, exhilerated–watching, witnessing the flashes that now lit up the entire lake–in an instant, illuminated.
You vanish around the bend, out of sight–and its becoming, I notice, that time of day, the moment don’t blink when the blue of the ocean meets blue of sky, colors matching at last in hue, tone, and shade. They waited, those two–water and sky–to sink into each other at last becoming one, finally harmonious in the tiniest spot at the horizon, darkest depths of blue merging until morning when the sun would separate them both again. You suddenly appear, shorts wet, out of breath, saying, “Let’s go,” smiling, you with your alone time, ready. And so we go–leaving, losing light–finding the path back to our cabin. Fumbling, I reach for your hand in the dark.
The perpetual parallel motion of the two of us, we eventually land in a town, ten hours of bus residue and cramped legs to find a pension, the hotel owner asking, ‘One double or two single beds?’–you quickly holding two fingers up, saying, rushed, ‘Dos.’ It doesn’t really bother me. Anyway, you snore and yank covers–being together all day and night, sharing arm rests and Imodium, a line dividing invisible east to west, an equator–nothing that a burrito or a coca could change. In our room, our twin beds become islands, we would silently look in guidebooks, sometimes on the same page, always where to go next.
Photos and excerpts from the book Rocks: A Love Story. Six months in South America. A journey and a love story.