Philip Bloudoff’s grave is hot in the summer, the shadow of a nearby tree just missing its mark. His tombstone was glaringly white when we buried him. I’m sure it’s a different color now, the grime of an agricultural community staining the nooks in half a dozen rose impressions. My grandfather wouldn’t have liked the roses, but he would’ve nodded approvingly at the dirt.
Two of my cousins are buried in similar cemeteries, but I’ve never seen their graves. When someone dies before their first kiss, their final resting place becomes less about remembering who they were and more about mourning who they could have been.
I try to honor them each daily by conjuring up their respective faces when I cook three-bean soup, see a turtle or play cards. It’s the little things. But I’d like to do more. I love the concept of Day of the Living.
On Day of the Living, November 1, families trod through Lima’s dusty slums to the even dustier Nueva Esperanza Cemeterio. It’s said to be the biggest or oldest cemetery in South America, but Limenians have a tendency to exaggerate. (A fish was always THIS BIG.)
They gather en masse to celebrate their lives and their families. They wash and paint the graves of loved ones. They light candles, say prayers and leave offerings of food and drink.
I saw children wrestling over graves, and tiny babies sucking on bottles. Food vendors shouted their wares, and musicians ad libbed theirs. It was noisy and smelly and colorful, and I wished it were my yearly tradition, too. What better way for your loved ones to remember you than by enjoying life together?
I go to the gym every day.
No kidding, I go every, single, darn day. OK, except yesterday. I didn’t go because I wasn’t feeling well, and I had a big pimple on my chin, and I didn’t want people to judge me. The lady at the front desk looks kind of judgey.
So, you may be thinking, ‘She goes to the gym every day? I mean, she looks pretty buff, but not like super, crazy buff.’ To you people, A) Thank you! *air high five* B) I’m working on it, but super, crazy buff is hard to achieve without testosterone or, you know, ‘roids.
I go to the gym every day, not to work out, but for the showers. God, I could write love songs about those showers. They’re clean and comfy and warm and smell like fancy smells that you can only get at a fancy gym except I pay $35 a month. It’s spectacular, you guys. I’m pretty sure heaven is one, long, consistently warm shower at the Fiesta Casino gym.
The shower in my apartment generally toggles between scalding hot and freezing cold. I’ve learned to appreciate scalding because its presence is so fleeting—about 8 minutes or so. Then the freezing sets in, usually when I’m about 2 minutes away from getting my long hair soap-free, and I can’t say I’m a fan of that sudden jolt of awfulness.
Yesterday, big pimple, sore throat day, I didn’t go to the gym and missed out on this glorious, daily ritual. I’d also forgotten that because we go to the gym so often (did I mention I go ERRY DAY, you guys?!) the significant other and I had turned off our water heater, which is really just this tiny tank in the laundry room. So the shower water was cold—really cold.
Fun fact: A watched water heater doesn’t heat.
Quick question: Should I use a #thirdworldproblems or #firstworldproblems hashtag for this post?
So this evening I was washing dishes and managed, by some miracle, to hit the sweet spot between scalding and freezing, and I had the sudden urge to get naked and crawl into the sink. But then I realized that our neighbor’s bedroom looks straight into our window. And then I didn’t care because when someone doesn’t speak your first language, you develop a certain ambivalence. For example, Greg and I often have loud, obnoxious English conversations in Starbucks, and I’m pretty sure everyone speaks my native tongue, BUT there’s plausible deniability.
SPOILER ALERT: Never have I ever sink showered… yet.
Welp, today’s a new day, and I’m off to the gym. It’s shower time! Oh, and maybe I’ll exercise.
Don’t fall asleep on the ride back from Machu Picchu.
It’s more challenging than it sounds. You’ve spent hours absorbing memories, trying to hold onto everysinglelittle wisp of cloud, crumbling cornerstone and curious llama. At day’s end you sink into the hollow of your seat, like a soggy cookie plunging toward the bottom of a tea cup. It’s easy to succumb to the lull of train travel.
With my family curled up under the last rays of sun, lulled by Andean musak on the loudspeakers, I forced myself awake. awake. AWAKE.