Is there anything worse than a soft mattress? I mean, sure, I know there are worse things. I know getting bamboo shoots shoved under your fingernails is probably worse, but the more I think about it….is it?
Yesterday I went to La Punta with Clara and Cristina. Clara is my host, and Cristina is one of the other guests here, from Venezuela. And La Punta is a neighborhood, as the name suggests, on a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, as if saying to the rest of Lima, “I want to get away from you.” It’s also next to Callao, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Lima, possibly another reason for its fleeing geography.
As we were approaching Clara said, “Watch how the houses change.”
And indeed they did (change).
Once dilapidated houses with exposed bricks became multi-level condos with cream-colored sides, terraces lush with plants, soundproof sliding glass doors. The houses here were from yesteryear and I immediately felt like I was back in the Caribbean, in Cartagena or La Habana, exploring the malecón, looking for Gabriel García Márquez, gazing upon peaceful inner courtyards, denizens sipping lemonade and wondering, “Should I take a dip now? No, maybe later…”
Apparently La Punta is a zoo in the summer. Not an actual zoo, of course, but it FEELS like a zoo because of the quantity of people on the beach, the full buses, the yachts buzzing in and out of the harbor, the vendors hawking wares left, right, and even center. When we got there and began strolling the waterfront, palm trees towering above us, elegant houses to our left, Clara said, “That’s my yacht right there.”
“Oh, cool,” I said. “It’s not as big as my yacht, though.”
Then we talked about how great it would be to have a yacht, to be eating ceviche on its stern, gazing into the blue water.
Then we came to la punta de la punta, or, the end of the point, and I saw waves, their tops clipped by an offshore breeze, an island visible in the distance obscured by a wispy marine layer fog, and I thought, I must go swimming. I must go swimming now. I took a quick detour to change into my swimsuit and then I was plunging into the water, cold at first, gliding underneath the waves, the preoccupations of life on shore receding behind.
After this we walked around the point a bit more, and then made our way back to the other beach, where there were less waves. We walked slowly. We talked. It felt like we’d traveled back in time and that everything was simpler. At the other beach I went swimming again, and Clara dipped her feet, wobbling on the smooth, cobblestone rocks. Cristina also dipped her feet. A group of Americans approached the water and inexplicably did not go in, opting instead to stand on the shore and observe. Meanwhile I tested the upper reaches of my lungs, imagining myself to be like Kevin Costner from Waterworld, gills behind my ears, clad in tattered leather. I imagined myself to be like Kevin Costner from Field of Dreams, traipsing through a corn field, building a baseball field, talking to Terence Mann. I imagined myself to be like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, befriending a lone wolf on the frontier, becoming accepted by a group of Indians, marrying a squaw. And then I stopped imagining what it was like to be Kevin Costner and imagined what it would be like to be back on the beach, though this wasn’t something I didn’t have to imagine. I could do it. And that’s what I did. I lay on the beach, roasting in the sun, feeling the hot rocks beneath me, listening to Clara and Cristina talk.
Eventually, unfortunately, it was time to leave. We walked by the yellow house I’d decided was my favorite on the way in, and Clara took a picture. “I wish I could freeze this moment,” I said, and I did, I wished I could freeze that moment. It felt like one of those summer afternoons when you’re 12 years old and the sun is warm and you don’t realize you won’t live forever. I didn’t realize it was still possible to have moments like these in your thirties, and now that I know it’s possible I want to have more. Yesterday, at La Punta, with Clara and Cristina, was a good start.
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