:: SPRING 2018 TRAVEL WRITING CONTEST FINALIST ::
Sky-whales, mug shots, orange lands, black tourmaline, magma, slithering ants, venomous hissing, hardwood shine, balloon-eating dogs, gales of technology & Peru.
W e don’t walk on my bridge; we sit in it, carried by gales of technology, awaiting the raw world of Peru. We sink into our slate seats, comforted by pillows like the scales of a warm iguana. The bawls of toddlers, the cramped bathrooms. The cabin smells of sweat and sounds dead beyond my kicking, my whining for my ears being bubbles that wouldn’t pop. And just like a bridge, we aren’t guaranteed to safely cross. Nor are we guaranteed the plane won’t veer off and lead us elsewhere, a stopover. Frequently, I am reminded of this. The turbulence is like a quake, a terror, as if there were a massive sky-whale ready to swallow the plane. With the light being lost outside, I believe it. Every belch comes in tandem with the babies, their voices breaking, as we swivel within the mouth of the whale. To me, it’s not scary. I would like to see this whale, and to meet it, maybe even shake one of its fins. I never close my window. I do not want to be censored. I see glowing bubbles, popping, beneath the plane, never identified.
We do reach the orange land, the sun cast over. The rays turn the people, the buildings and the streets into ripples, ones bathed in sepia. Every house I go near has a gate, just dark sable metal cells. They bellow and quiver when pushed or punched, like the kind that protects mine. Behind the jails are simple floors with nothing, only a barren crossing that leads into the house. If I am unlucky, I will meet a dog that will only bark at me, hissing venomously. Their saliva sometimes will splash into my face. Others, the two or three with hardwood shine, where I can see my reflection.
He lost nothing from the thief, but the police stole from the man his dog, trampled beneath melted metal elephants, questionable rubber, led on the path to pulsating movement, and then nothing.
I feel lucky to not have a home like that. Puffs and cones and planes, fern, outline the front, the path smooth, gainsboro. A stone table sits a bit before the door, lifted by the single step that leads into the home, stools used to make it a gathering place. I look over and I see it is some large irregular cinder block. It hurts to look at it, with all the ants slithering. The door is usually open, the slick sienna flooring present and the glass pane deep in the background giving a preview to the tiny backyard. You could not hold any sort of festivity there in that courtyard, that play area, a kindergarten. It would be the same as square dancing inside a coffin, or playing limbo when not even yet born. And our dog here, brown like most here, but short, size like an inflated birthday balloon, would rather sniff and rest than yell and snap. He never leaves the gates. Eating balloons is still the signature specialty of all these dogs.
The familiar cracks on the sidewalks, ones like the veins of leaves in the park I notice as I walk past, slogged, dance around my feet. Curbs are destroyed all across the town, leaving jaws of stone and gravel at my feet, a broken valley of concrete. There is steel thread woven within. I try to avoid them, as if they are little crevices with magma inside, tiny volcanoes, and to distract me from the environment so sultry, like lava splattering, sputtering and sizzling all over. Is that why there are so many cracks?
The turbulence is like a quake, a terror, as if there were a massive sky-whale ready to swallow the plane.
Safety is superfluous here, spelled out by the holes on the street and beyond. Globes, the bumpy sides of them, are how I describe the roads. Like mountain ranges. It is satisfying to trace the ruggedness, the tiny crags like puny pebbles frozen, encased in time. Packing into a taxi, or even a van, is the true nightmare for claustrophobics. But it is family, and family is better than strangers. Until they try to talk to you.
A person once sprinted out of a house, and another, a man, smacked into the pavement. A dog, the color of charcoal, chased. The sprinter, a robber in training, is captured, the face that would be his mug shot in the rear of the police car. I wave goodbye to him. The man was crying. He lost nothing from the thief, but the police stole from the man his dog, trampled beneath melted metal elephants, questionable rubber, led on the path to pulsating movement, and then nothing. The Kingdom of Thieves. They could have my breakfast, sitting with me on the ground.
Puffs and cones and planes, fern, outline the front, the path smooth, gainsboro.
I come to a boundary: a bridge seeping from the ground, the color of wheat, one I should not cross. This is what Mommy told me. I am offered a black, bubbly something in a Coca-Cola bottle by a child in rags. Was he selling it? He did not shake it. His clothes are as worn and dirty as his skin, with hair, long, a color like black tourmaline, and a face with eyes like the beige dog without a leash behind him. I attempt to ask, our hopeful language in mind, if he would like some food, or another buddy, just something to replace the nothing in his tummy. I had no money. The dog runs, jumping toward a small village; shacks stacked in the scene, all painted dull, single, simple colors. Together, they are like daytime fireworks on the mountain, Peru’s own eternal rainbow. The child follows, bottle in hand, whatever his answer may have been now gone to drown in heat. The child does not return. Perhaps it was because his bridge had collapsed, his way to cross into a huge world now needing repairs. Scattered into pieces bigger than him—ones as frequent as scales, like the holes in his clothes. He may have to listen to a society in the dark, come to sleep and relieve on rocks and lay with eyes open, searching.
Brandon Cook is a young man from New York. He enjoys fighting games and writing. Both allow intrepid flexibility for him. He is majoring in English, Spanish and computer science.
Lead image: Afroz Nawaf