Earlier this week, I extracted myself from my cozy suburban compound in La Molina and checked in to the Pariwana Hostel, 11 miles away in Miraflores. I headed up to the rooftop hang-out area and settled in to one of the beanbag chairs to get after this week’s writing challenge: “person-place-thing”.
• PERSON • He squats like a monkey in front of his tiny laptop, peering at the screen with Ray Liotta eyes. It’s dark out here, but I can see long, sparse hairs covering the backs of his hands. The vertical lines on his face say “close to 40”. The bottoms of his dirty green flip-flops are most worn near the toes. He must really push off with each step. Looking up from his laptop, he addresses a friend in what sounds like mumbled French. His thick high-necked sweater proves he came more prepared than I did. I leave to buy a hoodie and return almost an hour later to find him in the same spot, a spiral CFL bulb now illuminating his gaunt, Jeremy Irons face. I can now see small pockmarks along his tanned jaw – either acne scars or ingrown hairs. I can’t tell. His tan isn’t a youthful bronze, but a dark, leathery umber. He coughs wet and phlegmy like a man twice his age. Retrieving his box of Camels from his front jeans pocket, he lights the cigarette in his left hand, then smokes it with his right. Every seven minutes or so, a new cigarette replaces the butt of the last.
• PLACE • Generic techno dance music plays comfortably just beneath conversation level. Wooden umbrellaed patio tables, plastic lounge chaise lounges and comfy beanbag chairs are spread across the concrete floor. Various murals and exclamations cover the walls in bright colors. “¿Que sentido tiene el Peru para ti?” one of them asks. I guess “mixed”, I answer to myself. Several people have ordered baskets of French fries. The smell mixes with the distinct smokes of cigarettes and weed. An 8-person card game swells to 10 as newcomers pull up chairs. Glancing around the rooftop at the loners, groups and pairs, I struggle to find commonalities. Something along the lines of: white people with various tattoos, t-shirts, hoodies, sneakers and dirty bare feet.
• THING • Bowed in the middle like an old mattress, this poor ping pong table looks like it’s been outside awhile, despite its handy wheels and apparent folding potential. The surface is the same ugly shade of green reserved for garden hoses and tennis courts. Porous brown masonite peeks out from underneath the worn, chipped white trim. Someone’s hand has wiped a path in the thin layer of polvo-dust that coats every surface in Lima. No signs of paddles or ping pong balls.