All these collected books and papers, (…) in the end turn out to be useless and ridiculous (…). We always believe that in a decisive moment of life, we will be able to rely on these so-called significant and important people, all the same, but this is a mistake, in this decisive moment of life, all these great, significant and, as they are lovingly called, immortal persons, leave us alone. In that decisive moment of life they do not give us anything more than the feeling that we are alone also among them, that we can rely solely on ourselves in an absolutely terrifying sense. Thomas Bernhard
I got to Lima. For two days I’ve stayed in Cecilia’s house. Cecilia is a former student of psychology, she graduated from a Polish university in Krakow, speaks fluent Polish, and for several years has been accommodating a whole bunch of cyclists traveling through Peru, not only Poles. Her apartment could be called a little casa de ciclistas, in which one can really feel almost like at home. Cecilia knows lots of Poles in Lima and the day I came, we went to the apartment of Mirek, whom unfortunately I have not had the pleasure to meet.
In his house I met Emil Witt and got the stuff he had brought for me from Poland: a warm sleeping bag, jacket, gloves, two pairs of warm trousers, thermos, new t-shirts, hats, two new tires (huge thanks to Mateusz Waligóra) and a fox for cuddling in cold, windy nights in the desert. Perhaps the thought about the fox waiting for me helped me to get so far despite chronic sinusitis and a permanent headache. And it seems that tomorrow I will be able to move on, and in a few weeks, I’ll try to get to La Paz. And then – inszallah.
The road along the coast was supposed to be a nice alternative from high Andean passes. I wanted to take a break from wind and cold, heal my sinuses and, while enjoying the charming landscape, pleasantly go south. The reality, however, turned out to be somewhat different. First, it was not as flat as I thought. Of course, I didn’t have to climb any mountain passes, but the road was found to be undulating, strenuous, repeatedly forcing me to dismount the bike and walk up the next hill. Secondly, it was not hot at all, especially in the morning, when desert was covered with mist, and the temperatures oscillated between 40 and 50 degrees. Thirdly, every day, without exception, the wind still blew from the south. At night it was less brutal, so I switched to night cycling, but during the last few days it was blowing all the time, so the day before yesterday gave up cycling about ten o’clock p.m., when I noticed some buildings barely visible from the road.
If it hadn’t been for a faint oil lamp smoldering in the window, I wouldn’t have noticed anything and would have passed by. I rode closer. The noise I made apparently betrayed my presence, because barely did I lean the bike against the wall, when the door opened and a female voice asked me what I was looking for. I replied that I would like to stay there for the night, explaining what I was doing there, and for a while I was sitting at a table in the company of a woman and her husband, Mr. Lee, or more precisely Mister Lee Vargas, who was lying on a wide bench, wrapped in some blankets. The man was holding on his head something like a compress, and from his half-open mouth protruded a big, gold tooth, which in the yellowish light filling the room, seemed to glow like a full moon.
He got a chill- said the wife for the man when I asked if something happened to his head. – I told him not to ride without a cap – she said, and when I heard that he got a chill also in his kidneys, then in the tone of the woman’s voice I recognized my grandmother, who, from my childhood, was screaming after me at the door when I was running out in windy days: “Put the cap on your head!”
Perhaps, if I had listened to my grandmother, I would not have any problems now with sinuses, and kidneys, but maybe my grandma has nothing to do with my current ailments, and as for her own reality, she’s probably siting in her chair and thinking that a serial she’s watching on a big plasma TV screen, is a real life. With her arms crossed over her chest, watching moving pictures, listening to idiotic dialogues, looking at fake feelings, forced gestures, discussing with a lady in a long dress, being surprised that she had not corresponded well, mocking chattering actresses, nodding her head in amazement, just to conclude at the end, that the whole world has gone crazy, she does not understand anything, and everybody is nuts.
I say that the wind doesn’t favour me either, on hearing which Mr. Lee groaned, opened his mouth, but before the first words resounded, I had the impression that the tooth enlarged, swollen, and that in a moment it falls off the jaw, and, with a sound of jingling coin, will disappear somewhere under the dark bench.
– The wind here is strong, but it is even worse in the cities – said Mr. Lee, lisping terribly, and unnaturally extending lips, he grimaced. In this expression of disapproval I saw at once Mr. Yunioshi, a photographer from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, who, leaning from upper floors of the building, furiously cursed his partying neighbor.
– When you get to Lima, you will see, it is also blowing, and it’s very humid. And the moisture is even worse than the wind – having said which, he groaned again, and turned to the other side, adding quietly, that in the morning he wouldn’t be very willing to get up, puta madre.
In the morning I came to the kitchen to say goodbye, but the room was empty. On the table, in a deep plate, there were two rolls of bread, cheese and butter. Beside a carafe of water and a bottle of dark liquid there was a sheet of paper, with a few written sentences, saying that I should help myself, take a syrup of algarrobina for the road and close the door ‘when I leave.