Peru (2)

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.



I always tried. Always failed. It does not matter. Try again. Do not be discouraged. Samuel Beckett

No sooner did I see his two toes, emanating from the worn-out sandals, than I looked at the man’s face. His penetrating gaze, clearly fixed on me, I took as an invitation  for a talk. With a bottle of fizzy drink I got closer.

– Tom Tyrone Eger Arce, awarded the medal of merit by the National Institute of Culture, Ambassador of Science, a herbalist and a healer.

– Peter – I replied hesitantly and quickly sipped my drink.

– I am a professor – he said, but noticing that it did not make a desired impression on me, he added: – Recognized by the Red Cross and cited in journals, at home and abroad.

– And I’m from Poland and I have a bike – I said, then sipped my drink again.

– I can see it – his bushy eyebrows rose for a moment, then dropped, as if in anger. – Do not drink this stuff. You’ll be sicker than you really are. Surely you’re sick, everyone is. Tell me, what ails you? Do not hold urine and suffer from impotence? I treat everything, leukemia, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or even Ebola. Haven’t you been to Africa recently?

– I have not, but I have problems with my sinuses. I have been going with a headache for nearly four months, I can not get rid of phlegm from my throat – and, as a sign of which, I spat violently.

Professor Tom got interested in the subject, and asked me to bring all the specifics I was still taking (herbs, spicy liqueur, Ambroxol, allergy pills and something else, from which I’ve lost the package).

– Throw it all away, it will not help you, but I’ve got something for you. We’ll go to my house, I live nearby, I’ll make you a tincture for gargling, three liters, and after three weeks of using it, you’ll get rid of the phlegm for ever.

I thought that three liters would make substantial excess to my luggage, but, definitely, it might be worth a try. The man stood up heavily, and I, in order to get rid of any doubts, asked about the price of that patent medicine.

– Normally I sell it for two hundred, but I’ll prepare it for you for just a hundred American dollars.

– One hundred American dollars? – I asked, thinking that maybe I misheard something.

– Yes, just one hundred, this promotion is only for you, I am a professor, normally I sell it for two hundred.

I look at the man’s raised bushy eyebrows, thinking about sticking out not so far away big toes, I shake my head, get on the bike and without saying goodbye, I set off, wondering if “Professor” was ever able to sell this tincture to anybody for any price, or maybe I just look so naively that unflinchingly and with enormous self-confidence, one may try to palm me off with any shit for “only” a hundred dollars.

This queer conviction, that my face really reveals gullibility, is established the same day, when in the evening, a man bothers me asking, why I have been standing on the threshold of his house for ten minutes.

– For ten minutes? – I replied, wondering at the same time whether I completely lost any sense of time, or I’m on a good way to stop it whatsoever.

– I’m just standing, frankly speaking, I do not know what I’m doing here.

– And how long are you gonna stay?

– I do not know. Maybe five minutes more.

– But you think, or you know? – And without waiting for my answer, he added: – Because it’s not the same. When a man thinks, it does not know, then he wonders and doubts, and so on, so it is in marriage and religion, too. You think there is God, then you’re wondering if there is God, then you have a problem with that, if there is any God, and at the end, there is no God. You think you’re happy, then you’re wondering: Am I sure I’m happy? You do not know, and when was the last time you were happy? Maybe a month ago, maybe a year, well, you don’t remember when you were really happy, it means that you are unhappy, and happiness is somewhere else. And you, you’re lucky?

– I do not know, I think so.

– You see, you think so, but you’re not so sure, but it doesn’t matter, I know a good way to get some happiness, let’s have a beer. You smile, it’s good, I see that you simle a lot, because you have wrinkles in the corners of your eyes, inevitably from laughing, and when you laugh, you do not think, you simply are, the whole body is moving, but I should stop talking nonsense, come, let’s go for a beer.

I say that I prefer coffee.

– Surely, coffee will do, but firstly a glass of beer must be had.

I do not know why, but I let this man drag me into a dingy bar. I was walking next to him, not really listening, wondering why I still attract all these strange people. I look and I already know that they will approach me, perhaps I myself have something of a bum? Of course, there was no coffee, everything smelled fresh piss, and Mr. Gino just wanted to have a drink at my expense. Anyway, that day he missed the target. Possibly the day before or the next day I would treat him to a drink, but not that day, not that night, when I was looking for silence. It was not around, I was looking for it in my head.

I went out of town. Why is it so dirty here? Why there is so much crap around the road, one huge surrounding trash, in symbiosis with a culture of ubiquitous noise, honking horns, attracting attention in a sudden and violent manner, as if to compensate for this sterile, dry, desert landscape.

It’s still very windy, this time I’m not pedaling at night, I’ve had enough. I put up my tent on a sandy shoulder. It’s cold, it’s dark again. I take off my clothes and hide myself in my sleeping bag. I say ‘good night’. It’s hard to say to whom, probably just to myself. My voice sounds strange, it’s unnaturally alien. As if it does not belong to me. Just in case, I repeat these two words, loudly, clearly, to make sure I am still here and there. And then I listen. I listen to the rustling of the tent, restless flapping of the thin flysheet. I listen, as I usually do in the evening, hoping, that before I fall asleep, surrounded by a cold whisper of the wind, at least one time, just only once, I will catch a warm response. Good night, Peter.



The purpose of the art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity’ Glenn Gould

Sylvia came to me, when, with a kind of relief, I was about to finish eating my dinner. After a seemingly short dusk, a very tiring, windy and rainy day turned into a clear, starry night. I like cycling at night, and I can not resist this temptation especially during full moon, and particularly under a clear sky. Streets then shines with silvery lustre. I raise my hand, high, I touch one thumb with my index finger – white moon perfectly fits into the circular frame. I smile seeing how smoothly it does. As if it was always there. Even when it actually isn’t there, but who knows, maybe then, it is even more.

I clench my fingers, still hoping that in this encircling darkness, in the threshold of night, I will feel a warm touch of a soft hand. And then I keep going, slowly sinking in a discolored dream; dream of blurry shapes, dim, dark-gray spots, from time to time mixed with sharp beams of light of passing vehicles, which themselves appear like a ghostly complement of a solitary dream, created by laboriously and persistently covered road.

It was already late, when I got to San Lucas. I stopped at the first traffic lights, as soon as I saw a tiny roadside restaurant. I ordered a meal and sat down. I was eating in a company of several dark eyes, staring at me, embedded in the silent faces of some stocky bodies, which with their unnaturally energetic and grotesque gestures, betrayed a great curiosity, but for some unknown reasons, they did not want to take any conversation with me.

I almost finished eating last, fried banana, feeling more tired by these fixed on me gazes than by that long, exhausting road, when a young woman came to me. She turned out to be a teacher from a nearby school. Thanks to her kindness, an hour later I was putting up my tent in one of the classrooms. I got a mattress, keys to the bathroom and warm words for a good night. Falling asleep, somewhere between reality and a dream, I heard a strange noise – as if something was scrubbing the door. I was too tired to go out and see what it was. In the morning I discovered that a ginger cat was sleeping with me in the room. As I got closer, he hid behind a wardrobe. Barely did I open the door, he fled.

That night I already spent in Peru. I went down from the mountains to the coast and it got hot again. I do not know how my weak sinuses will react to this sudden change of climate. Cold in the high mountains, strong winds and long descents in the rain certainly didn’t have any good effect on them. Maybe dry, desert coast will please them. And sniffing steroids, which have been helping me going for over a week.

The days again became similar. I wake up, eat breakfast, and I get on the bike. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, sometimes it’s raining. That’s all. Among these words, in which I create myself, there is the rest. After all, I am no longer here. And even if I’m wrong, and I am somewhere for someone, and I do mean anything, it is only for a moment, I’m here for a while: I’ll oversight what further lies, and I’ll be wrong with all the rest.

Dream of returning


This is an evening for a song, thought Snufkin. For a new song, which will be composed of one part of hope, in two of the spring longing and which the rest will be inexpressible delight that I can wander, I can be alone and that I am pleased with myself. Tove Jansson  

I was cycling uphill at night (the next day it will turn out that, actually, the uphill hadn’t really started yet) when on the other side of the road I saw a man waving to me. I do not know who or what placed him there, perhaps it was a sheer coincidence, but even if it was, this undoubtedly pleasant coincidence helped me finally to stop that day.

The man turned out to be the owner of a roadside restaurant. When I asked him where I could put up my tent, he offered a room in his premises. Before I was ready to go to bed, I got a delicious, thick bean soup (almost as good as my mom does), out of which, what else, a big bone was sticking out. Then I met four, wild children, unanimously determined to sleep with me on a huge mattress they had brought from the attic. The girls, literally, got on my head and pacified me, deciding at the outset that they will be sleeping on the both sides of the mattress, and I will stay in the middle, because I’m a gringo (and I’m a gringo, because I’ve got a face of tomato colour, which distinguishes me from no-gringos, for example Argentinians, who, according to girls, lisp terribly and do not speak good Spanish). Perhaps I should have been more assertive and just should have thrown all the kids away. True to say, nevertheless, in any confrontation with little girls I’m bloody helpless and I deal with them far worse than with any teens, not to mention adults.

In the morning I met the rest of the family, and in the meantime, neighbors, friends and acquaintances who were passing by and stopped for a brief chat. I sat in a corner, sipping Ecuadorian specialty called colada morada and I was wondering why all these people are so warm, so open and hospitable. Do they always behave like that or they only played role of a good host in front of a Polish gringo with his tomato face? If there was a play, it was far more than just a dress rehearsal, and all of them performed splendidly, as if everything they did and said was the most natural expression of their hospitality.

Two kids went to see me off and we were walking at least for a mile. We dropped into a grocery store for an ice cream. And then we sat on a sandy road and were licking up the melting vanilla-chocolate delicacy. We sat closely, huddled together, though there was a lot of space around. Nobody was saying a word, we squinted in the sunlight, smiling from time to time to each other. I could not escape a strange impression that again, I was between two friends, again, I was seven years old, sitting on the same sandy, hard ground, rather than on warm laps and was greedily licking up melting vanilla and chocolate ice cream.

We got up finally, shook hands, then I quickly got on a bike and not looking back behind me, I went away. That day, I slept at a very high altitude. It was terribly quiet. In silence, I usually can not fall asleep for a long time. Thoughts then frisk, make noise, tease. Perhaps because of that long, exhausting day, this time I fell asleep in an instant. “I dreamed a dream of return. It was joyful. I was full of colours. I could fly”

Ekwador (18)