Dusk in Lima flickers and glows the way that you imagine dusk would;
it flickers and glows the way that you imagine it should.
It's the kind of dusk that you read about in mystery novels or harlequin romances. You see them quite a lot on television.
Dusk in New Jersey mostly abbreviates rush-hour traffic and (if it's summer time) catching a whiff of six separate barbecued suppers in the span of a single block. It has its own nice little quality, but it's not the same as having this feeling like here in Lima. It's not like walking through a huge, rainbow glow necklace; like the kind that we used to get at the Frenchtown roller rink for $1.
Tony, Cecilia, and I landed last night in Lima somewhere around 12:20 AM and in a haze of prescription pain killers, muscle relaxers, and airplane peanuts. The doors on the aircraft had not yet even opened when I could already smell the warm, damp air that I associate so strongly with Peru. It smells salty and sweet - this surprisingly pleasant mixture, like kettle corn.
My cousin Roxanna came to greet us as we exited the baggage claim with a hug and a cigarette and looking exhausted. Of all my cousins here (there are 16 of us grandchildren in total), I've always been closest with her despite my being 6 or 7 years her senior. I look out for her and she looks up to me even though the scenario could easily and justifiably be in the reverse. She hugs me long and hard and holds my hand all the way out to the car, saying nothing and everything all at once. I immediately know that she's tired and weary of her job although she feels that she's very successful with it and wants to advance in this career. I know that she has missed me and that she wishes she will get to see more of us over the course of the next two weeks. I know that she wishes she'd never started smoking.
We continue in the usual routine back to Mira Flores, a cleaner and more pleasant district of Lima where my grandparents live and where my father grew up. I am reminded several times to keep my bag on the floor by my feet and to make sure that we only keep the windows cracked slightly until we exit this part of town.
It always feels like we never left - or that we were just here last month. Last week, even.
Sitting on the rooftop and hour later, cigarette smoke coiling from (almost) everyone's lips, we're all quiet. I haven't had a first night in Lima like this in a long time. I'd become accustomed to arriving to a house full of people and persuasive cousins who would literally change me out of my travel clothes and into appropriate going-out clothing in a record 5 minutes before wisking me away to a bar or a place to dance in a more active district of Lima. I'd roll in the door somewhere around 5 or 6 in the morning and feeling more tired than I ever had in my life, but very glad that they persuaded me to go.
But tonight is different, and serene. It's a Sunday and everything is shut down, including us. There will be tomorrow night, and the night after, I'm sure.
It feels good to be here.
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The Lovely Bones
By Alice Sebold
Release date: By 20 April, 2004