i am somehow apart
By Maria Anderson.
A small two months in Peru.
Taking an inventory of a wandering self.
I am somehow apart.
I write on red leaves that stain my hands with their powder and pocket soil to save for later. I like to put a handful of dirt in a stranger’s hand, lean close and whisper, “here,” and walk away.
I am the whore, whispering secrets to the young and virginal and the filthy and decrepit. I am the priest, baptizing those who are born to sin in the arms of their parents. I am the wraith, falling apart as the trees fall to pieces.
Fasting today because tomorrow i am doing the cactus drug again. This Andean traditional medicine apparently has the power to heal high blood pressure, alcoholism, gout, depression, and dandruff.
Cactus and medicinal mescaline.
they are we are i are it are.
i had to get away
everything lives, lives around you fits of fervid ecstasy, laughing, beard of red on the rocks as i climb breath jangled up through lungs and at the top everything is just breathing around me wind.
i had to get away, away from people.
writing now is like pinning live moths i cannot control my fingers
i feel alone at the edge of the world with the cliff face in front of me. peripheries seem important. i had to get away from the people. i see him, the sallow headed Miguel, our guide, walking below, small with the mountain sheep farmers.
sometimes Miguel will be talking and then mid sentence has a fit of abrupt horror, pinching bridge of nose, agony, seeing who knows what behind those eyes, mewing and moaning. i imagine what he sees, infants’ embers his family raped but cannot screw my mind into anything ghastly enough. he is a dervish and chants as he whirls the seams of his lips and nose.
my fingers are yellow haloed at the edges. as i climb up the cliffs everything is alive, breathing with me helping me muttering. far down is a stream and sheep specks.
Cactus a while later. Juliette is here.
“Can you write that I feel like a cat?”
Juliette feels like a cat.
the thing is: everything is so normal that the rational mind starts its kickback loop like an old car into a driveway and the road from red, obvious is being walked into sober recognition, only to be stunned back again.
i am on top of a rock at the top of the cliffs. i throw small pebbles into the abyss and can’t hear them land.
i feel like a cat.
my hands look 900 years old and small and blackened and wrinkled and now they’re normal again.
i walked again to entrench this feeling. now am on a rock across from a wheat field entrenched in brambles. thorns in pants and some scratches. one arm puncture looks like a road. doesn’t hurt. rubbing blood feels different from rubbing water but i don’t get why.
a typo I found in a book yesterday and tore out it is in my pocket. it makes more but not much sense in my drugged state: ‘Yes, I suppose it it.’
how will i ever not feel like this again
everything swirls together, i set my perceptions to those coordinates and look around based on them and then the next level of reality shifts over me and i am throwing up. was throwing up.
oh come on. this is like trying to write in a dream where you have no pants in class but the having no pants is that my hands keep changing colors and that rain is dropping in the background from my music (little april showers from bambi) and that the page deverlops tunnels that shift because they lead somewherea nd i can’t help lloking att them instead of swaht i’m writinng,
now i am on top of a small mountain looking down on the wheat field from before and things are clarifying, high is sinking and so is sun and there are four llamas behind me.
now writing is like pinning down dead moths. they don’t move as much and their wings are not cracking.
i am actually above a small house, a shack really, and the llamas are tied up which makes me feel cheated somehow. i thought i had stumbled upon a secret llama hilltop where they happened to linger. walking again now, trying to keep in the sunlight as its source falls down the mountains.
there is a goat and a mad pig that is charging me behind a house. its charges are stilted because it is tied to a post and i’ve never been nervous about a pig before but i laughed a little because it looked funny. the house is actually a shack with a tin roof, wheat fields behind it. metal objects rusting and i see a doll head and a red flower outside the pig’s rope radius oh wait walk away slowly walk
away. four angry dogs in the yard. i had to hurtle myself over a long clay brick fence because these four dogs, ribs so prominent I was seeing what the barbeque ribs we eat look like in taut outline, i mean they were so thin. mangy and teeth out and whispering pacing slowly toward me. and the pig still struggling against the rope, caterwauling.
i backed away and one dog’s voice rose to a scream and he ran toward me, and the rest followed so i ran toward the adobe wall thinking of high school high jump and how i was never good at it. i was running from tetanus shots because i hate needles. wounds are okay. i don’t mind wounds. i like picking off the scabs until they bleed again every few days.
Americans Matt and Mike.
Close to sober. I find Juliette again and we start walking down past the moon temple and other Incan ruins, past a Quetchua woman burning trash. She has no teeth and is brushing her hair and i stop to juggle rocks for her two girls.
“Uno lenguo. Three t-shirts.”
Juliette and I forgot sweatshirts. Cold and didn’t eat since yesterday and it’s getting dark. An hour walk down into the city on steep stone stairs. The t-shirts are fake Burberry from Thailand. I wear one, Juliette the other two. We flirt somewhat but in jest, smirking when they weren’t looking. Matt and Mike don’t speak Spanish but are proud of t-shirts and water bottles and manly usefulness.
Forty minutes later, we notice that they are useful and manly. After three days hiking one traded his leather belt for a rancher’s snakeskin belt and a knife for a quinoa and fried egg breakfast. After other odd stories we decide that Matt and Mike are of interest.
peafowl. night bus to La Paz.
Taxi driver to bus terminal showed me the pistol under his seat. He is a policeman driving a taxi on his day off. The gun he says is there because he used to quell terrorist groups and the wrong people sometimes recognize his face and shoot at him. For this reason he wears a purple silk baseball cap and watches the sidewalks not the road. When he was young his parents owned a hostel, and he fell in love with an Italian girl who went home six months later.
I want a massive albino snake that will wind its way through my house at parties, and people will set drinks on its body to totter on white scale. His name would be Trask, short for a Sanskrit word that means to accidentally call a loved one by the wrong name.
Peru-Bolivia border. early morning.
Sprinting across the border so we wouldn’t miss the bus after wandering through town for too long. I saw a girl peeing on the sidewalk and watched the puddle spread. I told border guards about how I saw Evo Morales drinking Pepsi after a speech at my university. They were horrified. We joked that he came to my house and I microwaved for him. Mac and cheese. And then he braided my hair.
An old Madeleine cartoon on in the background and I paid 100 dollars for a visa and left smelling like camels. The guards gave me one and we smoked outside the shack together. They are young and hold themselves sternly in uniform and smoke and chortle behind the glass partition but i think they would rather have different lives.
In La Paz.
Today there were protests blocking essential roads so our bus dropped us off on the high outskirts of the city. I walked down with a videographer from Newcastle who leaned out of bus windows to film the partial descent. I held onto a tanned ankle. We ate a lunch of unidentifiable objects that tasted good. We didn’t ask but the man at the next table said “black potatoes from the pampas,” and I heard the popping of tear gas from the nearby protests. The news on the tv in the corner showed large plastic police shields and some general discord and signs and humblings to Batman theme song music.
“gis a tab”
Used half of a Boliviano, or seven American cents, to pay for use of the bathroom. I have no money left now but my debit card still works, probably.
I talk to my uncle in foreign churches, in my head usually but out loud if no one is near. In German but mostly I lapse into English because it is easier and he can’t hear me anyway because he is dead.
Church that smells like wine and wet cement. I asked him why he was so unhappy and an old balding woman turned around and shushed me.
From the stained glass window I am watching a mentally ill boy carry his shopping home and I feel strange.
At night the park’s rose garden becomes a meeting ground for transvestites.
Back home in Montana.
I live on a cattle ranch abbreviated CA.
Dear chicken, the sky is not falling: it is we that are rising.
Dirt road biking past horses and hundred year old barns. I enjoy the feeling of grasshoppers hitting my cheeks and forehead. I suppose it is me who is hitting them, whirring by with legs like slow clockwork and they misplan the timing of jumps. They are little hollow balsa wood boxes, and their small, rigid organs reverberate inside the box as they smack against my face. Balsa wood bells, harsh in tone.
This summer the forest fire smoke smears angry red sunsets across the horizon like wounds and i taste the burning carbon at the back of my throat. I feel feral. There is a dead elk hanging from the rafters in my garage, dripping blood on my car.
One night my sister and I took two blue pills each and caught squids for hours. Our eyes swelled up until the eyelids could barely cover them. The bright luminous sea creatures looked like suns, and as we sank we reached toward the light, the sun, to grab for air and dust and frothing water. When our heads popped back up from wet pillows the next morning everything was quiet and the fires were out.
Here I do not talk to my uncle.
I drink as much as I can (water) I feel as much as I can (skin) and I crave all and obsess much but do not lend myself to associations. Do not cringe me, and do not peddle my woe. I am pedantic as scripture and falling as petals from an empty sky and dirty clouds. I smile with the rouge of cigarette ashes that the homeless smear across my cheeks.
I am somehow apart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Anderson is a young writer in year two at Brown University.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008.