In many respects my world is just one short street: tree lined, quiet, narrow, and badly patched. It is located in Barranco, a district of Lima.
I’m a walker, so I am often on the street. Also, I’m always curious about what is going on in my surroundings.
My walks have allowed me to get to know the people on this little street well. So, I have found that, under the surface, much is going on in this world of mine.
Let’s just take one example. A yellow Mercedes has been a prominent feature on our street ever since we moved here nine years ago. In fact, it is a landmark on our block. It was always parked on the street, day and night, just down the block from us.
First of all, I don’t think I’d ever seen a yellow Mercedes before. At one time it must have been a bright shiny yellow. It made me think of the original owner, and why he or she selected a Mercedes of such an unusual color. It must have been someone who wanted to be noticed.
This yellow Mercedes is not a sleek new version of the famous German luxury automobile. Maybe it once was. However, that was long ago. It has seen better days. Now, it is a cranky veteran of the streets with bald tires, cracked leather seats, and loaded with the dings so common in Lima’s traffic.
What it is now, though, is the proud conveyance of my neighbor Pedro. Therefore, the yellow Mercedes and Pedro are totally linked in my mind. In fact this story is about an old man, badly deteriorated himself, and the one glorious thing left in his life.
Behind the wheel of the yellow Mercedes, Pedro cut a dashing figure, for an octogenarian. Not that he roared around the neighborhood on two wheels — that wouldn’t be possible with this particular car. Instead, he glided slowly through the streets, with a tail of light smoke trailing behind.
Every morning at exactly 6:30 a.m, Pedro was on his way to Café Haiti in Miraflores to have coffee with his old pals. This was the main event of his day. I suspect that arriving in the yellow Mercedes was very important to him.
However, this daily event did not occur without difficulty. You see, the yellow Mercedes is a veteran of many difficult experiences, including abuse, in the past. As a fading beauty, then, it requires constant attention.
In fact, Pedro needed to employ a mechanic almost full time to keep his machine going. Passing by, I would always see the unfortunate mechanic sweating away under Pedro’s close supervision. Still, nothing was fixed for very long; and the mechanic was always there.
Then, one day the yellow Mercedes was gone and so was Pedro. I learned that he had had a very serious heart attack. A few weeks later, I saw Pedro, attached to oxygen, with a cane, walking feebly to a car in front of his house. Gray and weak, he nodded at me as he was helped into the car.
The yellow Mercedes is gone, never to appear again, and the last glorious days of Pedro are gone, too.
*Larry Pitman* has been in Peru for nine years. He has written about his experiences as an expatriate in Peru for “Peru This Week”:http://www.peruthisweek.com/blogs/larrys-latest for six years and has recently compiled his articles into a book, “Dogs of Barranco”:http://www.amazon.ca/Dogs-Barranco-Stories-American-Expatriate-ebook/dp/B00IM0IT2G.
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