An Aria in Peru
by Christopher Niemeyer
Some people make trips to other countries only to immerse themselves in the ordinary things they like to do back home.
There was that American retiree from Cuernavaca, a city full of American retirees. On vacation in Peru, she was now staying at their hotel. She told them she was in Cuzco to visit the many archeological sites in the area. But they later learned she was spending her time bargaining in broken Spanish with amused peddlers in Cuzco’s main square. According to a friend of hers, the lady had been doing this ever since arriving with her tour group two days before. Haggling with peddlers was something the retiree also enjoyed doing back in Cuernavaca.
Then there were those middle-aged Catalans they met in Machu Picchu. His family came upon the trio resting by a path, singing bits of beloved operas. They looked scholarly in their blazers, sweaters and ties, and seemed uninterested in the surrounding ruins. Now, on the night train back to Cuzco, the men sat together and continued eagerly, softly, singing. They barely glanced at the passing Andean landscape.
Something high up on the mountains was glowing brightly, just beyond the closest peaks. His parents, plus his five brothers and sisters, had been arguing about it for some time.
“It’s a mine!” his brother Tony said as he peered out the window. “That’s gotta be it.”
“No, it’s a town,” Julie insisted.
“Yeah,” Tony shot back, “a mining town. That is definitely industrial light that we’re seeing. There’s probably a big ore processing complex up there.”
“No, I bet it’s a power plant,” Anne said. “There’s too much light.”
“I’m sure it’s a town,” their mom interjected.
“It’s a nuclear power plant!” he piped in from his place next to his mother. He was seven at the time.
“Right!” snorted Tony. “A nuke in earthquake country.”
“Maybe it is a mine,” their dad said. “Or some natural gas thing. A 24-hour operation.”
“It’s a town,” Julie insisted once more. “Could even be a city!”
“Julie,” said Anne confidently, “there’s no way there’d be a city so high up in ….”
The train made a sharp turn and the car filled with brilliant light, as if from a floodlight. The mysterious glow had been the full moon, enormous at such an elevation, shinning gloriously in the clear sky. The Inca goddess Mama Quilla dazzled them with her radiance.
He then heard something beautiful. At the sight of the moon one of the Catalans broke out into an aria. The rich, ecstatic voice wafted down the aisle.
He looked at his family, wide eyed. The moment was so wondrous, his mother turned and hugged him tightly.
It was the perfect time to be on a train with tourists who travel far only to indulge in their normal wiles and loves. The men were happier in Catalonia. Maybe they should have never left. But at least one of them had made that Andean night more beautiful.