We didn’t camp, or see the Grand Canyon, or drive up the coast to San Francisco to take pictures beneath the bridge. My dad moved out around the same time Selena was shot in her hotel room. It was just my mom, sister and I for a while, and there wasn’t time or money for trips, none at all, so my world remained the size of a two-bedroom apartment, school, the grocery store, and laundromat, with the occasional weekend trip to my grandparent’s house.
It was a small world but I was a small kid, somehow both short and lanky at the same time, and I didn’t mind hearing about my friends’ summers when school started back up in September, about their cruises around St. John where they kissed boys on the deck at night, or their reluctant stay at their Aunt’s house just outside Ithaca.
It wasn’t until I got older that I realized I wanted to see things. Place-things. Country-things. I wanted to fly on planes and speak another language and refer to food as ‘cuisine’. I wanted all these things that I didn’t know how to want. Does that make sense? I had to learn the wanting, and once I had it down I set to saving everything I could from my part-time job at the mall.
I was nineteen when I booked a plane ticket to Peru. Javi, a friend from high school, had family who lived there. They invited me and another friend, Igor, to come spend a month over the summer at their home in the coastal community of Totoritas. I was elated. I made an appointment at the post office to get my passport photo taken. I researched ancient Andean culture. I even invested in a red satin fanny pack.
During the flight I was so anxious sleep evaded me. It was an energetic blur through customs, and the sea of brown bodies I waded through to find Igor and Javi who had arrived on different airlines. Together, the three of us split the hour long taxi fare from Lima to Totoritas, marveling as the landscape shifted outside our windows from tall buildings and billboards to miles and miles of uninterrupted coastline.
We arrived sometime in the early evening. We were welcomed by Javi’s extensive family with strong hugs, ceviche, and ice cold pitchers of pisco sours. Hours dissipated in the surreality of being so far from home. Every sound was a new kind of music. The air cold and crisp in my lungs, as if I had never breathed before this particular fix of oxygen.
Eventually the excitement of the journey began to take its course. We reluctantly retreated to our rooms to settle in, assuaged with the promise of adventure waiting for us on the other side of night. I lay on the top bunk of the bed, warm from the alcohol and buzzing with an indefatigable joy. Hours passed and I listened to the others sleep, dream. I watched the moonlight slowly shift from one clay tile to the next, until it had made its way across the floor and began to ascend the wall. I decided I wanted to see it for myself; I got dressed, wrapped a shawl around my shoulders and tiptoed outside the house to find the moon.
It was then, walking along the boardwalk in the darkness, a scattering of stars blinking down on the sand, beneath a waxing gibbous, alone and so far from my small life in California, where everything was known and familiar, and in its familiarity, expected, that I felt it. A swell of power and love cresting in my body, filling me with confidence and assurance. I was so grateful to be exactly who I was. Every strand of hair fell perfectly into place. I forgave myself for every lie I had ever spoken and for every girl I longed to kiss. My hips no longer felt the need to apologize. My body was my own my own my own. It was capable. It claimed agency. A breeze pushed past, carrying salt and the promise of something I was unable to name. I felt bold. Endless. Like the whole world was ahead of me in all its brilliance and light.
-Angelica Barazza, Boulder