‘Where are you going friend?’. These were the words she spoke to me every single day I crossed the bridge from the ‘arty’ side of town. Her smile was infectious. In my new neighbourhood I realised I should introduce myself. I crouched down beside her, as she sat outside her craft shop, and practiced my Spanish lines, which I had rehearsed for such introductions.
She told me her name. I had to ask her to repeat it. I didn’t’ t like to ask a second time. It was a name I had not heard before. I had a go at saying it. She nodded, but I wasn’t sure I had said it correctly. To me it sounded like the Spanish word for ‘smile’. So I thought to myself, it suited her and in my own mind from then on, that was her name, ‘Smile’ (in Spanish of course).
I had to get used to her asking me that awkward question however, everyday. It’s like that other question, ‘how are you?’ The answer is supposed to be positive. ‘I’m so fxcking alive the world just can’t keep up with me!!’ Isn’t that one answer you might just like to give?
In honesty however, that is not how most folk feel on an everyday basis. And so we lie, against any inclined bone in our body to be honest about things, even with strangers.
‘Where was I going?’ Some days in that Peruvian town, even though for me it was a destination in itself, I just wasn’t sure, as I was about to cross that lob-sided wooden bridge. All I knew was this, ‘I have to move!’ Because if I stop moving for a considerable length of time I get in serious trouble.
Luckily I had some occupation there and I did my best to invent others. I had made some friends and I had plenty to learn about life.
One day I decided to reverse the questioning. I asked my smiling friend about her circumstance of sitting at the corner of this bridge where, ‘bizarrely’, in this UNESCO Inca heritage town of Ollantaytambo, heavy articulated vehicles and buses barged through on a regular basis. ‘Does it affect your health?’ I asked. She smiled, of course, and just shook her head. It was not a problem.
I figured she had a strong mental attitude to life and I was just a meddler from Ireland who had some stuff to learn. A week later however, I noticed she was not at her post. I enquired from the person minding her shop. My smiling friend was ill and resting. ‘ I tried to resist that gloating thought of ‘perhaps I was right after all’. I will never know.
So I got used to her question most days. ‘Where are you going friend?’ Until one day I had to admit to her that I was going very far away. Back to Ireland. I will never forget that day I said goodbye to those wonderful people in Ollantaytambo. Everyone of them broke my heart completely. Her words to me I will not forget. ‘You must return. And when you return you come here to find me. And if I am no longer in this place, you ask the next person where I am. And you come to say hello.’
I how I wish I could go there now.
Dear reader if indeed you do happen to be Richard Branson reading this little wee article, if you have a seat on a jet, or the galactic vehicle, do get in touch, as I’m sure I could parachute from space, if I had to, and therefore cause the least inconvenience. And P.S. I have dear friend in New Zealand who would love to travel also but I doubt he will parachute as he has bad arthritis in his knees. (o:
©Caroline Cunningham Author and Creator of the Title ‘Wild Star Landing’