Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Five Senses in Quito - as I Remember

I wish you could smell it. 

It smelled like eucalyptus. Wet grass. Herbal cleaning supplies. Bus fumes. Pollution til you choke. Fresh bread and melted butter. Tea of anise. Dust up from the ground, at someone's foot or a soccer ball sent.

I wish you could hear it.

Horns honking, all of the time. Doorbells ringing, long like a song, and someone yelling down from the third floor to see who wants up. Dogs barking. Roosters crowing. Karaoke. Rapid rhythm -- vibrant emphasis -- near constant laughter of Spanish conversation. Food .... sizzling. Beggars, children, begging in a sing-song. Buses and trolleys rumbling. Volleyballs bouncing on concrete. Vendors vying. Waterfalls roaring, demanding, overtaking, pounding, forcing all the thoughts from your head but thoughts of their majesty; all the breath vanished from your chest.

I wish you could see it.

Faces everywhere. Gleaming smiles and persistent dimples and warm brown eyes and golden-bronze skin. Then, some eyes sad, empty, or spirits broken and breaking in deep-down places. Stray dogs -- everywhere -- the kind you'd pay a grand for in the US. Trash, and the beautiful, hollow dogs gratefully consuming it. Bright graffiti, brilliant, the kind that put you in awe of some talent, yearning to know the message and the fire alive in some artist's spirit and mind. Sloppy and messy, uninspired graffiti, speaking of recklessness, destruction only, no artistic idealism. Concrete, concrete, and more concrete. So much cement. Colors, smashing across the concrete surfaces, dancing across the bricks, defying the starkness of broken glass piercing upwards from soil-like cement. Clouds, reaching down like distant relatives, close enough to touch, if they could be held. Gorgeous, colonial architecture of intruders. Sunset. Green so bright you were in fantasy land. Clouds so thick you should be able to punch them. Native dress so humbling.

Quito, downtown. Sunset. Real sky.

I wish you could taste it.

Empanada de aire. Morocho. Fresh juice from unheard of fruits and vegetables every morning. Fresh, flaky, warm bread every morning. Queso fresco. Milk so delicious. Guitig -- mineral water, right from the earth. Choclo. Popcorn with aji -- food of the gods, if you ask me.

I wish you could touch it. 

Plastic cups with ridges, used to share one drink with many -- many. Cool water. Bubbles on the tongue. Cement seats, or are they steps. Metal bars and plastic chairs on buses and trains. Hand sanitizer. Tissues. Warm mugs in the morning. Alpaca. Volcanic soil. Arms and hands, always ready to embrace. Hot leaves of aloe vera, smearing and heating the sore throat, soothing the swollen parts. Waterfall spray. Reigns -- blisters from pulling. Strap of my woven purse, clinging. The skin on Alma's hands -- weathered from work. The silk of Cecilia's hair, still baby-like, wavy, beautiful.

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