Friday, September 5, 2008


When they arrived, stepping off the plane into thick mallows of muggy heat, Aldus exclaimed that this truly was the New World, but Tanya was so already jetlagged that she just yawned and readied herself to stay upright for the short walk to the hotel.

After twenty minutes of walking, squinting up into spires and past cold cathedrals, they hailed a taxi and spent twenty minutes more winding through labyrinthine backstreets that seemed to get only smaller. Aldus threw their carefully printed itinerary out the window, cursing the travel agent’s name. Tanya, wearily, made the taxi stop and made Aldus get out to retrieve the important sheaf of stapled papers.

As they crossed the street to their hotel, Tanya’s suitcase sprung open, exploding her clothes dramatically onto the road. She bent down to pick up her things; she felt the sudden weight of another country’s sun on her back. She started to cry. Aldus made her sit down on the curb while he repacked her suitcase, ignoring the blaring horns of cars trying to get by him. She watched his face—patient, determined—and she remembered why she was here with him.

They woke in the small hours of the morning, still programmed to home time, but they felt somewhere near refreshed. Neither could sleep, so Aldus spread out their large maps on the bed. They were wrinkled from travel, each bump and fold reminding Tanya of the very mountains they planned to traverse. She had wind charts in her bag, detailed migration graphs, pertinent pages ripped at the last minute from field guides. They packed their rucksacks in the dawn light, enjoying the ritual.

They exited out to near-empty streets. Their new world had turned itself blue. A small woman sold small pockets of bread from brazier bolted to a street corner and they ate them in their hands, juggling their ludicrous heat. Even the simplest transaction dealt a language crazy-paved with complexity. They had taken an intensive two-week course before leaving, but already they felt out of their depth.

They waited for a half-hoped bus as the sun cracked its first paths up the sides of buildings. Even from here, the mountains seemed only minutes away. They were blue ghosts above the city. Soon, Tanya knew, a familiar sense would return. The high altitude of wait. The camera poised between her gloved fingers. And above, swooping in to land, a single falcon.

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