The Kiss The next time he saw Lula she was at the University Library reading “The Doors of Perception,” by Aldous Huxley. Jeremy thought the book was some kind of biography about The Doors and put the entirety of his English foot in it by commenting, out of the blue, that Morrison, The Lizard King, drank too much and should have curated his persona more. Fortunately for Jeremy, Lula blamed her own imperfect command of English for his ignorance and smiled innocently, thinking it was impossible that Jeremy, an English-speaker, knew less about English-speaking literature and music than herself. She put her book down and gazed at him intensely. Jeremy played with his fingers nervously. He had not managed to pack the black shirt with the embroidered collar which availed his pulling adventures in Leeds. Instead he wore his favourite Supergrass T-shirt. It was a cool T-shirt but old, really old, the green and red of the lettering was starting to fade and mesh into the general greyness of what used to be a black T’shirt. He was not happy about the Blue Doctor Martens either: they were tattered and felt heavier in the heat. He wondered what she thought of him. His style. His physique. He usually did not enjoy a high opinion of his physical self. It was a hereditary thing. Members of his family shared a disproportionate distaste for their looks. Though they were not an unattractive bunch by any standards. Medium to tall. Well-built. Good skin. Light-coloured eyes. Symmetric features. Nothing to whine about as his friends would say and yet they all felt awkward and ashamed when confronted with their bodies upon the mirror of otherness. Jeremy remembered skiving school during swim class to avoid exposing his body to other pupils. Drinking was the only thing that made him feel better about himself. Lula, on the other hand, was aware she was proportionate and attractive. The attention her class-mates bestowed upon her was rather exaggerated and though she did not undermine her charm and personality she had the feeling that most of it was due to her extraordinarily chiselled shape. The lustful stares of both men and women in the street confirmed her theories about her own physical attributes and she paraded her idea of her body like a winner’s cup or a war medal. Though Lula was not really vain. She found compliments stupid and never judged herself to be better or worse than anyone else. Jeremy perceived this immediately. He could tell by her friendly disposition and her clothes; fake Martens and a checked red shirt which hovered perfectly over black shorts. Definitely cooler than Alanis Morissette.
-How long you here? –she inquired.
-Until next year –mumbled Jeremy –I am studying literature and philosophy. He could see she was eager to practice her English and decided to use language as a means of attachment.
-Literature! –She exclaimed –like me. Have you met professor Vergara still?
-No. I met Fuentes. -Si, si, I saw you at Afroson.
Jeremy glimpsed a momentary glitter in her eyes when she mentioned seeing Fuentes and himself at the club. Was she excited about meeting him or the professor? He still could not find out.
-Er, do you know Fuentes?
-Everyone here know Fuentes –mocked Lula.
-What you doing today. Want to take San Pedro?
-San Pedro? Saint Peter? I am not religious. Not really.
-No. No. Religious –mocked Lula –No. It’s holy but not religious. Jim Morrison took it. That’s how he saw the Indian? The one with the feathers!
Lula’s skin was golden. The colour of the desert. Her skin was not European but maybe her eyes?? He wondered if it was the Spanish or Indian blood that designed those immense black pupils she paraded around the university.
-Chile belonged to Spain, right? For a long time –interrupted Jeremy.
-Chile was not Chile –she said –we were Mapuches and Aymaras before the Spanish came. With their giant horses and their guns. Disaster. The ones I like were the Aymara. Servants of the Pacha Mama.
-Yes. They were originally from The Lago Titikaka in Bolivia but moved to Northern Chile bringing things like San Pedro.
-What does it do?
-It takes you to the desert again.
-When do you want to do it?
-Now. We can walk to the beach.
-It’s cold. -Better. Less people.
He spotted Ulises walking towards their study table in the library and was thankful for the intrusion. Usually he would have prayed for no one to interrupt the shared microcosm but he felt uncertain about the San Pedro. He did not want to reject Lula’s invitation but started to realise that what Lula was on about was a kind of natural hallucinogenic drug. He had read about it in some book about anthropology. Something about a root in the jungle but there was no jungle in Chile. Whatever it was it sounded dangerous. Jeremy’s experiences with psychedelics had not been great. He remembered the time he took an acid tablet (micro-dot they called it) in a Leeds night club only to end up hidden inside the closet of a university dormitory screaming madly that there were fiends dressed as university students attempting to steal his soul. The fact that they were carrying a photographic camera and taking shots of drugged up roomies was enough to drive him round the bend. He only got out of the closet after four hours of paranoid tripping during which he saw his father dressed up as Napoleon and his ex-girlfriend materialised into Brandon Lee in the film The Crow. The nasty psychological effects lasted for days and he was still paranoid seven days later when he dashed out of a crowded classroom following a panic attack during a lesson about determinism and Schopenhauer.
-Lets speak outside.
-You met the gringo, then? –whispered Ulises.
-I am not a gringo –protested Jeremy.
-Joking hombre. England maybe worse. You created America. America is your Frankenstein.
-Ulises is right. Imagine no England. Maybe Victor Jara’s still has hands.
-Do you know he is there now?
-Where –asked Lula in shock.
-England. Yes, some kind of back surgery.
-Who? –asked Jeremy.
-Pinochet? –asked Lula.
-Augusto? –echoed Jeremy.
Yes, Pinochet. Damn! In your country. Just found out. They treat him like he was Elvis Presley there. Imagine. Elvis Presley!
Jeremy could not believe it. Why had Juan not told him? Or perhaps he did not know. It was weird that he had come to escape England but everyone and everything was decided on bringing him home. Especially the mythological general everyone seemed to love or despise.
-She sent him a bottle of the perfect whiskey.
-Who? –asked Jeremy –what do you mean perfect whiskey?
-Yes, whiski del bueno. The Lady Iron.
Lula looked at him with disgust. She turned away and directed herself to Ulises. Jeremy could not believe that apart from making his parents lose years of their lives to rage and heartburn, Margaret Thatcher was about to dismantle his chances of getting off with the descendants of Aymara royalty. He stared at Lula again. She had to be the offshoot of princes and princesses. She was full of passion and rage. It turned him on.
-Pinochet must die –sentenced Lula –out with the head.
Ulises shushed her and invited them both to accompany him outside the library. Once outside, in the stone steps under the palm trees he seemed more relaxed and open.
-Have you got the San Pedro? –sniggered Ulises secretly.
-Madrina’s got it. She said we can pick it up now and make it there. Gringo might come.
-Fuck it! –Exclaimed Jeremy. It can’t get more awkward anyways.
Lula and Ulises looked at Jeremy in confusion.
-Oh yes all people are strange –stated Lula.
-When you are a stranger –continued Ulises.
-I am always a stranger –replied Jeremy.
-Probably because you strange –laughed Lula –let’s go.
It was a forty minute walk to the beach. Lula and Ulises decided to pass through the Japanese gardens and show the Gringo the beauty of a poetical mini-universe inside their city. They proudly paid the couple of soles to let the gringo in and Jeremy was gobsmacked. He had never seen ponds, bridges and plants arranged with such care and grace. There was even a perfectly polished wooden moor where they contemplated a school of gold fish as they hovered quietly just below the burr reed. Jeremy saw trees which seemed to have been bred in another planet. What he did not know was if they were native plants of Chile or Japan. He dared not ask. Lula was smiling profusely and talking to Ulises about politics in Spanish. They spoke so fast Jeremy could hardly follow. He did hear the name Pinochet resound in his stomach. He was the clay that was giving shape to the beginning of his Latin American adventure. He noticed Ulises and Lula spoke freely and naturally with each other. He could not sense any kind of sexual tension between them and that relieved him deeply. He was known to have had some jealous bursts during his short existence. They were not lovers. Though he was never wicked at spotting those kind of things. He did not even know what Lula thought if him. He prayed that she found him interesting at least.
After the gardens Lula and Ulises took Jeremy to the city’s Cathedral where Jeremy wished he had been educated within the Catholic faith mainly because of the shiny white splendour the cathedral emanated and also because of the thought that he might have met more girls like Lula. She seemed comfortable in the space, kissing statues of saints and virgins and lighting a series of candles. Ulises was pissed off.
-Marx would hated it here –he protested.
Lula shushed him and lit some more candles.
-The heroin of the people –continued Ulises- Cobain would say yes. Jeremy smiled like an imbecile and hoped he could stay there for another ten hours watching Lula light candles. But she was done with her religious duties and was all set for the next thing.
The three unlikely companions eventually arrived at an old shanty hut near the beach where a short dark-skinned middle-aged woman with the longest black hair in the world hunkered over a giant copper pot on a gas stove. She was dressed in what Jeremy figured were traditional indigenous clothes, though he did not know, they could also have been old rags and mantle cloths. Jeremy did not have a clue. He observed her rotten teeth and her deep and dark eyes. They reminded him of Lula’s eyes. Lula greeted the woman with affection and introduced them all. She was called Madrina. The lady nodded and returned to her chores. Jeremy was encouraged to look inside the copper pot where he saw the thick green soup-like substance. He stepped back in momentary shock.
What on earth?! –he exclaimed.
They all laughed at him in unison.
-Don’t worry gringuito, it’s not as bad as it looks –mocked Lula.
-I am from Leeds –insisted Jeremy.
-Lids! –repeated Madrina.
-Madrina esta listo?
Madrina looked at them smilingly and continued stirring. -What we do is we let it cool and then we drink it, yes? Then after we have to throw it up after.
-Throw up?! The green stuff? –cried Jeremy alarmed. -It’s the only way it works.
-You get to Nirvana.
-I don’t like Cobain –complained Jeremy.
-Do you like The Doors? –asked Lula.
-La pulpa si –intervened Madrina.
-You drink La pulpa and then vomit –instructed Lula.
-Yes, it’s a purge Gringo. La purga de la pulpa they call it.
-In Leeds we only know pub crawls.
-What’s pub crawl?
-You drink, you crawl and you listen to Pulp all over Leeds.
-Can’t be better than San Pedro in Serena.
-Why is it called San Pedro?
-It’s a guide like Pedro and better name than green cactus, no?
-Is Pedro Paul?
-Paul Gasgoine is good.
-I don’t like football.
-You English? –asked Ulises –or Gringo?
-Leeds –repeated Jeremy.
-Liiiits –echoed Madrina.
-I like London –claimed Lula –Jimi Hendrix.
Jeremy laughed. He loved the way she pronounced English names. He thought phonics for names should change and be adapted the most charming ways of saying them. P/U/LP was better than P/A/L/P. But only if Lula said it. He would have loved anything she said. He listened to her diatribe in Spanish about Jim Morrison and the Indians until Madrina was ready to dish out the green pulp. They all sat in a circle and held hands. Jeremy felt so lucky to be sat near Lula. Madrina recited prayers in a language that Jeremy did not recognise. It sounded like underwater Spanish. He supposed it would be an indigenous dialect but what did he know? Surely they shared some sort of verbal code before the Conquistadors arrived. Why did it sound like it was conceived within a submarine?
Jeremy was thinking about conquest and language when Madrina passed him the clay bowl. He tipped the contents into his mouth and continued thinking. If Lula was going to partake of it, he would do so too. She drank the pulp in silence and seriousness. He not seen her look so solemn. Not even during the candle lighting ritual at the Cathedral. Madrina and Ulises drank too. They sat around the kitchen chatting. Nothing to report thought Jeremy minutes later and he proceeded to try and understand the exchanges in Spanish between his three companions. His mind was unstirred for half an hour. Jeremy was about to laugh the whole San Pedro affair off as a trans-continental exaggeration when it hit him. It was an extreme reaction. A pain in the deepest corners of his gullet. A pain in places in the body he did not even know existed. Once it started he could not think of anything else and the pain was so unbearable, so totalising, so complete that it made him feel foolish and ashamed. He tried to excuse himself but he had lost control of language. Even English failed him. He babbled sounds which were unrecognisable to himself or anyone else. The other three were starting to come up and paid little attention to Jeremy’s mumbling. He staggered out of his sitting position and run out of the shanty house. Lula was about to go after him but Madrina stopped her with a slow movement of her index finger. They watched him disappear into the dark and sighed. Jeremy run all the way to beach which was less than a kilometre away from the cement hut they were gathered in. He continued straight to the shore where his stomach turned inside out and propelled the ruins of his lunch into the Pacific Ocean. He regurgitated again. Into the water. Into the dark night. He heard the waves crash against sand and once again his belly turned. Out. Out. It all had to come out. But there was no more food to leave his system. No tangible substance just air and drops of leftover saliva which got suspended in the evening air. He watched them hover in slow motion as they prepared to join the waters. Time stopped for an instant. Reality paused and then released a peaceful groan. He sat on the shore motionless, the pain disappearing gradually to give way to a blissful blurriness, an all-encompassing tingling of the flesh and the bones. The sensation summoned his body to the sand. He placed his hands first and then his base, his legs. The sand was moving. It shimmered under his hands. It caressed his back. He looked above and the whole sky was full of quivering spots of radiance. He thought they could not be stars. He had never seen so many of them together. But they could be. The wind played with his ears and his nose. Verses from the poetry book he found in the Afroson, came back to him. He knew every word in Spanish. He remembered every sound, every image, every thought. And the winds kept singing in his face and the waves kept crashing. He noticed a special tingling in his fingers and when looked down he saw black crustacean creatures fiddling with his hands. He was scared at first and removed his hands but then he thought he saw a crab smiling and he placed them on the sand again. The sand run through his fingers like a starry liquid. More crabs surrounded him. And then more crabs until he thought he was bathed with crabs. Crabs fidgeting with his face. Crabs playing with his torso. Crabs pecking at his legs, his feet. He lay back and the smile of the crab inundated his whole system and he breathed and breathed, deeper than he ever breathed before. He felt the temperature of the water and the air at the same time. He was every temperature there was and had ever been. All the degrees of human temperature visited him at once. He was cold then warm but never uncomfortable. He thought about walking into the sea. It was dark and cold but he was not afraid. What kept him from doing it was the vision of a Lighthouse, a huge white lighthouse he envisaged in the distance in the west of the beach. He thought it could be a mirage but he decided to walk towards it anyways. It was far but nothing could make him standstill. He breathed again deeply and started walking. He came across a fisherman on the way. The rest of the beach was deserted and immense. The fisherman was beside his fishing rod staring at the ocean. His bucket was empty but he did not seem to care. Jeremy spoke to him in perfect Spanish. Or so it seemed to him. He asked him what he was looking at. The fisherman nodded and pointed to the sea. Jeremy saw the future in the Fisherman’s eyes. He saw the death of his father and cried. The fisherman embraced him and together they stood for what seemed hours. They bid each other farewell and the fisherman advised Jeremy not to try to control it. Jeremy took his boots off. He felt weightless and energetic. He continued walking upon the sand until he got to the lighthouse. It was splendorous. It was the biggest white lighthouse in the world. The base of the lighthouse was more like a church and the tower was the neck of the lighthouse with its amber light shining into the black ocean. Jeremy stopped and spoke to it. He spoke about his family, about music, about poetry and sweetcorn pie, about Lula, about pain, about love. He sat under it and spoke and spoke for what seemed hours. He spoke in languages he thought he did not know. He spoke in poetry. He spoke so long and so fast that he lost sense of time and space. The sun was starting to peer over the sea. Light had changed the body of the lighthouse. It looked bigger and more majestic. The sand usurped the glimmer and the sparkle of the stars. It was golden sand. There was a new warmth in the air. Jeremy breathed it in and closed his eyes for an instant. When he opened it they were all there: Ulises, Lula and Madrina. All wide-smile and open pupils staring into his face. Jeremy closed his eyes again and he felt the damp, tender taste of fleshy lips. A tender hand was placed upon his eyes and he was kissed again. By the same mouth? He did not know. The tongue slowly pierced his lips and moved gently within his mouth. Surely it was Lula’s tongue but how could he know. He tried to remove the hand from his eyes but every attempt failed before he even tried as the taste and feel of the tongue and lips intoxicated him so fully, so completely that he forgot of the purpose of his movement. Finally the tongue ceased and Jeremy felt all his body collapse into a sense of plenitude and complete quietude. The hand was removed from his eyes and all he could sense was the smell, the smell of skin, a different dark, intoxicating skin. Ulises was spread on Madrina and Lula. Lula was spread on Jeremy and Ulises. It was a sort of love soup Jeremy could not judge or rationalise. The sun was rising in the horizon. Slender birds spread their wings in the foreground of the spectacle of the dawn. There were still stars and a slender moon shimmering in the dusty distance. It was all enough. Jeremy thought that for once it was all enough.
Madrina opened a tupperware where she kept strawberries and small blocks of pink melon. She fed Jeremy with her delicate perfumed hands. Juice trickled down his chin, melon and strawberry juice. As refreshing and tasty as nectar from the tree of life. If there was ever such a thing. Jeremy was silently in bliss. They walked back in silence. They all embraced. They all cried and laughed. They all fell asleep.