Lima, Peru hates me.
And I’m not just referring to the individual citizens. I mean that more in the vein of the creators of Sex and the City citing New York as the fifth gal pal, a living, breathing organism unto itself. Lima is about to wrap up a 10-day guest appearance in my life, and I’m sad to report that we did not swill Cosmos and trade saucy double entendres about our sex lives. Far from my new BFF/girlfriend, Lima’s stint has been more like a Buffy Big Bad. She’s tried to destroy me several times and has proven to be a formidable, seemingly unbeatable nemesis.
But unlike Ms. Summers, I often found myself pummeled to within an inch of my life with no Scooby Gang to rely on. I decided to come here mostly because my sister and her boyfriend have just moved here to teach English for a year, and another friend is stopping here as part of a 100-day trek through South America. But my sister and her boyfriend had to go to another part of Peru hours from Lima to train for their teaching gig, and my friend’s mother is from Lima so he’s had family obligation to attend to. I knew this going in and wasn’t concerned. I imagined I would amble around solo, enjoying some alone time and taking in a new place on my own.
But that was before my iPhone was stolen. That was before my backup iPhone was stolen. That was before I bought a prepaid cell from a seemingly reputable local phone company that can receive texts but can’t send them. That was before I discovered that personal space is a foreign concept here, and that people gawk at you like you’re a circus freak because you have an affinity for brightly colored button downs and jean cutoffs, and that taxis here in search of a potential fare honk at you so incessantly that they make livery cabs back in New York look like wallflowers, and that my appeal to practitioners of the world’s oldest profession is not gender specific.
I’m a quarter Peruvian, so part of my excitement over coming here was to see a part of my history. I don’t speak a whole lot of Spanish and I was raised in that kind of ethnically ambiguous way that many Americans are in spite of their particular background. I wasn’t expecting to get off the plane, exclaim, “I’m home!” and throw my hat in the air like Mary Richards, but I certainly didn’t expect to end up feeling this alienated and incongruous to my surroundings here, either.
This is not to say that I hate Lima back, though. Sometimes you just have a run of bad luck and circumstances that it gets to be almost (almost!) comical, and there’s simply nothing to be done but press on. Thankfully, I inherited some of my mom’s Pollyanna gene and have tried to have the best time possible after all that’s happened. I also haven’t reached the point where I’m no longer willing to head into a situation where I’m a stranger in a strange land or a fish out of water. I’m a Gemini and my indefatigable curiosity can’t be quashed by a series of vacation calamities. Instead, what this experience has given me is a newfound appreciation for my community. I don’t mean New York in its entirety, mind you. My catfight with Lima doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what a bitch and a half she can often be. I mean my people, the people I can relate to, the people that get me. I love that I work with so many gay men it often feels like the chorus of Newsies. I love that I have fellow cinephiles willing to shell out $15 to see shoestring budget indies and highbrow foreign language films so that we can do better in our Oscar pools. I love that I have friends whose senses of humor are just as pitch black and wrong as mine that it’s only a matter of time before one of us is struck by lightning walking too close to a church. Familiarity may breed contempt in some instances, but at this moment it couldn’t be more appealing.
And as for Lima, hopefully the next time she has a story arch in my show we’ll mesh a little bit better. After all, Faith eventually became a trusted ally of Buffy’s. And girl, come on…you know I make booty shorts look good. Don’t be hatin’.