I cannot remember the last time I’ve been so sick after a night out. My girlfriend rubbed my back or sat on the shower floor next to me in the tiny bathroom. “It’s okay,” she said, reminding me that I likely wasn’t going to die, even though it did feel like dying.
When we woke up, gradually, the following afternoon, she said, “maybe you shouldn’t have mixed your drinks.”
It’s my second birthday in Peru, and the plans were almost the same, without realising it until I checked the blog post about it: Feliz Cumpleaños. I didn’t get so sick, but it was a late night involving pisco and pizza.
There were two observations I made this year about my birthday. The first was that everyone hugs you when they wish you well. And given that I spend my life in relative isolation with only physical touch from one or two people, away from family or the overly familiar bro culture of ‘Strayan blokes, the manly hugs from normally conservative people is actually welcoming.
The second thing I noticed was that when you turn 29, nobody is interested in the fact you have turned 29. It instead is, “wow, not long until you are 30.”
But who cares about 30? I’m 29.
I had invited a bunch of people to a favourite pizza place of mine, and after splitting the bill, most went home. A few of us continued the party at a favourite bar of mine, at the intersection next to the Plaza de Armas. I drank a Machu Picchu and because I held balloons that said ’29’ and wore a crown (corona), I caught the attention of the Spanish singer who constantly asked questions about who my girlfriend was, and where I was from. She tried to get me dancing along with the others, but I preferred to watch. But my refusal to get up and dance with my girlfriend, I sensed, drew some irritation from the crowd.
A year ago all fresh with the novelty of trying to be a new person in a new continent, I would have danced.
That night I preferred not to be the token gringo that couldn’t dance. We watched traditional dances from across the country, before moving on to a place on the other side of town we called ‘the Irish bar’. It wasn’t Irish, exactly. How could it be when the first word of its name began with ‘El’, but because it was green and had that rustic, British colonial vibe to the walls and the roof and the tables and chairs, we labelled it as such.
The night before that I had a small get-together at my girlfriend’s house. We played Jenga and ate burgers (with beetroot from Australia), and Tim-Tam Slams. For a Tim-Tam slam you need a hot chocolate and a Tim-Tam. Use the Tim-Tam as a straw and suck the hot chocolate through it until it’s about the melt and collapse in on itself.
I opened a present from my girlfriend. My favourite thing among the gifts was a shirt that looked like the cover of ‘Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”, but had been given the Peruvian treatment. Link looked out at Machu Picchu instead of Hyrule, and the shirt said “The Legend of Peru”.