Across the Fourth Bridge, the causeway thirty feet deep and fifty yards wide, almost empty because it is spring: the Piura River is now a thread of water through mud and scattered trash. Clustered in the riverbed tight against the far bank are half a dozen shanties. Gaunt chickens skitter around them. The only green of any kind is a line of points in the loam, gourds or maybe melons.
Farther down the bank something moves along the top edge. It is long and black or dark gray, too thick for a snake and now out of sight, the bus jolting off the bridge onto the roadway. Mariangel climbs into my lap, points out the window at a speck in the sky. It is either a hawk or litter lifted by wind.
In two or three months the summer rains will start. The shanty owners will harvest their crops, will move up onto the banks as the causeway fills. For a time it will be beautiful here along the river and elsewhere in Piura: greenery on all sides. People will come to the edge to watch the water move and to be calmed.
My head and hip ache and my stomach roils and south now, through Miraflores and Castilla and down into the Sechura, a strip of desert that holds the Pacific and the Andes apart for twelve hundred miles. Two tiny patches of its sand are in a sense my central texts. Marks on the dunes are the sentences and their meanings are unstable, altered daily by wind or rain, by footsteps including my own. I read looking for patterns, the better to see what does not fit them: traces of what was written one night ten months ago.
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