New Year’s Day (IV)

In the morning it didn’t feel as if Jacob wanted to talk more about what happened.

But I didn’t feel as if he wanted to be alone either.

It just felt like he wanted us to go.

… Somewhere.

So we went, down to the beach where we bought a ticket for one of the crammed boats that would take us out into the endless blue depths of the Lake Titicaca, out to the Island of the Sun.

And after searching for a few inches of space in one of them, to sit down, we do just that. We go somewhere.

But first we sit – for a long time. We don’t talk about anything.

We just sit, in the boat, and try to ignore some slight edge of anxiousness that’s in the air.

Like we’re not going anywhere really. Just waiting. But not knowing for what.

After half an hour or so my mind begins to wander. I begin to look too much at the roofed pram they’ve stoked us into:

“Uh, – there aren’t enough life-jackets on this boat, are there?”

“Hm – aren’t there?” Jacob mumbles. He looks distracted, like he is still thinking about the night. And so many other things.

“No, there aren’t,” I affirm and feel a bit queasy. “And have you seen how many passengers we are? If something happens – ”

“I don’t think anything will happen,” he says, still in a flat voice.

“I absolutely hate the idea of falling into that lake,” I mutter for lack of anything more brilliant to say on this situation which, right now, we can do zilch to change. “It’s probably freezing.”

“Are you afraid you can’t swim to shore?” He looks at me. I can see how tired he is.

Did he get any sleep last night, after I saw him like … that?

And it freaks me out that we can’t talk about it. And that there is no space in this boat. And no life-jackets. And about 20 tourists talking happily about all their happy experiences and 10 or so Bolivians traveling back to the island with everything from tin cans to bags full of fruit.

So I stand up and almost hit my head against the wooden roof of the boat:

“I’m afraid I can’t get out of this sardine can, if everybody panics.”

I look at the other tourists as if they should listen. They seem totally oblivious. Damn it.

I turn to Jacob again: “Maybe we should go outside, get up on the roof?”

“What about our backpacks?” he asks, but I can hear it doesn’t matter

“Who’s going to run away with them – on a boat?”

“I prefer staying down here.”

He dismisses me with a wave of his hand and looks away, out one of the grimy plastic windows. “You go up if you want to.”

Okay. I need to do something. Or I’ll go crazy.

“Are you afraid of the sun?” I ask.

He looks baffled.

Good. Now I got a reaction!

“The sun? Er … no.”

“Ah – !” I exclaim.”So why is it I think that you don’t have faith in my super-suuuunscreen?”

I do some magic, rummaging through my hand bag and get lucky. First catch is what I am looking for. I pull the bottle of sunscreen out and wave it in front of his nose.

He hesitates for a moment. Then something in his visage changes. Like he is reminded of something. Something that is both stupid and yet real and good.

He laughs. For the first time since I met him.

I suddenly feel grateful. After a few seconds it’s over, but something seems to be more alight in him now than just before:

“Maybe faith is something you have when you have to have it,” Jacob says still in a low voice, but now he looks directly up at me, as if I am there:

“So why do I want to have it and why don’t you seem to want to have it?”

“I … want it to have it,” I reply, but now he is getting me out of it. And with something else than fooling around.

Jacob keeps looking at me: “What about everything David Bohm writes about – one of the most esteemed physicists of the 20th century? Or is that just ‘New Agey-wish thinking’?”

“I don’t know,” I say honestly, while at the same time I manage to cast a longing glance towards the door to the small deck in the back of the boat.

A middle-aged Bolivian guy, skin as brown and weathered as 100 year old leather, sits outside on a small bench, which is part of the railing. He leans cozily back towards the railing, one hand on a tiller that controls both the outboard engine motors. It looks as if he knows the path over all the blueness in his sleep for he doesn’t really look where he is sailing. He just … sits and lets the boat move.

I sit down again. With something resembling a sigh I try to explain in the best way I can.

I chose to stay with him so I owe him that much:

“Look … ” I say, “rational arguments based on some quantum-something that I don’t know much about and which you read about – they don’t work for me. One thing I do know about quantum physics is that you can interpret it in a million different ways. Just because two particles seem to be connected beyond the speed of light or whatever … why should that mean that something like ‘God’ exists? That’s a real big leap. And so it just doesn’t work for me. It just makes everything more doubtful.”

Jacob looks as if he’s about to say something, but then he stops himself.

“And – ” I continue, some feeling of finality sweeping over me “ – I don’t feel that I can believe either, just with faith, like so many of these people seem to be able to … ”

I nod towards the locals who seem to have decided to clump together in one end of the boat, putting up some invisible wall between themselves and the Babylonian buzz of the tourists. They discuss something in their own language, not Spanish – some indigenous language. Probably something about crops. Or fish. Something sufficiently concrete, no doubt.

And when they need to be helped by that which is not concrete, they’ll go to the cathedral and get their car blessed. How difficult can life be?

Hey, what do you need David Bohm or quantum physics for?

“Did you lose someone, too?” Jacob suddenly asks.

He might as well have pushed me overboard.

“ … Yes.”

He looks down, briefly.

“I’m sorry. Family?”

“A friend.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“Don’t say that – ” I interrupt, not caring if the other tourists hear or understand. “I’m just being selfish now. We shouldn’t be talking about me.”

“Why?” he asks sincerely. “Wasn’t it a good friend?”

“My dearest friend … ”

“And Levi was my dearest brother – and my only brother. So you are not selfish.”

“Then why do I feel that way?”

“You are a nice person, Carrie. I wish … you’d come to Israel once. I could show you my country. It is a beautiful country.”

“I’d like to go … I don’t think the time is right, though. And I’ve blown the money I got my hands on, all for this trip.”

“Why? The trip, I mean?”

“Because I believe that … it’s necessary. I have to see this lake – Titicaca. It meant something to her.”

“To your friend?”

“Yes.”

He nods, slowly:

“I couldn’t afford going either – and I had to borrow some money from my uncle. My father was furious. But I wanted to go. Before – ”

I touch his hand lightly. This time he doesn’t shy away.

“So we both have to go – ” I say – “without lifebelts.”

For a long time we just sit and listen to the drone of the engines and the chatter of our fellow travelers; all excited, eager, looking forward to seeing the island where the sun was born.

Part of the ‘journey of a lifetime’. The myth and legends of the Andes …

“Have you noticed – ” Jacob suddenly says “ – how the water looks as if its sprinkled with diamonds?”

I turn around, peak out the dusty plastic window of the cabin. The I see a hasp and manage to pry the window open. Immediately we can see everything clearly.

Including the diamonds.

“Oh, my – it is beautiful … ” I mumble on but very soon I just shut up and just look.

“The Incas saw this place and knew that this was where the Sun was born,” Jacob says in the background, “ – or at least that’s what I read in the guidebook. I didn’t know much about Incas before I bought my Lonely Planet.”

“Neither did I,” I say, squinting my eyes against the sun.

All around us: The profound azure blue of the Lake but now dotted with thousands and thousands of small, star-like diamonds.

And I had been so busy thinking about … everything. I hadn’t even noticed it, and we’ve sailed what? An hour…? At least.

“It’s the high noon sun that makes it look like that,” Jacob starts to explain.

Then he stops and lets out a breath as if he also lets go of something heavy. At least for now.

“And we’re in way up in the mountains – not a cloud on the sky,” he continues after a few moments. “So in a way the lake is almost close enough to touch the sun. It looks that way, doesn’t it?”

“It’s … beautiful,” I just repeat, at a loss for words again. “I wish I could take a photo, but with my old camera it’ll probably end up like shit.”

“Better just to watch it then … ” Jacob says. “Maybe it’s always better to try to experience the most beautiful things in life directly… ”

And so we try.

*

Last edit: 22 October 2019

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