As I stepped outside the airport doors, it hit me, slowly, and then all at once, a flood of memories, a reminder of who I used to be years ago when I had once lived here, hidden within the familiarities of this forgotten place, memories resurrected through the observation of all the eccentricities, the small yet distinctive elements that make a place unique. I thought I had forgotten it all, I thought it had all been erased with time, but there they were, just waiting for me to return and to remember. I’d only tucked them away, in a distant shelf of my mind, not wanting to recall my love for this land, in fear it would still taste of him.
And yet, here I was, alone, in Peru, just myself and my backpack and a million strangers all around me, the heat of the summer evening licking my skin, beads of sweat dancing upon my hairline, taxis hooting manically, people milling past me, hustling, bustling, being, doing, grinding their gears and there I was just standing, staring, drinking it all in, a huge smile plastered across my sweaty, tired face. I had forgotten how much this continent made me feel inside. The heat, the energy, the movement, the manic verve of a South American city.
How can it be described in any other way than madness? Pure, imperfect madness. I suppose that’s when you know you’ve truly healed yourself from the pain of your past. When you’re able to return to a place, a place you assumed the memory of your former lover would still linger, to find their scent has vanished, their touch faded, dissipated with the healing hands of time and all that is left is your own strength. Your own survival. Could anything be more empowering?
I was back. Back in Latin America. Thrust headfirst into the infectious chaos once again. I wanted to cry from sheer joy as the taxi driver wound his way through the congested city streets and I stuck my head out the open window, taking in all the restaurants, the shops, the lights, the billboards, gulping in huge sips of sticky, evening air. So this is how dogs feel in cars. It all makes sense. I longed to define the feeling that overwhelmed me, that intrinsic, indecipherable sensation one feels when returning to a place they used to call home and are suddenly reminded of every little thing that made them fall in love with that place in the beginning. The taste of Spanish on my lips, the sultry heat of the night, cars hooting, motor taxis swerving, pedestrians crawling the grimy sidewalks, teenagers groping, street vendors vending, humans, being.
These streets are alive and so am I. And this time, I have returned as a woman. A warrior. A heart rebuilt from compassion. Bones lined with strength. Knowledge of self, of struggle, of soul. With nothing else guiding the way but my own intuition, this is my journey now. It belongs to me. Now that I know myself, now that I have met myself fully, I am simply me. And what greater feeling in the world then to realize that me is all I ever needed.