Latin America is pulling at my mind again. I'm remembering all of it: Chile, Costa Rica, Oaxaca, Argentine Patagonia, the Andes, Cusco, Guatemala. Bits of each place is wedged inside me. Something about this summer, more than usual, is dredging up the ache for the smell of exhaust, colored walls, Spanish, dense air, public transportation, asados, fresh fruit juice.
I'm remembering bus rides in particular. In South America we traveled by bus, often overnight to save money on hostels. When we went south to Patagonia, the first leg of the trip was an eleven-hour ride to Osorno. Though we left at 8 p.m. I never slept. Instead I watched every hour pass on a digital screen above the driver—2, 3, 4 a.m. flashing red. Other passengers slept around me and I felt like the only person awake in the entire world.
Months later we rode to Cusco. In the latest hours of the night, or the earliest of the morning, the bus surged up a mountain pass. It veered around the curves gaining altitude and speed, each turn tilting us farther to the left, then to the right. Awake again, I waited for the bus to lean one degree too far and hurtle downward. Two nuns in front of me slept soundly on each other’s shoulders.
Funny the things that stick with you. Funny how bus rides stand out while other moments remain buried deep in memory's archive. Funny the conversations you carry with you and the ones you forget. Retrospection can make us wish we lived differently—I would have tried harder, you think, I would have reached out to her, I would have taken advantage of those simple interactions. Yet we have no control over which moments become magical, or representative, or tectonic. They accost us years later, their meaning still unclear, their memory nonetheless evocative.