by Sara Spock
I just came down from the mountain. The new aged glow of Machu Picchu was fresh on my cheeks and I had a head filled with spirituality, Incas, llamas, fresh flowing streams and brews. My high, it seemed, mimicked the altitude. A mere 8,000 feet above sea level and I was ready to kick off my Birkenstocks, fill my pockets with granola, and live among the ruins, but a bus in Cusco waited for me to return to Lima and some friends were getting married in a few short days. The road called, even though it only sounded like a whisper compared to the shouts of Machu Picchu.
As we approached the terminal, my hopes soared. The bus was modern, shiny, and lacking the normal enclave of chickens strapped to the roof. There were porters, baggage holds, and the driver was wearing a uniform. A uniform! Visions danced through my head of a 10 hour ride with a seat to myself, a place to stretch my almost 6’ frame without dogs in the aisles and massive packs of farm goods conveniently resting on my thighs. This was luxury. As I approached my seat, the requested aisle in the 8th row, I noticed a little old lady in the spot I reserved. So etched and still, I wasn’t sure if she was dozing or dead. I tapped her. Nothing. I nudged. Nada. I used my pack to give her a gentle shove. Zilch. Instead of attempting mouth to mouth, I took the middle seat. At least I had it to myself.
The bus embarked in the evening, traveling through the night and I hoped to arrive in Lima before noon, to catch my next 8 hour bus north. Yes, I travel in style. About an hour into the trip, my seat mate stirred and I sighed with relief that rigor mortis hadn’t set in. I pulled out my journal and tried to make a few hasty notes about Machu Picchu in the waning daylight, but the tiny old bitty took this moment to shift her entire body to the right, draping one arm over my shoulder and the other on my journal. I was frozen and she was, apparently, still sleeping. I tried to gently push her back to her own space with my shoulder. Instead, she managed to wiggle her hand from my shoulder, down the front of my shirt and into my bra. Suddenly, I was being molested by a snoozing Peruvian octogenarian and both my arms were pinned. I looked to my right in a failed attempt to enlist some help, but it was too dark. I used my knee to try to rouse her. I tapped my feet loudly in an attempt to wake the dead. I shifted my shoulders to dislodge her roving hand. Nothing worked. Finally, I dropped my journal and lifted both arms above my head, pushing the pervert back to her own space and sliding myself closer to the window seat while crossing my arms in an attempt to regain some self-respect.
Even today, I’m fairly certain a large portion of my dignity is still bouncing around on that bus in the Andes… along with the cash that lady found in my bra.
Sara Spock is a mom, wife, anthropology student, lab assistant, English tutor, and freelance writer. In the moments between being groped on third-world buses and waiting for the birth of her second child, Sara can be found over at The Hero Complex where she tries to save the world, one. blog. post. at. a. time.
Editor's note: Congratulations, Sara and baby Bennet! The cutest little Erma yet!