Frankly I felt that I had little time to get to know anybody but I was under pressure to fit with the family unit, even for these few days. I explained myself many times, my course, my research into tropic illnesses and medicines, my year out, the car and the need for exploration. Exploration and some internalising and a need that called me to reach into the heart of this new, magnificent and failing country that was also a fledgling continent.
In the garden Ernesto and Claudia flirted like teenagers while they pretended to do laundry, funnily enough they did and it seemed as if there were hundreds of yards of flying white shirts and aprons on criss crossing washing lines sending semaphore signals across the fields; Ernesto loves Claudia they signed to the corn and grass. I squinted my eyes and turned them into James Thurber’s swans, or Pre-Raphaelitism angels roped back to the earth like newly tamed horses. Occasionally I was invited into their jokes and cigarette strewn conversations, I kept up but they were insatiable. I wondered how Ernesto would ever stand a long journey apart from her, I now know that I did not know him at all. Neither did I know him then or do I now.
I spent a few hours prepping the car, oils and waters and pressures. Carpet bags with clothing that would serve through the four seasons and thousands of feet of elevation variations were placed in the boot. There was also a battered ex-army tent and two sleeping bags, they were grey and looked to have served in numerous wars, all of which had ended in ruination and defeat it seemed.
Ernesto spoke a lot about ethics and justice , the cornerstones of his studies, like mine all now on hold and due to be enhanced by our travel and the sight of an opposite and upside down ocean twinkling under a strange sun, if only. I took a long draw on a French cigarette and watched a family of blackbirds up in a tree somewhere across the garden. The parents furnished grubs and worms from the field across the wire and squashed them into their baby’s beaks, their little heads spiking up from the carefully crafted nest as it hangs on the v bow of a silver birch branch. The adult bird birds fly back and forth feeding the chicks like a sewing machine finishing button holes in an ornate military jacket. I watched and enjoyed their relentless industry, at the bottom of the tree in a pool of sun flakes and black cat rolled in the dust, one eye on the birds.
Across the fields a man in a flack jacket was shooting crows, the crack of the rifle sailed across the open space into the garden. The cat darted away and under a shed, the blackbirds swooped down away from the nest and into the long dry grass. It was the driest summer that any of us could remember when not considering the long term effects of our congenital defects brought about by successive inbreeding, so some said.