Peru and Ninjas: Chapter Three

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The Hub Pub - Upstairs

Roberto la Bega sat in the Hub pub, hands wrapped around a glass of Canadian draft, bummed at the prospect of falling leaves and too many science labs. Back home October meant spring, and the coming prospect of long summer afternoons on Lima's beaches. Loon Lake was wet, windy, and already colder than midwinter back home. He missed watching hang gliders catching thermals off the cliffs in Miraflores. He missed daily blue skies and driving past surfers along the beach-hugging Costa Verde highway. He missed dancing with girls who knew how to salsa. Most of all he missed Barranco bars like Ayahuasca which, unlike this furnished armpit, had atmosphere and fresh tropical cocktails. He hadn't found a Pisco Sour since he'd arrived, let alone his favorite mixed drink, Maracuya (passion fruit). And the Canadians kept carding him everywhere he went. It was starting to feel like harassment.

A surprisingly tall, dark-haired couple came in through the door. People's heads turned, just a little, and there was a dip in the hubbub. Who were they? Back home Roberto knew the well-connected, the private-schooled, the kids whose families ran things. In this shabby little Canadian town, a couple who turned heads were the closest thing to 'his' people. He waved at a waitress, intending to buy them a round but, of course, she ignored him. Everything was self-serve here. He got up from his seat and left his beer at the booth. As he pressed his way through the crowd, he saw the chalkboard behind the bar advertised 'Cuba Libres.' Well 'Viva la revolucion!' He smiled to himself. Maybe there was something worth drinking in this place after all. He fought through the tide of students until he finally washed up beside the tall strangers at the bar.

"Hi, I'm Roberto," he said to the girl. "I'm new." Usually this was all it took. Canadian girls loved his accent.

"I'm Shin," said the guy. He waved, Canadian style, rather than shaking hands. "This is Marta."

The girl gave him an extra long look. "Do I know you?"

"Not yet, but you two seem nice. Can I buy you a round?"

"Are you some kind of swim groupie?" Marta asked.

"I surf," said Roberto. He wasn't sure what she meant by 'groupie,' but Shin was frowning and Marta crossed her arms in front of her chest.

"Have you ever been to Lima?" asked Roberto.

She shook her head, setting her dark, shiny hair in motion. She was beautiful. Perfect skin, naturally ruddy lips... Too bad she was frowning. She looked him up and down disdainfully.

"Nice to meet you Roberto," she said, "but we're heading upstairs to the dining room to eat." She towed Shin away through the liquid crowd. Neither one gave him a backward glance. Feeling even lonelier, and now stupid as well, Roberto set off against the current. Back at his booth, four guys had taken his place, his lonely glass cleared to make space for theirs. Roberto scanned the crowded room, too full of blondes and pale northern faces. The harsh din of English was starting to grate on his ears too. It was time to go back to his dorm and Skype his friends in Lima, that is, the ones who weren't out partying on a Thursday night.

His stomach growled. He had a sudden craving for empanadas, even though he'd eaten a big dinner at the cafeteria. Chicken and olive empanadas, broken open and spritzed inside with lime juice. Mmm. He closed his eyes and remembered the pastry from his favorite bakery in Miraflores. Peruvian food... What he wouldn't give for a big plate of ceviche right now, or potatoes in yellow sauce the way the cook did them. Yeah, Papas a la Huancaína, that was what he craved most of all. Hunger stabbed his stomach at the thought of it.

Desperate to eat anything, Roberto weaved his way out of the crowded bar and into the chilly October air. He had to find a restaurant, a bakery, a street vendor. At this point he felt so hungry, he would even settle for crappy North American drive-through.

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