The rain grew heavy as night drew near. The taxi-driver weaved through the steep hills of the valley until I told him to stop. I thanked him for the ride and paid him my last few soles. I got out of the car and walked up to the familiar gate. Alan unlocked the gate and guided me through. We walked down the hill and through the mud, entering the circular room.
Not long ago had I left this room. Now, a man named Amaru lay curled in a pile of blankets, fast asleep. He had met with some doctor named Wayra earlier that morning and was exhausted from everything that came up. I didn’t know Wayra either, but I had heard stories. A woman arrived unexpectedly. She was a friend of Wayra’s, but I didn’t catch her name.
Alan asked me why I wanted to meet with her again — especially now. I told him that I’d been having pain in my stomach, and I felt like she could help me release it all. I always had knots in my stomach, like coils that wouldn’t unravel themselves.
“How long do you plan on staying?”
“Umm, not that long.” I wanted to say as much time as it takes to get this thing out of me.
“A short meeting might be easier. But with more time, you could uncover a lot.”
Alan stared at me. He knew what didn’t come out now would eventually come out later.
“Just a little while, and I should feel fine.”
We moved to the center of the room and sat quietly on the floor. The woman sat patiently in front of us. She was expecting my arrival. Alan whispered to her as she poured me a glass of thick black tea. He walked over and handed it to me.
I held the glass with cold hands. Overwhelmed by the power of this woman, I could only ask her to protect me and be patient. She assured me she would, but I knew her better than that. She was an intense doctor — the kind that isn’t afraid to break through every layer and reveal everything that’s been living inside, scraping from the inside out. She didn’t say much with language. She let Alan lead the meeting but still sat in company with us. I guess she was shy.
The tea was bitter — not enjoyable. It tasted like bark. Alan took a book of matches out of his pocket and lit the candle on the mesa. A bowl of Palo Santo lay nearby.
“The fire seems appropriate for your meeting today.”
He knew I was looking for a change. I felt exposed in the center and walked back to my nest of blankets near the wall.
When I settled down, Alan asked, “Is that to get away from me?”
“I want to be near the pillows and blankets.” I continued to wrap myself tightly in their comfort.
“Would you mind if I sat next to you?”
He stood up and grabbed a cup of ice to cool me down from the heat. I continued to breathe and focus. Here it was again. The pounding in my stomach. A rumbling hole under my skin.
“It doesn’t feel good.”
“Your stomach has been in knots for a long time, Tara.”
I closed my eyes and inhaled quickly, tightening into a ball.
“Breathe lower. Your body needs to open up.”
I eased a little when the pressure from my stomach subsided, and took a deep breath.
“Make the sound your stomach feels right now. Let it out.”
I made a soft, muffled groan, unveiling nothing. Amaru turned underneath his blankets — I didn’t want to wake him up.
“Tara, you can’t keep it inside of you anymore. It’s time.”
My eyelids grew heavy in silent agreement until eventually they shut in acknowledgement of truth. I started playing with the distortions of my mouth, deepening and elongating my voice.
Alan encouraged everything to flow through me. I didn’t want to hold on anymore. I labored through the pain one last time, grabbed my bucket, and threw up.
I wanted it to end so I could breathe. The woman gave me a few seconds to catch up and then proceeded with the medicine. Amaru rose from his sleep, after hearing my scream, and began to play his flute with Alan. I loosened my grip. She listened to them more than she listened to me. I rested my head on the rim of the bucket, demanding an answer from the strange face at the bottom.
The room breathed as it grew. I felt like someone had just ripped away a vital part of me. I lifted my head and opened my eyes to the world around me.
Tears dripped out of my rusted eyes and onto my once-swollen stomach. A raw whimpering drew itself out of me, unraveling my kinked vocal chords. Everything swelled up in me and released itself onto the pillow.
My crying turned into laughter. I sat staring at the candle flame in the center. I felt the ties of the past being cast away from my swollen ankles like sandbags.
I fell asleep in that dark room, with Alan watching over me. The silent woman left before I got a chance to say goodbye. I awoke early the next morning, feeling cleansed from a long night down in the valley. Alan walked me inside to the kitchen, where we ate juicy strawberries. Few words were spoken and yet both of us knew. A sadness sat in my heart. This would be my last meeting with him.
His friend drove me back to my place on top of the mountain. I was supposed to hike to Templo de la Luna today with my friend, but she had to reschedule. I made the trek alone, walking up the winding path and into the cave.
Sunlight beamed in through the only crack in the cave’s ceiling. It was only then that I was ready to depart.