We finish our last stop at a weaving shop presentation and step out to a seemingly full moon and a chilly night. I’ve enjoyed the tour but I’m ready to head back to Cusco. The Slovenian regales us with a story about his friend who “moon walks”. Unlike the late great MJ, he sleepwalks only when there is a full moon and gets in all sorts of mishaps. We all chat about our own kooky full moon activities as we wind our way in the dark towards Cusco. A few of us decide to go out for a couple of drinks when we get back; loud salsa music from the radio champions our cause and adds a festive air.
There is a shuddering thud from the left hand side of the bus. Our bus glides to a stop on the shoulder of the road. The bus driver throws open the door, and he and the guide disappear down the road behind us. There are no words. We cast cautionary looks at each other, nobody moves. Did we just hit something? An object in the road? An animal?
“I think we hit a guy.” Someone says.
“Yeah, I saw him. He was in the road. He looked drunk.”
The festive salsa music is louder, grating. Someone goes to turn it off, he can’t find the switch. We sit listening to the horns, waiting for the driver and guide to return.
“How did the driver not see him? I mean, I saw him.” A man from Brazil comments.
“He probably saw him too late.” The Slovenian answers.
“This happens all the time. People just leave them.” The boy from the jungle informs us.
“Are you serious?” I ask.
“This is Peru.” He answers, as if this should be an explanation in of itself!
I am horrified. I train my gaze out of the window to avoid everyone seeing my tears. There is no way this man has survived. We are not in a caravan; it is a fifty passenger, steam roller of a bus. How could he possibly be alright? I’m not sure how many of you have ever hit a man with a bus, but it is a surreal experience. The absurdity of the situation borders on hilarity; everyone hopes that they will not be the inappropriate person to laugh in the presence of such tragedy. The passengers on the bus all respond in individual ways ranging in appropriateness from apathetic to aghast; there is an even split regarding who is at fault, the drunken man or the driver.
Another passenger, a Mexican woman who has medical experience, disembarks from the bus. Several moments later she returns with the guide, the driver, and a half naked man bleeding from the head and moaning quietly. They lay him down in the aisle in the front of the bus. The engine starts and we pull into the road. There is no ambulance siren screeching in the near distance with waiting paramedics to asses the man’s injuries. It is just us, a tourist group, guide, and bus driver, following a line of traffic back to Cusco. Our headlights are broken. The guide takes a flashlight and shines it in the man’s face, drawing it back and forth. The man has just been hit by a bus and he is practically mute; he is either near death or drunk, or perhaps both. It is a rather suprising ,when instead of going directly to the hospital; we pull into the same square where we had been picked up that morning.
The guide graciously thanks us for taking the tour and apologizes for the “incident”. He tells us they are going to continue on to the hospital and asks everyone to contribute money for the man’s medical care. We file out of the bus, gingerly stepping over the body of the bloody man in order to reach the door. The night has become stale. I know I won’t sleep tonight. I decide to have a few cocktails after all. It helps, and I sleep. I wish I could say that my dreams were haunted by images of the bloody man, but they weren’t. The next morning, I awake foggy, trying to piece together again the events of yesterday in an order that makes it right. But there are some things that you just can’t fit neatly into a box and call it a day. I don’t know if that man survived, and I accept this, and place the image of him in a corner of my mind where it will remain; waiting to be taken out with sadness and revisited from time to time whenever my subconscious allows it.
Yvonne Leclair is a researcher and blogger for the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.