Our plates arrive steaming—sticky white rice, slabs of pale pork, and a serving of some sort of maize, white kernels the size of dimes. A dollop of the green Saltine-sauce leaks into the rice. It is surprisingly delicious, adding just the right amount of zing to an otherwise bland plate of food. We’ve eaten nothing but cookies since yesterday afternoon, and we demolish our puerco, leaving only green swipes and well-cleaned hambones on our plates. Other truckers drift in, and I see how the woman’s business must depend on the rain. If the river rises, then she can rely on people being stuck in the town, a whole flock settling in for an almuerzo of puerco, regardless of the time of day. I wonder what will happen to her when the road is paved, a bridge installed over the stream, a project that Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo and Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva shook hands on in 2004. A project to connect Brazil’s Atlantic coast with Peru’s Pacific ports that South American politicians have dreamed about for over thirty years. To engineer dozens of bridges that could withstand the rainy season, could hold the traffic of such trucks as ours any time of the year. What will happen to her little comedor when the trucks pass right through, never needing to stop?
Later, I ask if there is a bathroom, and the boy points down a little muddy path. I follow it and find a three-sided shack, and when I go in I’m confused for a minute because there’s nothing there, then I realize it is the bathroom—just a pit in the ground and a few rickety boards over the top to squat on.
An hour and a half later the long line of vehicles start turning on their engines. The little town explodes into a cloud of exhaust, men bustling back into their trucks. From where we are we see First Matey wave his arms at us.
“The water has gone down,” he says when we reach the truck. We climb up the ladder and onto the lumber. I’m excited to finally be moving in the daylight. We inch along the road until the trucks in front of us make it across the stream. As our truck lurches through the streambed, I cling nervously to the side, watching the water ripple past the tire treads. The water is the easy part; we skid and spin through the red sediment on the opposite side, trying to climb out of the ditch. But the tires finally catch and we make it, the long row of trucks gradually spreading out. It takes the truck a long time to get up to speed as we inch upwards. Now I learn the downfalls of taking the lumber truck—trucks with lighter loads pass us one by one, and eventually we are alone on the road, last in line. At some point we catch up with the rain and Simon and I pull the canvas tarp across the two-by-fours running down the center of the truck, making a tent for ourselves. We are quiet, listening to the soft pelt of rain, the strained whir of our truck, lying back on our respective sides with our hands resting on our full bellies.