"What is it about small, warm, fuzzy things that make humans forget themselves?" I ask my cousin Monica as we walk quickly toward my cordwainer's.
"I have no idea." She’s clutching the small white rabbit to her chest.
We've just bought a two week-old rabbit from a street merchant from Chosica, who took the $7.75 and bolted without giving me any change.
Inside the shop, Manolo is yelling at his clients as usual. Manolo is one of those artists who resents the fact that he has to sell his creations to people who do not understand them. He sees soul where others see only soles. He likes me because I come with my own crazy designs, not pages from magazines, and in the end, always let him go where his heart wants to take him.
"Manolo, look!" I call out, walking in. He turns around, annoyed, then recognizes me. I point to my feet. I am wearing the latest thing he made me.
"Perfection!" he says, almost smiling.
"I am going to need you again. I will bring the design. You're going to die. But right now, I need your help. I have a rabbit."
"Rabbit? For shoes maybe uggs?" he looks horrified.
"No, no," I point to Monica. "A real little --"
"That man he always say same thing with the rabbit! Dwarf rabbit, he say. You wait, it grows big and say what is this? Not the little rabbit! Yes, the rabbit. He lie all the time sell rabbit. Here is, here. Box. For rabbit. Ha ha ha!" I've never seen him laugh before.
We wander down Avenida Diez Canseco, with Monica holding a rabbit, and I, holding a large empty white shoe box. We finally find Café de la Paz, just a few yards from where we were conned.
We sit at a table away from the crowd and order our Americanos. Monica takes off her scarf, wraps the tiny ball of white fur in it and sticks it in the box.
"The rabbit needs a name," she says.
"How about Toledo?" I ask. Monica looks confused. "He was president not long ago?"
Her face reveals she's not confused, she's shocked. "Why would you do that? Why!"
I sip my coffee, "what are we going to do with it?"
"I know!" she replies, lighting a cigarette. "Ñuqa sunquyni."
"Ñuqa sunquyni -- it means 'my heart' in Quechua."
"New-ka soon-koi," I attempt. "You know Quechua?"
"Hi, Ñuqa!" she coos at the white ball.
A man walks over and asks whether we want to donate funds for his band. He points to the local musicians a few tables away playing the guitar, quena and sampoña.
"That is a beautiful rabbit," he compliments us. "I raise rabbits myself. Are you selling it?"
"Yes --" starts Monica, but I cut her off.
"I'll make a gift of the rabbit if you make a gift of a song."
And so it was, in the middle of Café de la Paz, that a group of musicians serenaded two girls for hours.
"It's name is Ñuqa Sunquyni," I say to them when they finish. "You have played wonderfully."
"We may have played wonderfully, but you have given us your heart," one of them replies.
When we leave, our server gives us little notes. Mine says, "An optimist is the human personification of spring." Monica's says, "From a man without ideals, nothing great can be expected."
Now Monica and I wander Parque Kennedy, looking at the scattered kiosks filled with antiques. She has a piece of quartz crafted into a necklace while I discover ancient cameras, typewriters, giant brass door knockers, telephones, guns and spurs.
"There is an old man here at the park with a monkey," Monica says as we walk around some more. "Mother used to bring us when we were children. The monkey reads your fortune."
"The monkey does?" I ask, amazed. "We have to find them."
"I don't know if he's still here. It was years ago."
Unaccompanied children play with a partly deflated ball with all the seriousness of World Cup athletes. People walk dogs of varying sizes. Lovers dot the park, kissing and whispering under trees and embracing on benches beneath cold, Lima skies. It strikes me that somehow, they don't inspire the sort of loneliness that newlyweds on Waikiki Beach do -- but I don't exactly know why.
The old man is still at Parque Kennedy, still with the small Capuchin that plays a music box and hands out fortunes stashed inside it. Monica gives the monkey one sol and it pulls a little fortune from inside its box and hands it to her.
"Don't let your heart drown in misery; fear and hatred are foreign to your nature," Monica reads out loud. "You use your time honorably and don't let yourself be carried away into indecent orgies."
I snicker. The monkey looks at me expectantly.
"Oh, fine." I put a sol into its little black hand.
The fortune reads: "You will be whatever you desire if you are an active pursuant of your ideas, but remember to keep yourself from the false, which poisons freedom. You will always have courage because you will never betray what makes you happiest. Luck is yours; your love is mad and passionate."
"Interesting," comments Monica. "Does that mean you get to have the indecent orgies?"
"Excuse me," a voice calls to us. A young man approaches us cautiously.
"Hello. My name is Daniel. I'm a writer. I exchange stories for loose change. Would you like to hear a story?"
He offers us a seat on a stone pillar and in return, I offer him a cigarette, which he takes.
"This story is called 'Parquecito con Café'..." he starts.
A little park with a coffee. The body and soul of contemporary Lima.