The crippled heap of broken man sifted through a roadside hillock of garbage. Above him, a mountain of slums murmured with car horns and the ranting of daytime telenovelas. Beside him, traffic crawled under the heavy Peruvian sun. A delivery truck idled, its engine throbbing in the humidity. Its vibrating flank was adorned with images of rich, white, grinning sportspeople gulping down bottles of ice cold fruit juice.
But not just any juice.
Above the sportspeople – those incarnations of joy and success – drifted the words, “No added colours or flavours.”
The side of the truck was a window into a different world, where perfect people drank perfectly refreshing juice as they jogged, bicycled and swam through serene clouds far above the filth of Lima’s depressed outskirts.
For a few minutes during that particular traffic jam, that pure world sat just meters away from the broken man. But he never saw it. Instead, he remained fixated on his task: digging, digging, digging.
His fingers clawed through the trash, the sharp rubble and the shit. Until he struck gold: a semi-solid mass of old vegetable. Without hesitation he bit down. The mush relinquished itself without a fight to his maw, squishing between the black shrapnel of teeth still lodged in his gums.
The sun continued to bathe the slum with its delirious, brain boiling stare. But in that peaceful moment of feasting, he didn’t care.
From far above the man, the truck and the street, a perfect family looked down from a billboard, smiling. A professional man, his blond wife, their rosy-cheeked child, and the elegantly groomed Labrador. They were all frozen in a state of flawless happiness, on the AstroTurf in front of their new home. The dog had the biggest grin of them all. The scene was another window into another clean world, self contained within the massive billboard rammed into the roof of a shanty perched near the top of slum mountain.
“Buy your dream home, today!” read the billboard. It was yet another advertisement, but this one urged Peru’s upper crust to buy homes in one of Lima’s up’n-coming, family friendly designer suburbs. The family already had their dream home, and now they looked down at the poverty striken slum with those eternal, blissful smiles. Just like Baroque angels gazing down at a congregation.
On the backside of the billboard, a stoned pre-teen pissed. The urine pooled around the rusted supports.
And below, the man crammed more rotten vegetable matter into his mouth. Yellow juice ran down his chin. It was the colour of piss, and the flavour of the real fucking world.