MY FRIEND MARCO
Marco Antonio Arroyo Benites
Marco at the high school prom
It was 1972. I was 12 years old and about to finish my primary studies in School No. 89007 in Chimbote’s 21 de Abril “B” residential development. In those days bicycles were rented by the hour to the neighborhood kids from our home on Aviation Avenue’s thirteenth block.
Among the customers arriving for the bicycles there was an evangelical boy who was my age. I knew him by sight, since he went to a church located a few steps from my house, the Church of Christ. He was kind of serious and well-mannered. And when renting a bicycle he would register himself with this name: Marco Antonio Arroyo Benites.
In 1973 I started secondary school at San Pedro in Chimbote, and here I ran into Marco again. The following year he was already my best friend and by 1975 we were inseparable classmates. Marco was good at math, and I liked language arts and social studies. We joined forces to combine our talents, and our study group became the best in the class.
Under the pretext of homework, I often visited his home on Balta Avenue, a few steps from the intersection with Pardo Avenue. Each time I went to his house his mother, Doña Consuelo, would offer me my favorite dish: fried fish with rice and plenty of “zarza” (lemon/onion salad). We listened to music by the band Los Galos while doing homework, and talked about everything, especially about girls and the doubts of adolescence.
The music was not always by Los Galos. Marco introduced me to Manuel Bonilla’s evangelical music. And before you know it I was attending the Church of Christ. I confess I went to church more for the girls than for the worship, but I also liked the Bible studies. Marco's father, Don Félix, led an interesting Bible course which I started going to.
Marco began his college career before me. In 1979 he moved to Lima, and the following year began studying Chemical Engineering at the National Engineering University. Meanwhile, I was caught in the whirlwind of politics, and it took me a little longer before I went to Trujillo in 1983 to study Law and Political Science at the National University of Trujillo.
In 1982 Marco met Eva, a beautiful girl from Samanco (Ancash, Peru), with whom he began a wonderful love story, and his children began to arrive: Mirella in 1983, Ivone in 1985, Hanss in 1987 and Nicole in 1995. Then the relationship with Eva ended, and in 1996 he had one more child, Sebastián, in another relationship.
At one point during the 1980s Marco interrupted his chemical engineering studies. He needed to work. He reinvented himself and entered a new world: the one of hairdressing. Since then Marco remains one of the most prestigious stylists of Lima. When he broke the news to me that he was leaving college, I remember that he said to me, "You might not see the connection, but I am going to use my geometry studies to be the best hairdresser in Lima." His words were prescient.
There were also tough times. One day in 1987 I was in my student room in Trujillo’s Colombus Street. The radio was on, bringing the news to me. Suddenly a reporter announced a terrible road accident in Chepén. When hearing the list of the deceased a name shook me, but I wanted to believe that it was only someone else with the same name. Seconds later the phone rang, and my landlady shouted in the direction of my window, "Eduardo, telephone, your mom says it's urgent!". Doña Consuelo, Marco’s mom, was gone forever.
1987 was also the year that Marco started to travel around the world. Argentina and several European countries witnessed his polished skills. To his triumphs in Lima, a great international experience was added.
Lima 2007 - Eduardo and Marco
I, on the other hand, left for Europe in the early '90s. In London I met Terry, my wife, and my only daughter, Dorothy, was born. Every two years I take my family to Peru. Arriving at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport, Marco is always waiting for us and never lets us stay in hotels: he take us to his place. So we stayed at his small apartment on Angamos Avenue in Lima’s Miraflores district, where Marco gave us his bed while he slept in his barber chair. And later we stayed at his spacious apartment/salon on Dos de Mayo Avenue in the same district of Lima.
If someone were to ask me to define Marco with one word the answer would be easy: Determination. Several times I have seen Marco fall on hard times, and he always said the same thing to me: "Give me a few months and I’ll be back in business again.” He always kept his word.
And if someone were to ask Terry and Dorothy for the most exciting part of their visits to Lima the response would always be the same: when Marco does their hair. On our last visit to Lima we did not have time for this treat, but Marco traveled seven hours from Lima to Chimbote, with a pair of scissors in his pocket. We had a chance to visit with each other, and he also made time to style Terry and Dorothy’s hair before returning to Lima.
And for Dorothy there is always another special treat in Chimbote: Marco’s father, a prestigious jeweler, has done several jobs for her, including a bracelet. Dorothy is growing up, and in each of the visits Don Félix keeps adding links to the bracelet.
Marco: Thus is our friendship, like the links that have been added to Dorothy’s bracelet. It is a treasure enriched with time. Gone are so many things, like Inés and Hilda, like Pocha and La Zarca. Do you remember them? When we were young we shared so much time together that we ended up falling in love with pairs of friends!
Returning to the present. Today is a special day for you. And I wanted to offer testimony to our friendship. Happy Birthday!
New Hampshire, USA
December 13, 2011
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