Night envelops Buenos Aires again. And with it I am enveloped in more strange dreams about ice cold seawater pushing into my mouth. It’s like Miguel’s bag is still in my room. I know what is in it, and yet I did not look in it. Or … have I not been sleeping at all, since I came home, just imagining?
Outside my hostal a hooker howls in frustration over a customer that apparently drove away without paying for a job in the car just below the dead lamppost at the corner; there is the even more distant howling of horns from taxi cabs squeezing each other to get the last customers in front of the Estación Buenos Aires Línea Belgrano Sur; transistor radios blast through wide open windows in the apartments opposite our building and in our building – bad pop music from the more seedy discos in the barrio of Barracas where I’m staying.
Funny, because in the day, Buenos Aires seems relatively mild, despite its subdued Latin American passion and the occasional soccer brawl; it’s mild in attitude, even welcoming in places – unlike, for example, L.A., which I’ve been to a few times. Sucked big time. Didn’t like it. Maybe if you lived in Beverly Hills, but then you’d just be a bird in gilded cage, wouldn’t you?
Maybe Ohio wasn’t so bad. Or even Skye …
Careful, Carrie – don’t get over-sentimental. Just find that single clean black blouse you have, and the least-worn looking pair of jeans and that comb you use too seldom. And then Mr. Miguel Sanchez Palomino won’t get any ideas of the sort men who are 20 years older than you might easily get. I’m not gonna look the part.
It could still go horribly wrong, though … What was I thinking?
Probably wasn’t …
Maybe I’m like a missile, and having found no target, I just keep cruising for the nearest whatever to self-destruct in. Or maybe I’ll end up in the ocean?
Look, girl – he is not dangerous.
I don’t sense any danger.
And God knows, if it comes to that I’ve already had some experience … in Bolivia, for example. Because I’m not very good with men …. and … Jeesh, there’s a revelation!
But I believe that he is not dangerous in that sort of way. If he says he’s okay with doing something impulsive, because he knows (and we both admitted to it – sort of) – that otherwise he’s just gonna be standing there the next morning, equally alone, with equal pointlessness … well, then he is okay with it. Then he has a reason that’s as good as mine.
That’s always the bottom line for me, isn’t it? I am weird and therefore good a meeting weird people in weird ways. So far it hasn’t got me killed. Or raped. Or both.
… Phone ringing. I almost tear it off the wall.
Not because I’m eager but because it is very poorly fastened to the wall. After some initial swearing I get the message. The receptionist, good ol’ Mr. Lynch, is trying to tell me the impossible.
He is here. He actually came.
Ohgodohgod – so now what do I do. Go down? Stay …
Why the … ?! Now hear this, Carrie – you get in that blouse and you go down, and if you have any doubts then just go home – all the way to Ohio and became a washing lady or something. After everything you’ve been through. Where’re your guts?! Christ, for a gonzo-leap into the land of self-discovery, for someone who TRIES to be impulsive you are –
Enough. Enough already.
I’ll go down. Easy now. Just sleep on the blouse. Check my wallet, credit card, keys.
I really am.
I open the door, as if I’m sleepwalking. Then I go down.
Place: The pitiful excuse for a lobby in Hostal Peron
Miguel is waiting. And he looks every bit like … I didn’t expect:
White shirt, ironed – half open at the top. Shaven. Hair actually bears marks of contact with comb. He looks … strange.
Like I only saw him as a soldier, or worse – as a vagabond. Before. How is that possible? How can I have marked him up like that in my mind.
I know, goddammit, that people are people, more than just what they hell they wear or where they go or the jobs they take or the leaflets they hand out … I know that … !
This is so scary, that for a moment it makes me hesitate on the stairs. He misunderstands.
“Señorita Soier … ” he slowly manages to say, in lieu of a more formal greeting, and all the time while swallowing … something – “I’d like to take you out. If you still want to.”
I swallow, too, feel my own breathing … as if I have to force it, along my steps. Then I walk all the way down. Extend my hand …
“Hola Miguel … I’m ready. ¿Vamos?”
Mr. Lynch behind the reception desk, venerable, mountainous in his calm, smiles broadly – like our age difference didn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t. Or maybe it’s just a relic from an old age where men were always allowed to go out with younger women without being frowned upon, an Age that kept existing in Argentina and a few other places but died a long time ago in the rest of the ‘modern’ world.
I take his arm, put it into mine.
“What are you waiting for?” I whisper. “Let’s go. Don’t want Señor Lynch to think something about us, do we?”
“No – of course not.”
We head out the revolving doors, into the warm night.
I said he was not going to come. In a way I was right. He came but that part of him that would’ve taken the lead did not come, perhaps it never could. Maybe it drowned a long time ago, somewhere off the Falklands?
Why do I want to know?