I don’t go to the police. I think about it of course, but I don’t go. Mr. Lynch back at the hotel don’t ask questions and I have no idea why. I look like hell. He just gets a maid to come up and help me wash and bandage and ask if there is anything more I need and when I say ‘no’, she doesn’t come back. But there is something I need, so I go out again to a 24-hour store.
In the morning then I haven’t slept at all and I’m all drugged up on caffeine and cheap booze. It’s a wonder I can still walk down the stairs to the ancient computer that Mr. Lynch has lovingly installed on a small table across the minuscule reception desk.
‘Free for use for guests’ – whenever it works that is…
There’s a single e-mail. Nobody’s written to me in ages… Who –
My uncle finally went to Villa Tunari, so I could get a lift. You had not answered my last mail so I try again. Where are you? Your mother has left a message, too, at ENTEL. I picked it up. She is very worried. But you have not given her your e-mail address, she said. I am praying for you – wherever you are. Please answer this mail and tell me you are all right.
I should’ve quit at the first danger sign – that is when he insisted on us driving in his own car and not taking a taxi. I should have just gone away then. But after all that struggling with myself to prove that I was not afraid and didn’t care if … well, I didn’t.
The real shit started, though, when he suddenly turned off the expressway, down a minor road without lighting that ended in a container lot of some sort. We had been talking fairly normally, albeit awkwardly, up till then – actually, we had been talking quite well from the moment we left hostal Peron:
Miguel had first asked if I wanted to come with him to someplace called “Tigre” where his brother owned an “acclaimed” restaurant. I had said yes, because what else should I say? I had gone this far with him. Why question the fact that a guy like Miguel really might have a brother with a restaurant that got stars in the local newspapers.
I mean, didn’t everyone have a life before a war? Why not him? Why was I so focused on seeing only stereotypes – like the young offenders from Boyle Heights or Mid-West small towns who so often sign up for the army because they got nowhere else to go.
Then we had reached his car, an old Sedan that looked like it was only running on good will. I hesitated. I discovered that I was still in the process of making my real decision. The problem was that I didn’t even know for sure why I had done this. I only knew I didn’t want to date him for real – you know go home with him and all that – or anything. Of course not! But this was kind of like a date, wasn’t it? The problem is always like that: If you have never made up your mind entirely, if you don’t know your own reasons, someone else will tell you what they are. Continue reading
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? Continue reading
The cold South Atlantic waters can no longer be stopped from pressing through your nose, mouth, into your lungs; – the inevitability of the breathing reflex is remarkable, even when there’s nothing to breathe but heavy sub-Arctic seawater..
I get torn out of sleep, almost instantly, when I can’t breathe.
Wait … I … can breathe. I’m … alive. Here. In the hostal. In Buenos Aires. Near the railway …
It’s deep night. The city is not asleep. I don’t think I’ll be again.
I’ll be thinking about why I am going back to look for Miguel tomorrow, and why it is so important that I have not looked in the bag.
His bag. It’s there. On the floor, beside my too-short bed with the cement-mattress.
What do I want to prove? Continue reading
The next day:
“Hola … ”
“Ah, the beautiful señorita is back. What a surprise.”
“People don’t often come back?”
“Nobody ever comes back.”
Today the sun is up, which is another surprise. The mist is still lurking somewhere out at sea. The streets are less crowded but the everpresent droning of traffic from a million cars you can’t even see reminds you that this is Buenos Aires – a capital.
A few people have found their way to Plaza de Mayo, along with me, however … a lone Japanese tourist, lost in his love-affair with the camera; an old man picking up garbage and putting it into a can; a smart lady talking into a cell-phone, adjusting her sun glasses … They all seem strangely upbeat even though you can’t see it directly if you look at them. They don’t smile, but they seem to be filled with some kind of … energy.
Perhaps it was an energy that only I could sense, something I longed to have myself: A sense of somewhere to go. But I saw nothing new for me in this city, after the fat mist had finally been torn away by the fierce winds I could hear outside my small room at the hostal all through the night, like they were trying to tear apart the building itself.
Nothing except him … Continue reading
It was not easy coming to Buenos Aires, finally. It was not easy saying goodbye. But I had to go and you know why … There’s a war in me. But maybe here, at the edge of another ocean, I will be able to make an armistice?
I’m not sure if it was right but … in the morning it didn’t feel as if Jacob wanted to talk more about what happened. But it didn’t feel as if he wanted to be alone either. It just felt like he wanted us to go.
So we went, down to the beach where we bought a ticket for one of the crammed boats that would take us out into the endless blue depths of the Lake Titicaca, out to the Island of the Sun.
And after searching for a few inches of space in one of them, to sit down, we do just that. We go somewhere. But first we sit – for a long time. We don’t talk about anything. We just sit, in the boat, and try to ignore some slight edge of anxiousness that’s in the air. Like we’re not going anywhere really. Just waiting. But not knowing for what. Continue reading
I would have gone this afternoon – to Isla del Sol, I mean. But my stomach had other plans.
Don’t know what the hell I ate, if it was something at that market – or if it was the little guy’s ‘freshly caught’ trouts. But I’m not going to be in any boat this afternoon, that’s for sure.
Damn. I want to leave and … well, let’s just say that maybe I would feel better if was alone again. Jacob’s just… well, he’s very nice and all, but he’s also –
Urgh … banjo-time again.
And no, the Spanish word doesn’t have anything to do with music.
That much I have already learned very quickly since my first stomach upset back in Mexico.
I hope the water-bucket is full this time so I can actually flush. Continue reading
The Copacabana cathedral spire is stands like a white cardboard cut-out against the blazing blue sky. I’m almost used to the thin mountain air now, although I still feel kind of light-headed.
I try to concentrate on the two dozen or so bulky Bolivian drivers waiting patiently to get their trucks sprinkled with holy water by the priest.
The Benedicion de Movilidades occurs daily and Jacob insisted that we went to see it, before crossing over to Isla del Sol. So here we are in front of the cathedral checking out all the cars, trucks and buses lined up to receive a cha’lla, a ritual blessing – some odd combo of the local Pachamama-worship and reluctant Catholicism. And so they spray booze on the cars (that’s the holy water if you sacrifice to Pachamama), but they do it in front of the Church of the Holy Virgin.
Anyway, when it’s all over the vehicles and their drivers should be protected against driving on some of the world’s most dangerous roads, all of which are here in Bolivia … I wonder if they are protected against their own thirst for strong liquor?
Jacob snaps one pic after another with his tiny but very pro-looking camera.
“Do you think the blessing will protect them?” he suddenly asks, still looking at the procession.
“Are you asking me again if I believe in God?” Continue reading
“I was wondering … do you believe in God?”
“Do you believe in God?”
“Jacob – we’re about to eat.”
“Well, if that’s a problem … ”
I ignore his last comment; my gaze concentrated at the menu. Jacob seems confused for a sec, then looks straight through me, into some kind of world in the empty restaurant behind me that only he can see.
He’s an okay guy, though. We got to sit next to each other on the bus from Puno in Peru to Copacabana here in Bolivia. By the time we were ready to stand in line like cows at the cramped border-station to get out tourist visas, we just sort of drifted together once more.
Preemptive insanity protection, you know; if I hadn’t had someone to talk to during that hour, I’d have gone positively loco, as they say here. Because Bolivians apparently seem to think that efficiency rhymes with multiplicity. So if you need three stamps in your passport, for example, it is obvious that you also need three persons for the job – one to give each stamp – and one long line to get each stamp.
“What’ll you have?” I ask him again. Continue reading