Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A mitad de camino

"You hear that sound? You're gonna remember that for the rest of your life. It's the song of the knife-sharpener."

So I've been here for about 2 1/2 months, which means that in exactly 2 1/2 months, I'll be leaving Buenos Aires, and, hundreds of pesos, endless new friends, way too many empanadas, and a handful of weekends of all-night hedonism later, I'm still not sure that I've come to know Buenos Aires as well as I thought I would. Borges once wrote, "And the city now, is like a map of my humiliations and failures." My feels an affinity for these words in the sound of my boots on the pavement at night, the piles of empty sugar packets next to yet another cup of coffee at el Potosi, my face reflecting in the window of the 141 during my morning bus ride to the villas. Most of my time here is spent alone: eating breakfast, walking, or sitting in my favorite cafe doing homework and listening to tapes. Sometimes I prefer to be alone in a city, weaving seamlessly in and out of the endless flow of humanity, when I can really feel that sense that Buenos Aires is as "eternal as water and air." Other times, when I'm staring out my window at night looking out at the city, I feel so overwhelmed by it's vastness, this living, breathing energy that I'm not a part of. What are these millions of people doing right now, at this moment, while I'm sipping a cafe con leche in a tiny cafe on a quiet street corner in the north part of the city? All the people I've met, or have yet to meet, or will never meet, are going about their lives, part of the endless flow of actions and words and change. It's hard to say what "experiencing" Buenos Aires really is--clubbing 'til dawn or visiting monuments? Dining at parillas or seeing a tango show or buying leather knick-knacks? Maybe so, and maybe I've missed these things in search of something else, that human contact that I'm starting to miss. I think the closest thing to the inside was my friendship with a half-French half-PorteƱo vago who promised he'd show me the "real Buenos Aires." But after two months of dancing and eating and drinking and sleeping in parks and wandering aimlessly and talking to people, I wonder can I really say that I know another side to the city? Could I ever? And I'm left with strange, somewhat saddening memories of awkward silences, falling leaves, streets, sunshine and rooftops and early mornings and sitting in doorways and the song of the knife sharpener. No fairy tale there, just reality. And there you go, maybe that's it: just the reality of living here, of having nothing to do, of wasting time and smoking too many cigarettes, and saying and doing all the wrong things, and losing things in translation, that constitutes the real Buenos Aires. "Welcome to South America honey," he always says to me, when I ask yet another question about why things are the way they are here. And I think now I can accept that as an answer, because maybe that's his way of saying that he can't explain it either.

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