I am rushing diarrhea pills across town to a friend in need. A British friend with British bowels (custard and marmalade). I am underground of course – I am so often underground these days I am starting to feel strangely unmammalian – but the air is no worse here than above, so…
Yesterday he sold mirrors, the kind with two sides: one for your face; one for blackheads that hide, and hairs you cannot see. Today it’s permanent markers. He drops them on your lap, walks away and returns moments later with a pitch in espagnol. “Everything you write with this marker is permanent,” he says of his permanent markers.
…but none of this is the point: The point is he’s got my hair, my teeth, my nose, my FACE. He even swings his arms like me. And in his voice there is that scratchiness – you know what I’m taking about – that scratchiness that is mine. Mine!
A bastard-brother in the southern hemisphere? A genetic experiment? A figment of my imagination??
…there he comes. Shorts, flip-flops, a nervous tick in his lip and a tongue that rolls a rickety R. I give him five, he gives me change. And with my own graceless gait he shuffles out at Bolivar.
Wait! Attend! Wacht! I say. But language fails me (not enough poly in that polyglot, Labas).
I skip Serbo-Croatian and go for broke – a gringo in a wagon full of porteños – I shout my name, LUI! – I shout it loud – LUI LABAS! And again, until he turns on his heels, the markers drop to the ground and he stands before me, my mirror image on the platform.
I have pressed my hand against this city, grimed my lungs with its air, missed its buses, digested its food, listened to its people, its traffic, its dogs… and now,
I write this in big letter – ARRIVED – permanent letters that go right through the page. Twice, therefore, I write it. Twice…
Once for him; once for me.