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Sunday, April 19, 2009

lifeline

For eight weeks money had come out of a wall on Santa Fe, generously and without question, a thousand pesos at a time. But now, out of nowhere, the mouth spoketh nay.

I practically ran the twenty-two blocks south east, across slums and train tracks, to find my friend - my British friend (remember her, the bowels, the diarrhea). Just fifteen hours before my flight back I was stone broke; I couldn’t even pay for a cab. I love Buenos Aires, I love media lunas, I love the sun, the beautiful portenas, the warm nights, the bus rides through the labyrinth-grid, but to be stuck here without a cent…

I found her on Plaza Dorrego dancing folklore with the assembled gypsies and riffraff. She was drunk or exuberant, or both, on the brink of something in any case, her arms up in a fire of pride in a way thoroughly un-British. When she saw me she shouted my name and pushed aside a crew of skinny Che Guevaras. I told her about the mouth, my empty pockets and my flight back. She didn’t hesitate.Take, she said, please, take, and she pushed a wad of money into my hands. Then she dragged me onto the cobbles, into the melee of arms and legs…

What do I do?
Just dance, Lui
I don’t know this stuff
Just follow me, just dance.

So I did. I tried. I tripped. I jostled for space. I cursed my feet and apologized right and left, but no one cared. Twenty-two Argentines turned circles around me, and I danced - in my own way - with elbows and knees, my arms splayed, my head turned this way and that way, while my heels thudded a Balkan beat. This was zamba, but who cares: the stars shimmered down, there was money in my pocket and my feet did as they pleased! I was happy. I was so happy I nearly forgot everything again. I would have stayed longer with this rowdy gang, but now, in my last hours, I had one more thing to do.

As I walked back across rail and slum I spoke to myself for the first time in a while: Listen to me, Lui, listen carefully. I’m only going to say this once, and then I proceeded to repeat it a dozen times, as if to convince this man crossing rail and slum that he was finally going in the right direction – and not just tonight – that earth and stars were aligned in his favor, that life would extend to him its fruits from now on. But this man was hard to convince, and the monologue continued the twenty blocks into Villa Crespo.

When I arrived the stage was set.

The stars still shimmered and all was quiet. I threw a pebble. Then another, and a third, until a dog barked and a light went on, and the shadow of Adriana appeared in the grooves of the closed shutters.

Adriana,
Shshshshs
Adriana, is that you?
Shshshshs, be quiet.
It’s me. It's Lui. Open the shutters.
I can’t.
Why not?
They’re stuck. They don’t work.
Come down then.
I can’t.

Why not? … Adriana?

She never did come down, but I saw her shadow roam and a small light in her room go on and off in a Morse code that said everything.

Finally, I walked away, fifteen blocks down Colonel Diaz. Home.

***

Now it’s 6 AM; another time; another place. Now I’m a ghostly figure at Madrid airport. I'm a guy sprawled across two seats. I'm a guy who hasn't slept in fourty-eight hours - maybe more. I look up at the beams holding the wavy roof of the terminal, the way they break down into a spectrum of color over hundreds of meters. I’m in the reds - the oranges. The blues are far down in the distance. The whole hall is virtually empty and everywhere there are stars of light, real and artificial, fizzing and blinking... and there's a hum, a light hum, like inside a spaceship, a vast machine, alive and uncontralable, ready to go...