She was a little early.. but she came. It was a woman who I had traded emails with months ago who lived on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. After the last email she sent me, I kind of forgot to respond for a month or so and while going through some old emails I contacted her last week to see if she was still around. She emailed me from her work this Friday asking if I wanted to get a drink and eat at an Indian restaurant not far from my house. I knew nothing about her personally, I assumed she was older and a professional working here, as most older Americans I talk to are. She had mentioned to me that she was from Oregon as well, which was a big coincidence and that her parents were hippys who dragged her and her siblings all over the country going to keggers and doing acid.
I had no plans for the evening, so we traded emails till she got off work with a 500 peso bonus burning a hole in her pocket. We met at an intersection and went from there. She ran across the intersection dressed like a hip young professional, sunglasses, chemically straightened hair and a fake tan. It didn’t phase me too much except that I was sure we’d have little to talk about. I guessed her age was about 35 at first before the sunglasses came off. She made a comment about being much older and hoping it wasn’t weird; after which revealing that her age was 45. I was actually shocked but as the night went on there were many other factors that made her age more relevant.
It had started to rain so we started out at the first bar we saw half a block away. It was the wrong bar, but we went anyway. We walked in as the only women there and possibly the only women who had ever walked in. It was full of short dark men watching an Argentine tennis match. The jukebox was blasting what sounded to me more like Mexican ranchero music, but I hadn’t heard much Argentine music and had no basis of comparison. We ordered a 40 of Quilmes, a cheap light beer from Argentina, and took a table in the back. We couldn’t hear each other at all but it was clear from the start that she was the talker and didn’t mind yelling over the sound. Luckily some better music followed, making the background noises more familiar and pleasant to hear when her voice wasn’t audible over the outdated jukebox. I never asked her to repeat when I missed a phrase; partly because I’ve become accustom to nodding my head due to lack of understanding and also due to not wanting her to scream in my ear anymore than necessary.
The men were staring at us creepily, I couldn’t help but give them dirty looks when I should have been listening. They joked among themselves and snickered while glancing over their shoulders; making themselves an instant enemy to a paranoid atit-sexist American. I listened to her talk as well as I could between glaring at men and fighting the music, but I generally gathered that she had lived here for a year, had a 25 year old boyfriend who lived with his parents, had been way into the grunge scene (as a Nirvana song struck a nerve), and had a 2 year degree in hospitality. We finally agreed it was too loud and left after paying for the beer.
It was still drizzling but we walked in the general direction of the restaurant anyway, with plans of hitting another bar. A strange place with giant rentable statues of animals and characters caught our eye; I was particularly drawn to the sheep and her to Betty Boop but we walked on anyway; slightly disappointed that neither of had a reason to ever rent one. We found a bar that seemed uncomfortably small but upon entering revealed a little stairway that lead into a South American version of a NASCAR shrine. It was covered in Ferrari memorabilia, both for sale and collectibles in glass cases from famous Ferrari drivers I have never heard of. We sat and ordered some food with our beer this time, to ensure that we wouldn’t get sick later. Strange eating hours prevented us from ordering anything we wanted and I ended up with a cheese sandwich and peanuts. She was getting drunk fast and I was buzzed but managing.
I still hadn’t said more than 10 words yet as she went on about her life in Spain as a waitress on a yacht. She had gone to Spain alone when she was 25 for no good reason and one night got plastered by herself in some bars near her hostel; Somehow waking up the next day on some docks. She awoke to 2 “majestic looking blonde Spaniards” who asked her if she needed a job, She then turned her 2 week vacation into a 4 year stay on a ship serving rich men caviar in short skirts and high heels. I could see it happening. She was lucky with her looks at her age and probably had always been pretty. I didn’t realize till later what a big part of her life and personality she had attributed her looks to, even though I should have noticed. She hod gotten a job in Buenos Aires at a software company oddly enough and said that hospitality at her age was nearly impossible (plus the fact that being an illegal citizen here your best chance at a job seems to be with a software company or call center). She gets paid $1500 pesos (good money) to answer phone calls as an American so the customers calling the Vonage phones with California numbers, don’t ever find out the company is located in Argentina.
While we (she ) were talking, outside was the loudest thunder I had ever heard followed by fantastic lightening; and just like the creepy men, she didn’t see or hear an ounce of it over her own voice; with “like totally” and “for sure” type phrases riddled in between everything she said. She seemed confident although self involved but was slightly entertaining just for the fact that she was such a character. We ate our sandwiches, drank our beer and I had an episode in the bathroom with rain shrapnel in my contact lens. It stopped raining just as we decided to leave and we continued to walk towards the Indian food.. which was 80% of the reason I came. However, we saw an Irish bar called the Dubliner that was almost too strange to resist. It was eerily Irish inside; save for the hundreds of four leaf clovers hanging everywhere and painted on the windows. For some reason I don’t think Irish bars would really do that year round, if at all. It’s hard to know whats an American version of another countries behavior and what’s accurate when you haven’t been there. This time she ordered a bottle of wine but to my distress it was white. I haven’t had a good white wine since I was too young to care what the hell I was drinking. Now I’m picker and have developed taste buds. I of course drank it anyways since she was paying and it never crossed my mind to order something else. After 2 glasses of wine, It started getting weird. She actually let me speak a little and asked me questions about why I’m here and what I’m doing here; what do I think about the place; what have I done since I was here and the like. I told her I was studying online; here to take a break and focus on some things; I mentioned that I brought my dog; that I have a studio in Palermo and that I can’t stand not having hot sauce. She scared the bartender with a laughing scream as I told her last year when I came here I had taken a bottle of hot sauce to every restaurant with me. I couldn’t tell at first if she was making fun of me or what but form this point on everything I said she responded with “oh my god that sounds just like something I would do” or “you sound exactly like me! its so weird that we have so much in common”. I thought it was amusing too till later in the night. She was noticeable drunker and started getting really excited about everything I said. Repeating over and over that I was brave and oh that’s amazing how strong I am and so on; It was all drunken pre-planned ramblings that people say when they really just want to get back about themselves or don’t have enough friends (my mean theory). So I stopped talking and she happily started again. She seemed in love with her own life, proud of her adventures and things she had done while not regretting things she hadn’t. I was happy in a way that I had met her, even if only to see that a woman can be 45, still traveling, not married, not running from something and happy with never having had children or settling down. ; but then she got into her family life and It was obvious that as firmly as she believed her mother was evil and unapproachable; she secretly regretted not having a relationship with her. It made me really sad to think of a 45 year old women who doesn’t talk to their living parents. The drunkenness started to taint her enthusiasm and the rest of the night was dead set on revealing her other side….
to be continued.