I set off three hours ago, a cheap Nokia phone (in need of Argentine SIM card) and the address of the ferry company office in my notebook. I had big and exciting plans, claro: to get an Argentine SIM card and a ticket for the ferry to Uruguay, which I thought, if paid in pesos at the crazy “blue dollar” exchange rate, would be $40 cheaper than if I paid online with my credit card at the official exchange rate. I have a list of “things to do” like I don’t know, learn more about the ranch management techniques I’m in theory reporting on starting on Tuesday, but $40 seemed worth the effort of wandering around Buenos Aires.
The Movistar cell phone store was closed. Saturday afternoon, I remembered. People stop here, hang out, sleep. I headed to the ferry office, which I knew closed at two. I walked through Belgrano, which every guidebook has described as leafy and residential and which is, in fact, leafy and residential. Each block, more shopkeepers rolled down their metal grilles. A mom and her little daughter carried plastic grocery bags to their door, unlocked it, went in, closed it. I could hear them walking up stone stairs. The shutters in their living room would be closed, I imagined, to keep the space cool. Maybe the TV would be on. They would eat a simple lunch of milanesas, dry pieces of bread, an insalatita of lettuce and tomato. Then there’d be a siesta.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the BuqueBus store was closed too, an hour and 15 minutes early. It seemed appropriate to buy a weird tank top with eyes on it at the store next door, to make up for this fact. I redirected to the BuqueBus terminal.
In the Subte from Olleros to Juramento, the part of me that’s been warned about everything that could go wrong for a gringa with an iPhone hesitated for a sec to sit in the only empty seat left. The guy across from it looked a little sketchy. His eyes were blank, and he wasn’t clean, and he had a little cart with what looked like garbage lashed to it, some plastic toys that maybe he was selling. I sat after this second, because come on, Charlotte.
The Subte hurtled along and I realized the wash of calm I felt was because a guy stood five feet away from me playing something beautiful on violin. I wish I knew more about classical music. It felt like swimming.
The guy across from me, the one I had been wary of, was watching the violinist with rapt attention. He nodded his head to the beat, as if it were cumbia and not Mozart or whatever it might have been. The woman with her arm around him was wearing acid washed jeans and red lipstick, and the bottom two feet of her long hair, pushed on one shoulder, was bright blonde. She tapped along. The violin guy smiled at them and when the subway came to the next stop, my stop, he started playing bluegrass.
On, on. At the Subte exit there was a bookstore. Because of the money I was sure I would be saving on my ferry ticket, I felt entitled to buy myself a book. There’s a Uruguayan author named Eduardo Galeano and this book of his looked like he had written 200 daily themes and given them illustrations. This felt relevant. I bought it, wandered to the bus, got on the bus, felt pleased with myself and the city I was seeing.
At the BuqueBus terminal, the woman told me foreigners couldn’t pay in pesos, and actually the ticket was 647 pesos, not 524, with tax. Sore feet, thirst, an extra $30 down on the ticket…I regretted the shirt, the book, the 3 hour wander. I hailed a cab with a combination of guilt and need for self-indulgence.
The driver was Peruvian and after we had established my nationality he told me that even though I had a boyfriend (hehe, stories we tell) let’s not be moralistic here, you Americans, so moralistic, if you’re traveling alone in South america you can totally cheat (hacer el cornudo, if you’re wondering). I hope you find a nice Argentine guy, he said.
He told me he was studying history and he asked me if I was religious. Si, de una manera, I believe in something, I said. You studied history, do you know the story of God? he asked. I myself have been studying it, I’m an autodidact. I just have so many questions about the Bible and I’m not sure I can believe it.
I had already paid, but he idled the car and kept talking. Hay montones de dioses, he said. There are tons of Gods. Somos todos dioses. We're all Gods in some way. Suerte, good luck.
I got out of the cab and the afternoon felt a little more productive, then.