They met in a church. The chapel was freshly painted turquoise for a bride wearing melon and pink. The Uruguayan priest cracked a few jokes and ended the service in fifteen minutes. The church spilled out 120 guests from France and Buenos Aires. The Argentines wore more colors and higher heels. His eyes were blue and her scarf was red.
They said goodbye in a bus station. She knew what his trip home would be like because he had told her when they met in the church. He loves arriving in Buenos Aires by ferry at sunset. The boat slides in and the city emerges like a Carlos Gardel tango, powerful and melancholy.
I went for a walk last night, after it got dark but before the heat lifted. There were closed storefronts with sounds behind them and a stream of bicycles on Cordoba. There were birdcages on a roof. There were shadows of trees and the smell of jasmine. There was a dog who looked like a lion, walking without a leash, and the flashing light of a TV behind a window, and a couple kissing in a dark corner with balletic grace. Over the railroad tracks, there was a block where people spilled onto the sidewalk in a bath of fluorescent light.
This pulled me in like a moth to a lantern and pushed out delusions of poetry. It was a grill house in an old garage. I asked for a table and the man at the grill was kind but brusque because he had a whole lotta mouths to feed. At the tables on the sidewalk, groups of old men poured themselves more Quilmes and yelled about their wives. A mom cut pieces of steak for a two-year-old wearing a NASCAR shirt; a family argued over who got the last chorizo. A few guys in soccer clothes waited for takeout.
From my plastic table in the back room, I ordered a skirt steak and fries and a small bottle of wine and I didn’t end up bothering with the book I had brought because the TV was playing a telenovela about a bunch of singing nuns with nicely-plucked eyebrows. The boy with the NASCAR shirt toddled into the room every few minutes, shrieked with joy at the screen, and went back to his mom.
Just as my steak arrived on its metal platter, a group of about twenty guys filed in to the table a foot away from mine. Buen provecho, bon appetit, they said, one by one, smiling.
I spent twenty minutes keeping my focus intently on the steak and the telenovela and trying to avoid eye contact. Apparently you can only do that for so long when you’re eating by yourself a foot away from a big group.
“Where are you from?” the guy with the dreadlocks asked, when I accidentally looked up from my food.
We had a pleasant conversation under that fluorescent lighting. It was his 29th birthday. The guy across from him spent a week in New York last year. They were all friends from high school. We cheersed to his 30th year. When my waiter brought my check, I paid for an extra bottle of Quilmes and asked him to bring it to their table after I left. Que lo pases hermoso, I said on my way out, suerte.
I walked home thinking about how there’s something really nice about stories you don’t make up.