We have been out for many hours, probably more than five, celebrating one of my friends’ last nights in Buenos Aires. The first party was OK, but each new boliche (Argentine for “clubs that don’t close until 8 a.m.”) seemed to be getting louder and more obnoxious than the one before. We havefinally had enough and decide to wander the streets until we recognized a landmark that could guide us home. Luckily, it wasn’t too cold out, so our mini-skirt- and tank-top-clad bodies weren’t suffering, though our feet definitely were. We began to walk, very slowly, singing and talking, making little to no progress. Then, I sat down in the middle of the sidewalk.
Next thing I remember is two hands grabbing me under the arms and effortlessly pulling me back up to my feet. Talk about a head rush. I turn around to see who picked me up, and a tall lanky guy is smiling back at me. He has a goofy, giddy smile plastered on his face, and his eyes are twinkling. Whoa.
Then I notice the rest of his face. His ear lobes are stretched so far they touch his shoulders, and he has intricate ebony and wooden gauges in. Above these massive stone ornaments, an assortment of other earrings climb up the sides of his ears. His hair is shaved off on both sides of his head so that just a middle section is left of long, black, shiny mane. His eyes are blue-green and small. Around his neck are overlaid necklaces: many of them are different sizes and colors of meditation beads, but there are also worn leather strings with large pendants hanging form them. They look heavy.
The first thing he does when he sees I’m steady on my feet is take his hands off my arms, dust them on his trapeze pants, and place them together in prayer. He then makes an “omm” sound, hands still pressed firmly against each other, and does a little bow. I’m not sure how to react.
I don’t have time to decide, however, because he immediately starts talking to me very rapidly in Portuguese (or what I believe is Portuguese even though I barely speak it). My friends are just standing around with their jaws hanging open, so I decide to take the initiative: “Perdon, no hablo portugues. Podemos hablar en espanol?”
As soon as he hears me speak Spanish, he immediately switches to my preferred language and, I assume, repeats what he first sputtered in Portuguese: “What a beautiful night! Why are you sitting on the ground? Would you like me to accompany you on the ground? My name is Buddha.” And then he gives me this wistful, otherworldly smile looks deep into my soul with eyes that yearn for an honest answer.
This sound like BS. I know you are thinking that. That’s exactly what I thought. Just a guy trying to talk to an American girl sitting on the sidewalk, coming home from a night of clubbing. Men who don’t have success with women can get pretty creative with their introductions. Or, he could be mentally unstable and not even know I’m a human instead of a teapot.
I’m wary, but I notice that his pupils are not dilated and he’s walking very normally (no drunken stagger), so we all begin to walk and talk as a group. He is strange and eloquent in speech, so my friends lose interest, and I fall in beside him, with them walking up ahead. Our conversation ranges from nature to death to where we believe is our home to what music makes us feel alive. We both play guitar, so we share a lot on this topic. I ask about his name and religion. He left his family many years ago, and changed his last name. His new name is Marcos Buddha, Buddha for short. Yes, he is Buddhist. And he believes that Buddha lives in everything — therefore he is, I am, we all are, Buddha.
We have walked many blocks now. We are most likely lost. He sees that I am getting tired, so he picks me up and puts me on his shoulders. Yeah. It was unexpected. Honestly though, it feels great, and being this high up gives me a little breeze. The only thing I’m wondering is how he’s able to support my body weight because he’s thin as a toothpick. Oh, well.
We keep talking as the sky gets lighter. I point out things as we walk by them, and my friends are dying of laughter because they think this guy is a total nutjob. We eventually make it back to our house. I have no idea how, but no one seems to care that we’ve been walking for hours. He bends down, and I slide off his shoulders. We exchange hugs, and as the others go back into the house, I pause to say goodbye to Buddha. He whispers a prayer and tells me he’s going to the river with some friends (I have no idea what “the river” is because there is no river in Buenos Aires.) He walks off without looking back and waves his hand behind his head. I walk into the house, and the night ends as the sun rises.
I secretly hope that my number, scribbled onto his arm, doesn’t wash off before he can use it.
Hadley Thayer is a rising sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. Humans, Being appears every other Sunday at thehoya.com.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.