It’s 5 p.m. and I am more than ready for lunch. I get off at my Subte (subway) stop and decide to duck into the bakery that’s just down the street from my residencia (dorm). As I exit the store, Milanesa sandwich in one hand, books in the other, I spot a bench down the street. I shuffle in that direction, trying not to trip over dog leashes (all porteñas have little dogs), and manage to sit myself down without making a mess.
I start eating my sandwich and glance around the street. I notice the bench I’m sitting on actually says “Property of Clothing Store.” Shoot. Now I’m sitting here wondering whether or not I’m about to get kicked off the bench. At the exact same moment, a tall man walks out of the clothing store. His dark hair is wavy and gelled, and he’s wearing tight jeans with a groovy shirt tucked into them. Oh boy. He’s obviously the store manager. And he’s walking towards me, confidently, as if he could make me get up and move with just the intensity of his stare of disapproval. He stares down at me and says, “How can you be eating that dry sandwich without any drink?”
I’ll admit, the sandwich is very dry. Am I making it that obvious? Do I look like a dog eating peanut butter? I don’t even have time to be self-conscious because he’s already TELLING me that he’s bringing me something (my shocked silence was taken as acquiescence I suppose) and would I prefer sparkling water, soda, coffee or mate (the traditional argentine strong tea)? I tell him that a small cup of water is fine but he looks at me with a smile and disappears into the shop. He reemerges with hot coffee on a platter with a white doily. Before I can thank him, he zips back into the shop and returns with a tin full of cookies. I officially give up trying to politely decline and sip the coffee. Yum.
Meanwhile, he abandons the shop and comes to sit with me on the bench. I am a blonde-haired blue-eyed and not-perfect-at-speaking Spanish gringa, so he asks where I am from and what I am doing here. We get through the basics and then he starts telling me about life, not only about his life, but also about everybody else’s life on the block. He knows them all. He even knows the weird old lady who lives on the fourth floor and doesn’t come out to buy fruits and vegetables like a respectable Argentinean. In the course of 30 minutes, I can identify which house belongs to which person because he has pointed it out so many times. He has given me the ins and outs of my entire neighborhood.
He cleans up my coffee and cookies then disappears. He reappears with a bottle of white wine and two glasses. I drink tiny sips of the huge glass he pours me, and listen intently to the new stories he tells. I realize that the sun is going down, so I say that I should be getting back. He gives me these sad eyes and I know I should get going so I say thank you about a hundred more times and get up to leave. “Wait!” he exclaims, “I have to ask you a question!” I say of course. And he looks at me with this mischievously hopeful face and says, “Beautiful girl like you, you must have a boyfriend?”
Hadley Thayer is a rising sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. Humans, Being appears every other Sunday at thehoya.com.
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