Exhanges in the Cemetery
My social life is not exactly booming. I know I have only been here ten days, but to be entirely honest, I sometimes worry that my Spanish speaking self is not as likable as the English counterpart. That’s assuming you even like me. But any time I utter a new phrase I’ve culled from Español, it feels so contrived. I have learned Spanish since the 5th grade, studied in Madrid, dealt with kitchen-boys, but there is a deeper vocabulary that my tongue cannot access. Without carefully crafted sentences, can a person truly understand you? Or maybe - potentially betraying the creed of the writer I long to be - words will always be misinterpreted, since they connote different things to different people. Fodder for more confusion.
Anyway, when I heard through the Wisconsin grapevine that Marc, a college friend, was also moving to Buenos Aires, I quickly sought to pump life back into our friendship. Suddenly, and with a bit of harassing, Marc and I were meeting in El Centro Cultural de Recoleta. It’s a very pretty, Disneyland-like boardwalk, with fountains and benches and the proverbial McCafe. Marc brought his roommate, Matt. Then the three of us walked around a bend into BA’s most eminent cemetery.
The commotion of the city streets vanished just beyond the cemetery walls. We declined to buy maps at the entryway and now just wandered down narrow alleys in this village of mausoleums. Thoughts about death took over me, and it was hard to socialize with Marc and Matt. I slowed myself and ran my fingers across the cold marble of these graves. I noted withered flowers in doorways and peered in through the dim glass windows. I could read the engravings on the tombs, analyze the epithets, but I would never know what these people did, how they felt, what they saw - when they were living. (I might have opted for a guided tour, but again, the inadequacies of words.) Suddenly, it dawned on me that it was my turn, my own brief chance to live, and I don’t know what I will do, how I will feel, what I shall see - even later today. I will go back there soon with nothing but my journal.
When I reconvened with Marc again, he mentioned that he had begun to look for jobs on Craigslist. I had tried this fruitlessly last week, in awe of how few postings there were at any given time. He and Matt talked about a posting for an English writer at an ex-patriot magazine. It never hurts to apply.