Friday, April 25, 2008


During the stay at the San Juan Hostel, everyone always is talking with others, and I am no exception.

People share food, play music, ask endless questions about traveling, countries, the news, rotten political leaders, the inflation back home, etc. At one table Bruna, a tall, dark, attractive girl, 26, from Brazil talks about being a teacher for Porteugese here in town. I couldn't get attention to focus on me for too long. Her very wide smile and full lips and half-lidded almond eyes mesmerized most of the men at the table.

She came off as a wary, smart traveler who can handle any South American language situation, and even make a few bucks at her newest destination. This is how I wish things could be for me. Four other guys and me sat at the table watching her talk and wished that maybe we could walk Bruna to her room for something alot more private.

About thirty days later, I have already spent one night in Lezama park, and now Buenos Aires was experiencing a cold spell that cut through the meager summer clothes I had used since then. Wandering the streets of San Telmo was just wearing down my shoes, but the idea was to sleep only during the awful early morning hours of maximum coldness.

Earlier at Dorrego Square I had tried meeting a very attractive, drunk woman who was interacting with her child, but having limited language didn't help me get any closer to her.

Now the idea after roaming the streets was to have one last look at her, so back at the square I spotted her amid some dancers and singers raucously ending the evening. Seeing her dancing kept me entertained until a young, attractive woman broke from the crowd to look me in the eyes, Bruna was tipsy, and she put her arm around me like old friends.

"I am with these people. They are helping me. Well, I don't have any place to stay because I don't have any money" she smiled broadly and helplessly.

"Well Bruna, me neither. That is my situation exactly" I explained honestly.

"Ah ha. You see I was meant to find you then" She answered. "Just stay with me, I can get you a place for tonight"

I wondered how she as going to pull that off--getting me a place without any money herself, but I was out of options at that point, so hanging around a bunch of semi-drunken strangers walking around San Telmo streets in 5am darkness; this was my best option available.

Me, Bruna and six others cut through a shadowy Lezama Park heading toward the mysterious rooms that don't charge, we stopped at a bar with its door open to anybody and pouring fresh beer for friends of friends with no cash being exchanged. The band set up had departed hours ago. Now a bunch of loose guys played pool or talked.

I asked her, "Are we getting close to the room?"

"This is good, yes?" Bruna said very close to my face, "we drink a little bit, then find out about..."

"Getting some sleep sometime today/tonight?"

"Yes, whether we can find someplace to hide you so nobody finds out...and yes sleep." she smiled confidently.

After a few more rounds of beer, Bruna walked close to me just a few doors down to the Hostel. We crept like mice among the deserted place, people obviously inside the rooms deep in slumber. She got the key to a different room through a window and some kind soul on the other side. Now with a key, we crept into a 3- bed room, Bruna taking the bottom bunk bed, and me sliding eagerly into the top. The bed apart on the floor beneath had some couple obviously making love under their covers. Occasionally the room contained sounds of quick, strangled breaths, and a quietly escaping moan from the girl. What the hell I thought, if two people entering doesn't bother them, why should it bother me?

The sleep wasn't perfect even though I used my nice denim jacket for warmth and a man's suit coat I found abandoned on Estados Unidos street in San Telmo; using that for my feet...but still better than being out in the cold.

Heading for the kitchen for breakfast, I met a young guy, a computer programmer in Venezuela, who detailed some tortures at the hands of the Chavez government--just the usual Rodney King type beating followed by threats against his family if he stayed there opposing the government--and Bruna occasionally visited saying, "I have depressing news. The manager of the hostel wants me to sleep with him, but I won't of course. I will sleep only in separate bed, and I mentioned you, and he doesn't know what to do about you."

"Don't worry about me, I'll just stay in the kitchen" I assured her. A quick look out the window of the Buenos Aires skyline showed gathering dark clouds adding to the unusual cold air. I sure didn't want to be ejected out in that weather.

"Because, I need just one more night. Then I will go with my friend to La Plata. She has a house." Bruna explained.

"What about Brazil? Aren't you from there? It is alot warmer than here" I offered.

She didn't speak right away, then looking away said, "I probably never will." At this point I wanted to go away with Bruna too, but found out that it is only another
opportunity to surf a couch at someone's place. Things could turn out worse than they already are, so I stopped asking her about it. "We leave very early too, at 5am"
and that was all I needed to hear. I am not getting up that early for anything.

So as I stayed sitting and listening to un translated conversation in the kitchen, friends of Bruna shared good colombian coffee, medialunas, noodles and vegetables. Occasionally Bruna would leave to speak to the manager about the situation. Finally after the longest time, I just played with my pen and listened to pop music on a half broken radio, she re-entered the kitchen. A handsome, smiling young man trailed in behind her. I assumed who he was with us not saying anything.

"Okay, here is how it is. I am staying with Damian tonight and you can stay in a room if you like, but it isn't cleaned yet. Is that okay?" Bruna said quickly. I just answered something in response all to the agreement side without even thinking. Damian said nothing as Bruna led me to the nicest room I've seen in the entire country since my arrival having its own bathroom, closet, desk with light attachment and full sized bed with blankets. I sat on the bed in disbelief. It had been 12 hours since we were walking drunk in the park with no place to sleep in mind.

I pulled Bruna's face and gave her a lingering kiss on the cheek. "What can I say, you're like a goddess." I tried saying as a compliment.

"You have to leave when I do. There is no key so you can't get out. I will come back for you at 5am." she said without emotion.

"Then you're still going to La Plata? That means I may never see you again" It just occured to me that I would be unable to return the favor or even talk with her again.

"Oh, of course, oh may be right. But anyway I will knock on your door, then you will go with me, yes?" then she quietly turned and closed the door behind her.

Me, the man with no pesos to spend on things like beer and blankets, food, clothes, or transport looked around one last time and waited to slip into unconciousness.

The next morning, being the coldest morning ever felt this early in the year, Bruna and her female friend and I tied up the last detail of our clothes. Briefly I planned to hide a blanket, a wall decoration, in my pants for the added warmth, but abandoned that idea.

Quietly, all three of us delicately walked out of the hostel--just as when we entered, leaving like theives with their work done--and then half ran down down Avenue Manuel Garcia toward the bus. Off in the distance was their ride to La Plata. Feeling nervous and cold there was no long emotional goodbye, Bruna kept her arms hugged inside her coat and half ran to the stop. "Goodbye" she leaned over and gave me a quick Argentine kiss on the right cheek. "Use that gas station there. You can wait there as long as you want." she instructed, "it will be warmer later, I promise" she smiled. With nothing else to say, I headed off sideways to a gas station to wait out the sunrise, when there should be more warmth. But everything is new to me in this city, and who knows what to expect...except that in South America people share what little they have and some have good advice.

I beat myself up for making the decision to strand myself here hoping that my story would turn into a mild episode of Gilligan's Island, (from which they were never rescued) but not figuring that "things may be difficult" would not translate into really being difficult। So I lost on that bet. Having nothing to lose at this point, I sat in the gas station and prayed. I prayed to the great, vast body of knowledge and wisdom that put us all here.

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