Wednesday, October 29, 2008

THE BOY WITH THE THORN IN HIS SIDE

Last night Ariel sent me a string of text messages. And speaking of word games, he didn't play any, perhaps because he doesn't seem to have yet mastered his own language. He said it had been such a long time since we'd last spoken, and he wanted to know how I was doing. He invited me to get together soon, perhaps for dinner (my place, of course), if I was interested. A succession of strangely spelled and poorly punctuated sweet nothings followed: "kiero verte pronto MORENO HERMOSO," "tengo muchas ganas de verte, ganas de abrazarte fuerte y darte un beso super poderozo si me dejas?," etc. Translation: You rock, man. Hurry up this way again.

I smiled as I read each SMS (that's text message in these parts) and thought to myself, Who the hell is Ariel?

Eventually, I figured it out. I was introduced to Ariel months ago when I walked his girlfriend (whose name completely escapes me) from the club where I met her to the subway. He and I ended up hanging out afterward, and we had a decent time. But as I never heard from him again, I pretty much extricated him from my memory within a week.

Better late than never, that's true, but I wondered why he waited all this time to contact me, so I did something pretty revolutionary: I asked. He said that he had been carrying around his memories of me since the night we met, and he'd thought of me often and wanted to reconnect. If I'd made such an amazing impression on him, I asked, why did he never call me?

His response nearly caused me to fall off the couch: He was afraid of falling in love with me. He didn't think I'd want to see him again, and he just couldn't deal with feeling bad as a result. As ridiculous as that explanation sounds in English, it's much more effective in Spanish and, believe it or not, believable. Strange, I know. So is the fact that even in English something offensive can sound the exact opposite if said with the right accent. I remember visiting Florence, Italy, in 2000 and having this guy Alessandro say to me, "We make love," in the most adorable Italian accent. Although I would have laughed in any American guy's face for daring to utter such a crude come-on, I actually considered taking Alessandro up on his offer.

But back to Ariel. I began to wonder how many other guys I'd scared off for the very same reason. I know how proud Argentine men are (orgulloso, egoísta, histerico--it's like living in a country full of Leo's) and how terrified they are of rejection, but this is truly loco. As apalled as I was by Ariel's explanation, in a strange way, it made me feel a little better about my strange rapport with porteño guys--it really isn't me; it's them. Still, what a turn-off! For me, a little bit of courage goes a long way, and a complete lack of it, well, it won't get you to second base.

Will Ariel score another chance at bat? Probably not. I'm currently in week four of detoxing from Argentine boys--from guys, in general. Aside from the one hour I spent in that Montevideo disco this past weekend (my excuse: I was engaging in an anthropological study, the result of which I still haven't quite put together), I've neither gone out nor have I had any kind of romantic interaction since Sunday, October 5. Celibacy rules, and that's too bad for Ariel. If I'm going to break my stride, it's going to be for someone whom I at least know will have the courage to contact me the next day (or at least within a fortnight), not months after he's been withdrawn from my memory bank and deposited into the trash bin of old flames that have permanently lost their spark.
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