Then, suddenly, nothing. As quickly as Martin entered my life, he exited it. An overzealous housekeeper threw away the paper on which I'd written his phone number, and he didn't respond to any of my emails. Over the years, I thought of him often, occasionally checking to see if he was on Facebook. He was one Argentine who didn't come back, and I figured we'd never meet again. That is why I was so startled last Friday afternoon when I was walking down Avenida Santa Fe en route to order blackout blinds and walked right into him (which was kind of ironic, because Martin makes and installs curtains and blinds for a living).
As we hugged and engaged in brief small talk, I was uncomfortable because I had been taken completely by surprise and because passersby were staring at me even more than usual. (It must have been the sweat running down my face on this unbearably hot day.) Martin gave me a cell phone number and a land line where I could reach him, and we said our goodbyes. Later when I checked the numbers, I realized that the cellular number was missing a digit. Since I'd rather dine on glass a la suiza than call some guy on the phone, I figured that was that and moved on.
Then a few days later, I received an email from one of Martin's colleagues on his behalf. I wondered why he'd gotten his co-worker to write me, and why he had kept my email address all this time without using it. I was confused, but decided to send a text message to the first of the three phone numbers provided in the email. Seconds later, Martin responded: "Jeremy mi amor." Thus began two days of voice messages and texts, each saying one of two things, sometimes both: "Merry me" and "Te quiero."
When he finally managed to get me on the phone, the flashback hit me. I'd heard/read it all before. Martin's ardor had always been over-the-top (within five minutes of meeting me in 2005, he declared his undying love for me), and five years hadn't cured him of that particular malady. Five years ago, I found that extreme Argentine romanticism charming, refreshing, endearing, but now, especially coming from a guy in his mid-thirties who really ought to know better, it just sounds silly. He needs to get some new material.
More strangeness followed the night after I ran into Martin (literally), at the rooftop party of a friend. One moment, I was sitting there being grilled by an attractive, blonde Argentine girl (you know, the usual: "De donde sos?" "Te gusta Argentina?" Yawn), when a guy I presumed was her boyfriend (after all, they'd been getting it on in the bathroom earlier) came towards us, nostrils flaring, and lunged at me.
My reflexes were surprisingly dependable, and I moved out of the way before he could make any significant body contact. In the process, my watch flew off my wrist and landed on the floor. I don't know what surprised me more: that a guy would actually attack me for hitting on his girlfriend (I've never even been taken to task for coming onto someone's boyfriend, though I probably should have been), or that my watch was pretty much undamaged save for a clasp that was missing from one side of the wristband, or that almost as suddenly as he'd come after me, the guy was now apologizing profusely for his brutish behavior.
Now I won't bore you with the details of how in Argentina you have about as much of a chance of fixing or replacing a metal watch band as you do of booking a flight to the moon. Fernando offered to either track down someone who can fix the watch or give me money to buy an identical one. (Alas, it's a Storm Qasar XL, see above, available only in the UK). We may not have met under the best of circumstances, but I was taken by his diplomacy and conscientiousness.
And perhaps the grandest irony of the entire week before Christmas is that had I made the first move to chat up anyone at that roof party, it probably would have been him. Next time I'll go with my instincts. The watch I save may be my own.