Monday, June 28, 2010

AND THE WORLD CUP CONTINUES

Somebody, please, wake me when it's over. Read why I'm so over el Mundial here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

THE END OF THE AFFAIR?

Last night was a Buenos Aires classic. First stop: Dinner with Cara at Rave, which I was reviewing for Time Out Buenos Aires. The food was spectacular, though I'm still not convinced that the salmon blanco wasn't whitefish, and the company was even better. Cara coined the term "vacationship" to describe holiday flings, and I fell in lust with the apparently married guy who was sitting at the table across from us and kept smiling in my direction.

By the end of dinner, I was wiped out. I tried to rally with Michael and his friends at the second stop: Give, a nearby bar. But after two unfortunate bathroom episodes too disgusting to detail here, Cara and I were on our way home. One second wind later, I ended up at the third stop -- Glam -- with Michael and his friends. Aside from the normal occurrence of strangers approaching me and addressing me by name, Glam was enlightening. And not because I realized that I never again want to hear "Gloria," "Love Shack" or any Michael Jackson song on the dancefloor.

Several people congratulated me on the U.S. team's World Cup win, as if I had anything to do with it, or as if I even care. One guy in particular, chanted "waka waka" every time he saw me, and I still have no idea what that means. All of this, however, was incidental to the night's epiphanous moment -- well, three of them. Throughout the course of the evening, three different people, all porteños whom I hadn't seen in a while, asked me the very same question, "Why are you still in here?" That's here, as in Argentina. One of them still can't believe that I would leave New York City for Buenos Aires. The others just couldn't believe that I was still here. Did they think I was merely passing through in the first place and hence their line of questioning, or were they unconsciously suggesting what I've suspected for a while now: It's time to move on?

I know the day is coming -- probably sooner than later -- where I will pack up and hit the road. There's one little problem. Where will I run to? I loved Istanbul. But I could never grasp the language. London is so expensive that it still seems like an unattainable dream. I'm checking out Australia in September, so we'll see if that makes it onto my wish list. Or maybe there is somewhere out there that I have yet to even consider. I just signed up for a year-long membership at a new BA gym; I have a new pilates instructor; and I'm about to change my health-insurance coverage, so my bags are not as good as packed.

But can three people in one night be wrong? Is it time for me to fly?

Monday, June 21, 2010

ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE

I hadn't seen Santiago in several weeks, so I was psyched that he was coming over, even if it would be only for an hour or so. When he showed up, he was even cuter than he had been the last time I'd seen him (absence made this heart grow a whole lot fonder), and once again, I was surprised by how immediately at ease I felt in his presence. Upstairs, we spent our time together sometimes talking, sometimes cuddling without saying anything at all.

Refreshingly, the silent moments weren't awkward at all. They were sweet and tender, the sweetest, most tender moments I'd spent with anyone since the last time Santiago and I had done the exact same thing. I didn't want to let him go, but I had a friend to meet, and he had a bus to catch back to La Plata, an hour away from Buenos Aires. We kept standing up and pulling each other back down, standing up and pulling each other back down. Finally, we gave up. It was time for him to go.

Outside my apartment in front of the elevator, he said, "Can I ask you something in English? I want to ask in English because I don't want you to get the wrong idea." I was bit taken aback. It was the first time he'd spoken to me in English since we first met in Cordoba, his hometown, two and a half years ago. I had forgotten how good his English is. At the time, I was mid-hook up with one of his friends. I was more interested him, but I ended up with his friend because Santiago wasn't really giving off those I'm-interested vibes. Last April, when we stumbled across each other by chance, his interest in me took me completely by surprise.

Uh oh, I thought to myself after he asked permission to ask me something. I've been around long enough to know that whatever follows "Can I ask you something?" is rarely ever good. And something about the way he had looked into my eyes earlier told me that something on the brink of existentialist was coming up.

"Yes, go ahead. Ask me."

"Are you lonely?"

I was stunned. I felt as if Santiago had been reading my mind. Recently, I've been thinking a lot about loneliness. I've always prided myself on never feeling alone because I so enjoy my own company. But lately, my own company hasn't really been enough. I'm lonely. Lonely and maybe just a little bit depressed. Sure I'm still productive. I get out of bed. I write. I exercise. I go out. But usually, all I want to do is sit on the couch and do nothing at all. Just the other day, I'd admitted it to my mother.

Now I was about to admit something else to myself -- and to Santiago.

"Yes, I'm lonely.... Why do you ask?"

"Because I'm lonely, and I was just wondering if you are, too." He went on to explain that he isn't sure if it is a deep-rooted emotional state or a reaction to his current situation, living and working temporarily in a town, La Plata, that bores him to tears. I didn't push him. He was on the way out, and I wasn't sure if I was prepared to have an intense conversation about loneliness. Anyway, we both had to go.

So we decided to table the discussion until we see each other again in two weeks, after I spent next weekend in Montevideo and he in Cordoba. We'll have a lot more time. Earlier Santiago promised that next time, for the first time, he was going to spend the night.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

SMACK THAT!

Another night, another comedy of errors. But almost as if to remind me that creeps come from every country, this one wasn't from Argentina. He's visiting Buenos Aires from Croatia. He's here semi-long term to improve his Spanish. I'm not sure what his name is. I asked him several times but couldn't understand what he was saying. Eventually, I just gave up.

He caught my eye within minutes of my arrival at the bar Sitges with my friend Mariem. (She and I met there about three years ago, and we were sort of reliving that magical night.) As I walked by him, our eyes locked. I stepped back, said hi, and introduced myself. After I gave up mangling the pronunciation of his name, we talked small, very small. He told me where he's from and what he's doing in BA. I stifled a yawn. Then he cut to the chase.

"I've never been with a black guy. I have a big cock. Do you want to go into the bathroom and show me yours? You can play with mine."

Damn! I thought I'd heard everything, and I pretty much have. But what an opening line!

"That's not really my kind of thing. Sorry," I replied, and marched off. My friend Mariem wanted to have a cigarette in the smoking room. I don't smoke, and normally I avoid smoking rooms like the plague, but I was desperate to get away from the horny Croatian.

Within minutes, though, he found me in my hiding place. He apologized for his forwardness earlier, and asked if we could hang out. I wasn't sure about this one. I didn't say yes or no. I knew he wasn't going to be the love of my life -- or the love of my night -- but damn, he was cute. He invited me to sit down -- on his lap. I resisted for a while, but eventually, I relented and got on top of him. Before long, his hands were all over the place. I was pretty embarrassed, but I didn't protest loudly or convincingly. Damn, he was so cute! But then his hand went a bit too low for comfort. What?! We hadn't even kissed yet!

"Um, what are you doing?"

"Nothing. (Pause) Do you want to get out of here?"

"I don't think so. And furthermore, I never have sex with a guy unless there is kissing involved. Why have you tried to do everything to me but kiss me?"

That's when he said the most shocking thing of all -- and considering the bullshit he had been spewing for the better part of a half hour, that was no small accomplishment.

"I don't like to kiss. I read that hepatitis can be transmitted by kissing, and I don't want to get it."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. So he has no problem publicly mauling a stranger, sucking and fucking, pulling out all the stops in the bathroom, but he's afraid of kissing?

"Well, why don't you dig a grave and lie in it, because you're going to die anyway?" I said. I'd heard someone say that once in college, and I'd always wanted to use it myself.

He laughed and tried to redeem himself by kissing me, but it was too little and too late. He wasn't going to go down (pun intended) without a fight, and I wasn't going to let him go down, period. By now his appeal, always somewhat shaky, had dwindled down to zero.

"Goodbye." I got up and beelined for the bathroom. Stupidly, I didn't lock the stall, and moments later, the door opened. I turned around and saw him standing there, ready to play. He was unbuttoning his jeans.

"What the hell are you doing? Get out of here!" I yelled. I pushed him out, and scurried to another stall. This time, I locked the door behind me.

The Croatian was no longer my problem. But less than 15 minutes later, he was someone else's. There he was, his body pushing another guy's against the wall. I rolled my eyes, and went back to Mariem. "What happened to that guy?" she asked a little bit later. "He was really cute."

"Look over there." I pointed to where he and his conquest had moved. Mariem walked away, and I went back to ordering our drinks, not paying attention to where she had gone. When she returned, she told me that she'd confronted the Croatian. She offered him a few choice words and ended her speech with a slap across his face. I laughed for a good minute.

Now I don't want anyone to think I'm condoning violence, because I don't. But this guy obviously doesn't know anything about appropriate behavior, and I'm sure it wasn't the first time his actions had resulted in a smackdown. My biggest regret of the evening, after sitting on his lap in the first place, was missing Mariem's hand connecting with his face. This was one time when I was happy to let someone else have the punch line.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

ROVER'S RETURN

They say a dog can always find its way home, and the same is true with Argentine guys. I've talked about it before, but every time it happens, I get a slight jolt of shock. If you meet a porteño boy you like, and he drops off the face of the earth, don't worry too much. They always come back. It might take a week, a month, or even a year or two, but eventually, that message arrives via IM or SMS (instant message and text message, respectively, their favorite forms of communication), and the song is always the same: "Tanto tiempo!"

This morning, the following SMS arrived:

"Hola como estás? Tanto tiempo! Soy Zacarias te acordas d mi?"

Though I was impressed by his use of punctuation (sometimes) and an accent mark in "estás," as a matter of fact, no, I didn't remember him. But how could I forget a name like Zacarias? In a country full of Alejandros, Fernandos and Martins, you don't meet Zacarias every day.

I thought long and hard, and finally it came to me in a flashback. Zacarias! He was this really cute guy I met in the nightclub Amerika eons ago, so long ago I can't even remember exactly when. But it must have been sometime last year. We'd hung out all night and parted ways outside the club after exchanging phone numbers. Two days later, I invited him over to my apartment for some good beer, good conversation and a maybe a little more.

We enjoyed all of the above, but midway through our third or fourth kiss, he received a phone call. Abruptly, he announced that he had to leave. Was it something I said? Was I a bad kisser? Did I have bad breath? In the end, I just chalked up his rapid, unexpected exit to the fact that he was a typical hot-and-cold Argentine.

He did send me a text message a few days later to say hi and see what I was up to that night (nothing that involved him!), and we ran into each other twice after our truncated date, but I never again attempted to make any kind of plans with him, and I haven't been to Amerika in ages. Then this morning, his text message arrived. After a bit of back-and-forth small talk, I decided to throw caution to the wind and invite him over for a second date.

I'm not expecting him to spend the night (he's already said that he has to leave at a decent hour because work beckons early in the a.m., and I've grown to hate when guys sleep over), but let's hope this time his visit lasts longer than a few sips of beer and several innocent kisses.

Friday, June 4, 2010

GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC

"She is a ghost to me now."
-- Sean Penn on his ex-wife, Robin Wright Penn, to Vanity Fair

My first impression when I read the above quote was disbelief. "No he didn't," I thought to myself. "He did not just call the mother of his children a 'ghost.'" Then I carefully reconsidered his words, and I began to realize where he was coming from.

In fact, just this morning, I was loitering near the same mental space. I was thinking about my exes -- well, two, in particular -- and how it's almost like they no longer exist, or never did at all. In some ways, they're dead to me, and when they pop into my mind, as they occasionally do, they're like ghosts from my past lives.

When I was younger, I was much better about hanging on to mementos from old relationships -- photos, gifts, letters (back when people still wrote letters), cards, and various other assorted trinkets. But at some point during the last 10 years, as the minimalist in me took over, all that changed. Now moments after the break-up email is sent (sadly, that's exactly how my last few relationships have ended), I begin the task of erasing all physical memories of the ex from my life. As a result of my obsessive-compulsive emotional house-cleaning through the methodical removal of physical evidence of unwanted emotions, the only thing I have left of my relationships since I turned 30 are one or two photos that I didn't toss out, a pair of tennis shoes given as a birthday gift, and memories.

And once the latter begin to fade -- and eventually, they always do and already have --- what is left? Sometimes I wonder if my last few boyfriends actually existed or if I just dreamed them up. It's not like we had children together, or shared real estate. Those at least would be constant reminders that they weren't just some vaguely remembered dream. There are, for the most part, no photos, no emails, no gifts. Nothing.

Just fading memories. And are their memories of me fading, too? Do they remember the times we shared, the places we went, the things we said? I do, if I concentrate hard enough. But these memories are no longer easily retrieved. Remembering now takes a little bit of mental effort. If I saw these exes on the street, and they pretended not to see me, or know me, would they really be pretending. Perhaps I'm as much of a ghost for them as they are for me.

I would like to think I make a bigger impression on people than that, but sometimes I wonder. In the end, maybe it's a good thing, these ghosts of boyfriends past. Though I retain the lessons learned from my previous relationships, and the ones I had in my twenties, my first three, remain more or less vividly implanted in my memory, I don't walk around with a lot of baggage, perhaps just a small carry-on full of emotions. The memories would be heavy enough. They can be emotional burdens that break both your spirit and your back. The physical evidence of them could do similar damage -- financially and interior design-wise. (Thank God, I got rid of that storage space in Brooklyn -- and the romantic mementos I was keeping there, too.)

All I've got are my ghosts, which I wouldn't give up for the world. They may be disturbing and scary sometimes, but they're completely weightless, conducive to light travelling. Thank God, they only haunt me once in a while.

Kristen Hersh "Your Ghost"