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Overheated City

Photo of mural by Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada in Buenos Aires
“David” – Mural by Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada en San Telmo, Buenos Aires.

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I have two ways of seeing this city, each a faithful expression of my own shifting nature. Sometimes she is the purest expression of repose, like water running beside a riverbank. Other times, she is a cauldron of bubbles and fumes where unrequited and unstated passions roil with blind fury.

Take your pick.

These are my two strongest images of her but they are not the only ones that apply. Certainly for her millions of inhabitants she is millions of things, reflections of themselves. Hopeful. Desperate. Yearning. Playful. Serious. Tough. Sweet. Sexy, Smart. Ruthless. Dull. She is the ever-changing, ever-moving sum of our collective desires and moods. That’s why one can go on endlessly trying to decipher what Buenos Aires is because she is all of them.

Tonight, the city is at a rolling boil, ablaze with the unquiet fire of the human heart. I wander through the darkness, uncertain and with neither destination nor destiny. How can everything fall apart so quickly, from one week to the next? Indeed, from one day to the next?

I listen to the brash, ancestral poetry of street sweepers, whistling cops on corners, and nighttime store keepers. There is a rippling under the cobblestones from a recent rain. Tin voices squawk from radios. Those who have given up on the day roll their metallic shutters down and drag themselves home. Men sit on stools at the back of brightly-lit, ever-welcoming 24-hour tire repair shops, waiting. And in the shadows around them all, a sea of inquiring gazes jostles in the current, full of mute requests for asylum, extradition, refuge, safe passage. The urgent and fated search for more of something we cannot have.

I used to find subway rides entertaining, full of promise but tonight I find them exasperating. All that earnest longing to connect hidden within ever-so-tired gazes; all that hoping for more, without daring to take it. All that hesitation. I just cannot believe that everyone is quite as self-sufficient as they seem — yet their feigned indifference warns me off and I retreat, like them, into the shuttered room of my self.

Through the night the constant flashes of MORE… MORE… MORE sound off like quiet detonations across the city. Burning flares above a barricaded metropolis braced against the uprising from within.

Maybe it’s just me; I’m feeling a bit out of sorts. Maybe it’s just this night, sacred like all the others, only a bit more so. But I don’t want to waste another day, another hour. I want to change, once and for all, this way of living – to prance open hearted and Walt Whitman-like through the terrain of hearts and dreams of what could be.

Otherwise, it’s going to be a long, long night.

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