Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An atypical sidewalk strut, mouths shut

Ben and I leave school early after a grammar and lexicon quiz. We're back in Palermo, our hood, and we strut down the concrete sidewalk to grab an ice cream cone. In class we learned an expression that in Argentina takes on a naughty meaning (Spanish words can take on different meanings in different countries), but Ben and I disagree on its exact phrasing. So we stop on the side of the sidewalk to figure out if the phase is super silly or just plain silly. Ben looks through his book, his dreaded head bent in concentration, but all of a sudden, he turns to me, his black eyes unusually absent of expression.

"Did you just see him?" he asks.
"Who, the guy with the puffy hair?" I assume, as we have developed a shared level of comfort in citing what we find attractive and unattractive in both males and females. Ben turns his shoulder towards me as if to show me something, but I still do not know what he's trying to say.
"He just spit on me!"
"That guy," he says, pointing his dark brown finger towards a denim-clad figure wearing black headphones that cover his frizzy, pony-tailed mane. He is hunched over, in the zone, traveling like a vulture towards a dead carcass.
"Are you serious?" I ask, stupified.
I don't know what to say, so I get napkins out of my purse and hand them to Ben.
"Should we go after him?" I ask, the only thing I know to say.
"And do what?"
"Ask him why he did that...why he's such a coward that he would do that and not say anything. I know I can catch up to him," I assure Ben.
"You're serious, aren't you. No, that's okay, Lauren," he says. So he smiles a recuperative smile and tries to continue from where he was before, looking for the naughty phrase in the book.
"I can't do this right now," he says, and stuffs what had once been a tree back in his North Face pack. ¨Maybe he just didn't see me?¨ Ben finally offers.

With our heads held up high and eyes focused forward, we walk towards our favorite heladerĂ­a. Our eyelids are open very wide, yet our mouths are shut with invisible Elmers glue, the type you used in elementary school that just barely managed to keep two papers stuck together.

As I get older it seems that I encounter more and more moments like these when there is little I know to say, the words in my head unfitting for the situation. When this happens, I muddle forward, my heart becoming just a bit heavier from the brief period of hopelessness. Like the rest of humankind, I am filled with thoughts, heavy stones I have yet to express that remain stuck at the bottom of a peculiar place that by this age I have come to regard fondly as my own. Maybe what's happening is human metamorphosis: things that I once would have said just aren't me anymore. It can be frustrating to accept that although I am me, there are some things about myself that will not have an explanation.


Kristen Gehrman said...

What an excellent post. you are a writer, and a good one at that. I bet the moments when the cat grabs your tongue are even worse in a foreign culture. it happens to me all the time. I'm more and more convinced that I just talk too much.

I got your message, I was thrilled that you called and bothered that I missed it. Can we skype this week. Tomorrow (between 10-1 my time) possibly?

I really miss you.

Adam Brunelle said...

I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your blog entries.

I'm looking for a scathing letter to the editor to pop up in the GSO all the way from Argentine =)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post regarding the spitting incident. Can relate to your predicament as I myself have experienced it many times in my life: not knowing how to respond or what to say: being on the defensive.

In fact, I do not even really know what to say now.