By Nikolas Reda-Castelao
Gabe stood inside the balcony of his grandfather’s apartment, watching the stroll of people through heaving wires , 21 stories above. It was a blue-skied Sunday on Corrientes Ave., this world of his, this single avenue in Buenos Aires, which extended over to the horizon before it became an obscurity only identifiable on the metro line. He was spectator to a performance of his countrymen and women acting in the directions of his foggy childhood memories and parent’s shadows. Those wires, holding in his body, were new. He once watched, down below, a great religious protest, a marvelous indignation of pots and pans and trash lids doing a cantata in praise of Democracy, and he smelled the charcoal fires burn steak politics into the sky blue of their flag. He watched it clearly and he was consumed in the spirit of it all and the pots and pans sang such a beautiful hymnal in him. Now it was quiet, and he was caged.
Luke, his American friend, shouted from behind, “Gabe, let’s go get some grub.”
Gabe turned back into the apartment, leaving the balcony, out of the theater of his memory, and into a gallery of mementos draped over with tarp. When his grandfather died, his estate went to his daughter, Gabe’s aunt. She made the decision to empty most of it and remodel the apartment with her wealthy husband’s American money. Gabe drudged over the weakly creaking floors and into the dining room, where the table was no longer and the small Panasonic TV in the corner had been scrapped. At the armoire to his right, there is a taxidermy piranha he remembers, glass eyes haunting atop diseased jagged teeth. His eyes went to meet its, but it was gone. Hands in pocket, Gabe stood alongside Luke and they both sauntered down the hallway, feeding into the three bedrooms and kitchen, and shut the light of the last door.
Gabe looked down at Luke fumble with his phone, typing contrition love letters. They agreed to eat at this bistro at the corner. They approached it, taking the fresh breeze against them and the casual flitter of filth on the street, and Gabe looked up to the name “San Miguel”. He could have sworn he felt a tear roll reach out his left eye. They entered and something alienated Gabe, something stretched his heart like bandoneon bellows until the instrument stretched and tore up. The restaurant was closed and then remodeled in the last four years. He did not know. They brought him his childhood gastro-hearth, the Milanese napolitana, and it was burned.
“This isn’t really that good. We should go to McDonald’s,” Luke said. He smirked at Gabe as he said so.
Luke demanded Gabe to ask for the wi-fi so that he may compose more angry apologies. Gabe observed and the table was quiet and everything was alien.
Luke sighed, gazing into his phone.
That night, somewhere in Alto Palermo, in this youthful, erratic, gentry bubble, Gabe and Luke waited at the 55 Bus line. With them was the quivering of their esteem and four younger women. They were friends of Gabe’s second cousin, to whom he felt a strange attraction to; strange mostly because he never knew he had a family member near age and attraction only in the sense that she was indeed attractive. The other three hovered around 19, save the thinnest one in the least clothing. He already forgot her name and age as they got onto the bus. Gabe and Luke sat and watched them babble in Spanish about their recent trips and gossip and other topics Gabe couldn’t find himself following. Luke stared, mesmerized by the exotic. He couldn’t text his lover on this bus, and so he couldn’t feel the burn of her electronic glare.
He couldn’t feel her glare at the rooftop bar, where the soft night breeze drifted him and the youngest girl together, that lifted the embers of his kindling heart. Well, it would poetic to say that, and it would suggest that Gabe eventually found in himself the peace he desired here. But he wafted through crowds, back and forth, until he found himself at a corner. He merely watched the erotic dance of a memory clad in false ego and false sexiness. He watched one of the girls tell Luke again and again to make out with her younger sister; she said that she wants to. She called him a pussy at least four times, that he ought be a man; he said he wants to.
Despite being the only one who could explain to them that Luke was very faithful to his girlfriend, Gabe grew a bemused grin and watched. He watched a lover’s quarrel of a different kind, of a reluctant love, of dousing the hearth that set Luke aflame for years. He watched Luke pretend that none of this bothered him, this joker grin on his giddily cherry face. In slurs, he pleaded to Gabe to have them leave him be. Gabe looked at Luke and his awkward attempt to talk to this young girl. Luke, he had glass eyes above lie-ridden rotten teeth. Gabe said nothing and smiled in the inebriating lie of belonging. From the center, through a portal of lonely heads, he watched these two happenstance lovers engulf themselves into a stupid moment of insane, broken tongue swapping.
Luke would later tell Gabe that he tried to reach his fingers to a place they shouldn’t have been. Gabe was glad he didn’t.
At the airport, Luke said, “I don’t want to go home.”
“Just break up with her and quit your job.”
“It’s not as easy as that.”
Gabe paused and then bobbed his head in agreement.
Two days later, Gabe returned to the apartment, the mausoleum of a home caught in passing on. He entered the room where he used to stay in his youth. He looked out at the midnight hustle of people through the open window. He heard a milonga of cars and lively Spanish, from 21 stories above, and it lulled him onto the bare mattress. He was alone with the city, with this place and its sounds and smells, and it all rocked him to sleep in the blanket of an Argentinean summer.