Early in the morning there are the sounds of an unattended car alarm: a lost and recalcitrant ambulance circling the block. No one is going to turn it off anytime soon. Even at 9 am, most of the city is still asleep. The alarm plays to a deaf audience. I, who still don’t have my selective hearing back to major metropolitan standards, am forced to listen the shrieking morning alurum amidst the sound of my still sleeping roommates.
I woke up a little over an hour ago and went up to the Coto supermarket near the Abasto shopping center. I wanted to buy another 500 gram bag of these horrible cookies they have their, some of the only cookies I’ve found in this country that don’t have the dreaded grasa vacuna in them. Almost none of the prepackaged cookies here have milk or eggs in them, but almost all of them have beef fat, which, in a red meat country like Argentina, I guess makes sense.
I’m not sure when the Coto opens. In fact, given that it is Sunday, even though they are by far the biggest grocery store I’ve seen here, I expected that they may not open until 10, and I only knew they’d be open by then because I went there last week, almost gravitated you could say, as on Sunday morning I knew a massive supermarket would have the best chance of being open. I decided to repeat the ritual this Sunday because those awful cookies go well with awful coffee and I have absolutely nothing else to do on Sunday morning.
The morning is slightly cold. There are a few people out, newspaper vendors and a few anomalous people that could either be leftovers from some crazy foray well into the abysmal hours of Saturday night, that somehow left them wandering around dazed and possibly lost on this dawning Sunday morning, or just people who have not quite woken up yet, either way, most people have a disheveled and glossed-over look to them, including myself. The block I live on of Sarmiento is dappled in sunlight and cold marble shadows. Later on in the morning one side of the street will catch most of the sun, warming even the cold exteriors of the buildings, but now it’s too early and the sun too low for there to really be any substantial difference from the temperature last night.
I’ve taken my coffee with me on the walk. I have no lidded cups of any kind so I walk around the city with an open mug; sometimes, I wish I had a good bathrobe to couple this, especially on Sunday mornings when the neighborhood is still desolate enough to feel like it could be my backyard, albeit a backyard of broken flagstones, dog shit and car alarms.
The supermarket open at 8:30, earlier than expected, but I’m still 15 minutes too early. There’s an old lady waiting outside, looking through the circulars that are posted by the doors, contemplating the various items on sale this week. Near her is an old man, a liter beer bottle in each hand. I contemplate waiting with them. I still feel kind of tired and I know that no matter where I go at this hour everything is bound to be shuttered and still. But waiting in front of the supermarket is too depressing, especially when one is only buying a bag of cheap cookies. I take a 15-minute walk through the neighborhood eventually stumbling on the legacy of Argentine nightlife.
Thus far I have probably been out no later than 11 pm. I don’t really have much desire to go to a bar alone, when I would be just as happy sitting on the roof of the hostel with a cheap beer, contemplating the moon and the coruscating window lights in the upper reaches of the apartment blocks to the north along Corrientes. I have been out once or twice, but it seems that nothing really begins here until around 2 am, and I really have desire to stay up that late just to see what it’s like. So, thus far, I have seen nothing the revered nightlife here, until this morning.
Coming around the block from my waiting-out-the-supermarket walk, I noticed a few people standing in front of a building. The sickly sweet smell of spilled cocktails and various stale body sprays was hanging in the air, light at first, but then growing heaver as I approached. I suddenly became aware of music, a muffled bass, coming from somewhere inside. The people I walked by didn’t glance up, but it was clear what they were: the sons and daughters of Bacchus, the revelers of Dionysian rite. Surprisingly they looked very awake and, well, sober. Each had a can of a Red Bull-like drink they have everywhere here called Speed, maybe the same stuff that was forced to change its name in the states, or was that an energy drink named Cocaine?
It was almost 8:30. I had gone to bed the following evening around 11:30 and still waking up, stumbling around the neighborhood, trying not to contemplate the sounds of endless car alarms. I had a mug of coffee in my hand, when I passed this group of the indulgent. It was like a rip in the fabric of time had somehow taken us both out of our rightful time and placed us together here in an uncertain limbo, where neither of us really belonged. I didn’t directly contemplate them, nor they me, but I’m sure in some small disquieting place, we were both totally aware of each other and the impossibility to have anything two different ways.
The encounter lasted only a minute, and I was in the supermarket, walking back home from the supermarket, my hand deep in a bag of cheap cookies, a vague bassline to an unknown song echoing vaguely in my head.