Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Take My Waking Slow

I wake up, have coffee with my girlfriend and walk down a flight of stairs out to the cacophonous street below, Sarmiento, a street that crosses a great deal of the city, spanning office buildings, a music shop district, a jewelry district, a large section of the once neighborhood, that is written in Spanish the way that once is written in English, a neighborhood tenanted by immense crowds looking for wholesale cheap shoes, the homeless picking up cardboard boxes in great heaping bags, a few synagogues, Peruvian-looking ladies selling rice and boiled chicken on the street in plastic containers and buses moodily cutting through traffic both auto and pedestrian as if the drivers were conditioned to believe that the streets of the city were built specifically for buses, the way a racetrack is built specifically for formula-one cars. After flashing through this neighborhood that wakes up every morning to its own avalanche, Sarmiento pulls out into a quieter district just up from the Abasto shopping center, somewhere before hitting centennial park there is an intersection with a flower shop on every corner. You can smell it about a block away.
I didn’t stay on Sarmiento for very long before crossing a few streets to go over into the fabric district to look for screen or some kind of gauze to put over the window that would keep the mosquitos out at night but let the sunlight in as the day dawned. I made the decision to buy this fabric after waking up for nearly a week straight around 10:30. I hate waking up that late, especially after going to bed around midnight, but with the blinds closed and the dreams of my girlfriend and I literally steeping and growing in potency in the shuttered morning light, I often find it difficult to regain consciousness. I will lie there almost waking, like a man almost breathing who still finds himself underwater after a long struggle toward the surface. I take a breath of what I think to be the air of my apartment, wood grains, stale refrigerator gasps, unwashed coffee cups, bike tire rubber and the flat coca cola smell of unlit incense, only to find a miasma of dreams coalescing and bubbling like mid-western storm clouds right above my head. I take a breath and a score of mysteries and the effluvia of waking considerations flood my mind. The light goes purplish grey again and I’m asleep trying to scrape laminate of a floor in a hospital for some reason.
Somewhere on Lavalle I solved my phantasmal morning problems by buying a large swatch of gossamer-looking fabric. I haven’t actually tried it out yet, but the way it drifts and curtsies in the light wind is comforting and seems to promise a more timely end to my night’s repose and the ridiculous dreams that parade through it.
Yesterday, we did a photo shoot for the acting company I work for. I somehow managed to wake up and make it to the neighborhood of Vicente Lopez by nine am to stand around in a solid white room having my picture taken wearing a Shakespearian outfit. If I hadn’t had too much coffee, I think the unreality of the whole experience would have been skipping through my dreams for months. While I dressed and waited for directions someone put on a compilation of modeling music. I really don’t know what else to call it. I’m sure that genre of incessant and innocuous dance music has a name, but since all I could hear in it were the staccato sounds of high heels on a runway and the frou frou of cold silk I can think of nothing else to call it.
The music began to make me feel disembodied, mainly because I no longer had my beard for ballast. I felt as if I had a small air conditioner strapped to my chin. My cheeks felt exposed and my eyes felt watery, ready to spill all over my rubbery face. The music pitched around the room and I pulled up my pantaloons around someone else’s white socks for the shoot. I had another cup of coffee.
The directions came thick and fast. Move that arm. Take a step back. Look more, uh, stern. No, not stern, playful, but aloof. All the while the camera snapped off beat to the music that was now continually climbing up to the ceiling and then tumbling back down again. Between photos, I didn’t seem to know what to say to anyone. I adjusted someone else’s socks and flipped through the Italian fashion magazines on the table. Everyone told jokes. At some point I stepped out for a smoke with another actor I just met who told me how the scars on his face were the remnants of beating he took one night walking through Palermo. I hate hearing stories like that, especially at photoshoots.
The time went by quickly enough and eventually I found myself back in my own socks, walking back the direction I had come and contemplating getting on a bus. My face felt even more naked in the glare of the afternoon sun, but oddly enough it only felt hot in certain areas, while other still felt like the concrete of a wall that never faces the sun. I began to feel as though I must’ve looked like a shaved leopard with hat and cold blotches on my face.
The pneumatic breaks of the bus gave me a slight headache. They screech so sharply and at such a high pitch, I don’t know everyone can stand them, especially as every time you hear them it either means you’re going to be pitched forward or backward. The physical motion of the bus seemed to ape the situation in the book I’m reading, the second disappointing one I’ve read in the past couple of weeks. I usually enjoy Steinbeck, but the garrulous goons of In Dubious Battle are like the chaff that was separated from the wheat of his better stories of proletariat California.
Later on that evening my girlfriend and I took our regular evening walk. All the streets are beginning to look the same, even the faces of the crowd are just like those on stamps and money, just static, unblinking faces. We didn’t say much to each other, probably through fear that we would say something that the other would find depressing, as we had already erred in that direction a number of times on similar walks.
It was on the way that we noticed the crescent moon, pointing its diadems to the left, like the Islamic motif. Upon seeing this I could almost hear the call to prayer tintinambulating through the cloistered streets and I began to tell the story, for the third time this year, about the week I spent sleeping on a balcony in Baku, waking to the melodious incantations of dawn, lying awake and listening to them, until I fell back asleep and slept through the morning once again.


  1. whoa... so you live in Argentina and have a girlfriend now?

  2. It's your vocabulary that still stuns me. I spent the two years you were in the Peace Corps just trying to decipher what you were saying. Congrats on the job and everything else.
    I hope you get everything that you want and want everything you get.
    ..... and send me some Cuban cigars when you get a chance lol!