Monday, January 9, 2012

A field, a fence

At the end of the day there is a group of kids skating at Faculdad de Medicina, a cross of a piazza and a park, most concrete with a few spare patches of grass. We sit in one of these patches of grass and watch the sun fall beneath the skyline on Cordoba avenue. Minervas and other Greek deities catch the light from their corniced positions and keep it for a while in the folds of their marble gowns, bringing their dimensions out further over the street, their bodies more nubile, their shadows longer and less ungainly. A silk flag flourishes above, like a distant thunder, it can scarcely be heard over the traffic. The skateboards snap and roll. Someone yells to their dog.
We stay on as the twilight deepens, listening and telling stories of our pasts that seem to come, unbidden, from the sounds of the evening. Gina has a difficult time getting anything in because I will not stop talking. The subject now is my last night in Armenia. I recount the details precisely, trying to shape a picture out of a number of random, unconnected details: This bar, this street, this office, this sound we used to hear all the time, the name of a local chain grocery store, the cheap Chinese-made shoes I was wearing. She listens with due patience, knowing that once I’ve begun such a description I won’t stop until it’s finished, no matter how mundane it might be. I continue telling about the July night, waving my hands around, using certain Armenian words like flourishes to complete a thought and then having to double back to explain what they mean. Sometimes, the explanations for the words cost me too much time, I lose the thread of the story after explaining the subtle difference between the Russian “Fcio” and the Armenian “vertch” or “prtsav.” When I say these words, I hear the people saying them from whom I learned them. I see the way they look and smell their cigarettes or perfume. This is why I can’t disregard these details. I’m telling the story to myself as well, just to reaffirm that it did once happen.
My last night in Armenia was in late July, as I tell the story its January in the southern hemisphere, in Argentina it’s about 34 degrees Celsius, probably nearly the same as it would’ve been in Yerevan that night. Perhaps this is why the story has come to mind. It occurs to me as I tell the story, that, as much as I’ve told Gina about Armenia, I don’t know if I’ve ever come to the end of the story before. As I build up the structure of the story, supply the characters and tell about their idiosyncrasies, I realize I’m telling Gina something she’s heard hundreds of times before. She needs no introduction to Yerevan or to Elliot. I don’t need to explain to her what a marshutka is, but I do anyway, just so I can hear the clink of the coins hitting the little carpet where people tossed them to pay on the front consul, so I can hear the Armenchik music and the sound of the shepherds yelling at their sheep outside the windows to get out of the way, just so I can feel the warmth of the other two passengers I’m sitting between. She’s heard all of this many times before, but I don’t know if I ever got to the end. I’m wondering now what the significance of the present telling is. Am I telling her the end, just because the warm evening has reminded me of it? Or the sound of something in the light wind? Or am I telling her because, I’m deciding to bring the epic to a close for a while? I don’t think about it much further. I just continue telling the story because it comes naturally to me, especially on this warm evening.
When I get to Tbilisi, which is, effectively, the end, I stop. For a while neither of us says anything. Although a great deal of interesting things happened to me after I arrived in Tbilisi I don’t try to make any more pronouncements. I don’t hint at them. They are stories that I’ve told before and they are things that are finished, with lingering memories, yes, but still, finished. And I look up at the last bit of light coming over the buildings much further down the avenue. I see Buenos Aires as I imagined it when walking by the escuela Argentina on Baraghmyan street in Yerevan. I see all the dreams I had about this place long before I ever came here and how much of my time spent in the Armenia of my recollections was spent thinking about what it would be like here. I see the circumstances that brought me here and for a moment it seems that I am living a fulfilled wish, only to be sitting where I am at the moment. I see how much I have yet to learn to get to a point where this moment to will take on the greater significance of being a chapter in another story that I will tell from another place.
We continue sitting for a while, until the streetlights come on, eventually we begin to make our way back home. Past the university building where when the students graduate they throw eggs and flour all over them, past the Coco supermarket, which, being a sort of smaller supermarket is actually called a Chino here, mainly because these places are always owned by Chinese people. We pass one of the numerous cafés where they serve liters of beer in Styrofoam wrappings that keep them cooler. As we get to our door, I take out my key which is unlike any other I’ve ever seen, having a crated appearance, we call it the ‘moon’ key. I think to myself how these small details are just the beginning of another story

1 comment:

  1. Yes! Not a cheesy high five Yes, but a very significant and poignant Yes.