Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Thousand Nights and a Night ألف ليلة وليلة

All my writing projects are failing, for different reasons and in different ways. I always get overwhelmed after something goes beyond 5 pages or so. I tried to combat this by setting up a narrative that would consist of present events, or stories and remembered ones. Something like the blog I kept while in Armenia, writing mostly about what was happening all around me, while, occasionally, drifting into the past, more, I guess, for myself than for my readers. I tried to condense this formula, by keeping an ongoing journal that frequently delves into the past while being framed in the present. I thought it would also be interesting to even greatly embellish a few elements of it as well. I put the introduction to this project up here a few days ago, but I’m taking it down now because it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. I thought after writing my thesis (which you can actually read as the last entry at I was ready for larger writing projects, but without proper structuring they still seem to overwhelm me. I may keep working on it and see what I come up with, but for the time being I’m just going to keep things straight by writing about the present while constantly thinking about the past.
The streets seemed lower down between the canyons formed by the buildings on Cordoba street heading toward the Palermo district. The sky seemed higher and the only traffic we had to contend with was a few sullen taxis lurching along, looking for their absent fares. It was the moment for which I had brought a bike with me to Buenos Aires. It was the moment for which I had bought a bike for my girlfriend. The city had stopped about an hour before midnight on New Year’s Eve, and we were the only people out, down at the bottom of the avenue’s canyon, drifting through the light wind and the concrete channels that funneled it.
A few hours earlier we had been in our darkened living room. I was reading ghost stories from an antiquated collection I had found for free online. My girlfriend was listening to my voice drop from the stoic, lackluster tone of a narrator and rise to the tone of strongly British accented characters. Out of the three we read only the last was good, a story in which a shadow suddenly appears on a wall after an assumed murder. The shadow never does anything, it doesn’t leave the wall or try to intimate anything, but it remains there, like an stark accusation.
The mood was a little too light to really appreciate such macabre tales. But there was a certain necessity in recounting them, as nearly a year to the day, when she and I met, we had gone for a walk and, uncertain of what else to do, walking through a marsh with a beautiful girl I had just met, I began telling ghost stories.
After work on New Year’s day, I decided to take my book down to the bar and have a drink before returning to my new apartment, one that I shared with three people I hardly knew. At this point my bed was still just a mattress on the floor. My room was otherwise unfurnished, so you can see how I was in no hurry to return to it. Besides, the night before, New Year’s Eve, though I tried to go out and celebrate, I still found myself at home in bed before midnight. My friend Paige, two time zones away in Texas, had called me and upbraided me for being in bed at such an hour, but what defense could I give? I was back in Arcata, California, a town I had left almost three years prior after only living there less than a year between 2007 and 2008. You couldn’t exactly say that I had a lot of friends there.
When I got out of work, I debated on what exactly to do. I knew that I now had only 19 days left before I would start classes at the university again and thus, finally begin working on the thesis that I had been thinking about since I started the program nearly four years ago. The thought unnerved me sufficiently, especially after having been outside of academia for so long. I decided to go down and have a beer with my book.
I knew the atmosphere would be quiet enough in The Alibi so I went there, but it didn’t really matter. The day after New Year’s most people don’t feel like heading back to the bars. I found a place at the bar, ordered a beer and began reading. The Russian novel I was reading about warefoxes should have interested me more, but, after reading a number of books by the same author, I was beginning to see a formula emerge, an interesting formula, but something predictable nonetheless. I read on, despite my inattention, and did a fairly good job getting lost in the story. I was nearly finished with my beer and was thinking about leaving when I looked up from my book long enough to take another drink and to see who had just come in the door. I didn’t have many friends in Arcata at the time, but I was totally friendless, and I would’ve appreciated some company at that moment. I didn’t see anyone, but I noticed a girl sitting to the right of me, where the bar wrapped around, it was an auspicious angle, much easier to talk from than from a parallel position at the bar. The girl was reading a newspaper. I went back to my book, thinking how nice it was that I was no longer the only person in the bar alone and reading, but, I reasoned, someone that beautiful is probably just waiting for someone, and thinking along this premise I went back to my book. Some time must have passed, but I’m not sure exactly how much, before I looked up again to see if anyone had joined the girl. She was still alone. Now years before I probably wouldn’t have said anything, but since I was only recently returned from years of living in a country where it was very rare to meet a fellow English speaker, I was still impressed with the idea of striking up conversations with strangers on the street that were so easy to follow. I thought about it for a moment with my book lowered in front of me, and after a few moments of considering social norms, and what wouldn’t sound like a blatant pickup line I said something.
This is how I met Gina. After more conversation we went out and took a walk around. I’ve always thought she was brave to take a midnight walk with a complete stranger, but she insists that it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to try anything. I guess that’s one of the benefits to being incredibly gregarious; you never stop talking long enough to think how you could hit on someone, so, in comparison to someone dropping line after line, you seem innocuous as hell. Rightly so, I guess, as at the time I wasn’t really thinking about meeting anyone for a relationship, I would’ve been happy to just have a friend, which, in a way, is what I got, a beautiful, butterfly-eyed friend, who washes my clothes, takes care of me when I’m sick, tell me when I’m repeating myself and drinks coffee with me every morning, which, after all, is the best kind of friend.
So to celebrate New Year’s, and our first anniversary, Gina and I told ghost stories and took a ride through the empty streets of Buenos Aires until midnight struck and suddenly the streets were filled with traffic. Up until that moment it was just like being back in Arcata.

1 comment:

  1. Great story, amigo. Hope to meet this lady Gina someday soon. :)