“Pasa todos los días acá”


I saw someone die last night.  It happened so fast and suddenly that at first I didn’t know what had just happened.  It was about 5 in the morning and we were walking home from the bar.  I’d drank about 4 bottles of water and had one drink that tasted like sugar water so it was a pretty low key night.  Kaitlyn, Christine, and I were all joking with our new friend Miguel that we’d met at the hostel about something ingsignificant and trivial that I don’t even remember anymore.  There wasn’t much traffic.  I’m sure the boliches were at the climax of the night, but we had to wake up early to catch the bus back to Buenos Aires in the morning so we’d opted out of the the dance scene.  A motorcyclist was racing down the street about 80mph in a hurry to get somwhere.  I’m sure his destination wasn’t REALLY as important as he thought it was.  He was coming our direction, his hair flying wildly behind him as he hurtled down the empty street.  As he passed I caught his eyes, he looked about our age, in his 20s, full of life and future.

But he ran the red light.  Everything was red.  The dull glow of the street lamps, the car that clipped the back tire of his bike, the sparks of metal scraping on asphalt.  It’s all a muddled jumble of raw images out of sequence but clear and harsh.  I looked behind me just as it happened, on the verge of commenting about the kind of idiot that drives so carelessly without a helmet, but my breath caught with the blunt pop of the crash.  I saw his body fly through the air, plummet to the street and limply skid another 100 feet until it hit the curb in a lump of limbs.  At first, I registered the body as the bike because it had looked like a lifeless object–helpless.  I can’t get the image of him being tossed across the road, like dirty laundry flung carelessly into the corner of my bedroom.  I know he died.  Just seconds before I had been looking at another human being.  SomeONE with thoughts, feelings, ideas, dreams, relationships…a mother.  Someone just as complex and profound as I am. Tthen, I watched all of that vanish, cease, in an instant.  I can’t put into words the way that made me feel. HIs eyes.  I can still see them everytime I close my own.

The world stopped breathing.

But then it kept going.  The flashing lights of the police car that had been stationed at the other end of the block crawled by us towards the crash…and then casually turned the corner…The police had just witnessed what I had and completely ignored it.  The last wisps of his life were fading as we stared, motionless, frozen, and the police had shrugged their shoulders and gone off to partol a less eventful block.  The red car that had clipped the bike stayed still, some people slowly walked over out of curiosity and shock, but the rest of the cars continued through their green light. 

I’m ashamed, but I couldn’t go over there either.  Miguel broke the silence, “Pasa todos los días acá.”  That kind of thing happens everyday here.  If I could translate the feeling of the scene into words, those would be the best I could do.  .  If anyone, save me and Kaitlyn, had seen those eyes you wouldn’t have known.  His body was just lying there in the street, like a stray dog you don’t go near because it makes you feel uncomfortable.  Pasa todos los días acá.  We turned around too. I’m not proud, but I don’t know what I could’ve possibly done.  Miguel and Christine ushered us onward and seemed nonplussed.  Me and Kaitlyn were in silent tears of shock. Miguel, maybe a little bit tipsy, wouldn’t shut up about how common such things were here and how people should really wear helmets.  I don’t even know what to say.  I just wanted to be alone in that moment. 

I know those things happen everyday.  And not just here.  But I guess I’m still not desensitized to them.  I keep thinking of his hair, his eyes, the way his body was so…empty after he fell back to the ground–like a crushed soda can pitched out a car windown to settle in the  gutter until it’s either washed away or cleaned up by the city. inconsequential.

Living in a city with 15 million people doesn’t make me feel insignificant like I’ve heard it tends to do.  It just makes me feel overwhelmed.  I think about the 19 years I’ve been alive.  The complex, unique personality I have (not being egotistical, just trying to make a point), the lives I’ve affected (both negatively and positively), the thoughts that race through my mind nearly constantly.  I can’t imagine that many human beings.  I can’t wrap my head around how much life this world has.  It’s potential.  It’s capacity for emotion, thought, reason, love.  I’ts wisdom.  And here I am wondering which shoes to wear with my outfit tomorrow.  It’s uncomprehensible for me. 

Sorry this post is so depressing and philosophical.  I will write about the rest of my adventures in Córdoba tomorrow and the rest of this week, I just felt like I had to get this out of my head somehow.  Overall it was a really enlightening trip and it was really good see how the rest of Argentina was.  Granted, I have only been to two different cities so far, but I know that Buenos Aires could be a country all on it´s own and shares less than expected with the rest of the country or “the interior.” 

About Autumn Standing

I love words; my name is made up of real words, even. I am studying Global Tourism and Spanish with a minor in Business Administration at Colorado State University but this year I chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That's why this blog was born--to keep my beautiful family and friends informed of my whereabouts, thoughts, accomplishments, and mistakes.

Posted on August 21, 2012, in Fall Semester, Travel and Study and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I had a moment like this, too. I mean, not nearly as profound as yours–I didn’t see someone die. But I was standing on a street corner in GTO. and I saw this beggar just sitting there on the curb with his tattered hat on the floor and he was strumming on his beatup acoustic guitar. He looked so emaciated, like he was dying of starvation. It took me a while to register what song he was singing, but it turned out to be "Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley, and he was butchering the words so badly but he was trying so hard… And I just had that moment–I could’ve been him. Or a gypsy, or a starving kid soldier in Uganda, or I could’ve been Tiger Woods or Lady Gaga. But I wasn’t, I am me…and everybody else around me is saying the same thing. It totally changed me, because I realized that I am me surrounded by billions–literally, billions–of other people in the world…and so who am I gonna be to stand out from the crowd. From this crowd? From the metaphorical "crowd" I’ll experience my whole life? Will I wear a helmet…or not? Anyway, reading this was empowering because I know that feeling. Again, I didn’t watch anyone die, but things just hit you like that…

  2. Really eloquently said, Dad. Lately, my life has been full of really profound moments like that. Maybe it’s just part of growing up, maybe it’s because I’m on the other side of the world and learning so many new things about my fellow human beings but it’s definitely life changing. I’ve only been here for a month and I have grown so much. I have many things I would like to post about on this blog but I don’t want to waste my time recording everything, I need to be out experiencing it. That’s why I still haven’t posted much about C??rdoba. Regardless of if the reason I’ve been learning so much is because it’s just that time in my life or if it’s because I’m traveling I would recommend this experience very highly to anyone. It’s expensive, but very very worth it, and I say that with only having spent a month here. I also feel like I should add that the response I saw wasn’t typical, according to my host family. I talked about it with my brother’s here and they were really shocked that the people acted the way they did. They weren’t really surprised by the cop’s reaction, but they said that if the same were to happen while they watched they’d be crying too (because it’s ok here for men to cry) and it would be a lot more powerful of a moment for them.

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