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.”
I actually tried to post this yesterday from my phone, but that epically failed. Today, I was going to tell you all about last night´s adventures trying to find the ¨Wall-Mart¨ but I´ll do that when I get home from school 🙂 For now, I´ll try again to post the pictures I took yesterday. The first five should be from the terrace at my host family´s house and the other´s from the 16th (technically seventeenth) floor of the university 🙂*Again I didn’t end up posting this. So I am posting it today but it’s actually from like 3 or 4 days ago. The rain finally stopped 🙂 It’s still cloudy more or less but, being from Colorado, I’m used to the sun winning a quick victory over the clouds and that was probably the most consecutive rain I’ve seen in a very long time 🙂 I loved it!
I totally got lost hardcore today in one of the most dangerous areas in Buenos Aires by myself, without a phone. My host mom is so sweet—she wanted to make sure that I was going to be able to get to the University for orientation alright this morning (yesterday she accompanied me all the way there on the bus)—so she made sure I was going to meet up with some friends…only my alarm clock didn’t ring, and so I was going to be late meeting them. I pretty much knew where I had to go anyways so I rushed getting ready and left the house at 8 (had to be there at 8:45 so I had plenty of time. I was going to take the 60 bus directly there. Only…I got all twisted by the street names and such that I totally lost what sense of direction I had in the first place….
Luckily though, I saw the 60 bus and I was able to catch it! I was so proud of myself until I started recognizing buildings that we saw on the city tour yesterday…from Palermo, which was the opposite direction of the university as far as I could tell. I’d already been on the bus for a good 15 or 20 minutes though and so I took out my handy Guía T and looked up where the city ended and the bus route would have to end by association and it wasn’t far. I figured the bus would just turn around, I’d be like five minutes late, but hey! That’s why I left early J The bus was still about half full and so was my pride–so nothing much lost. But each person that got off drained my optimism glass a little…until I was the only one on the bus. All of the sudden the buildings changed to shacks, the clean streets changed to litter and cobblestone, and I began to panic a little. I still half figured that everyone else knew where they were going and so that was why they were lucky enough not to have to experience the entire city in all its glory before arriving at their destinations. When we finally arrived at the bus station I was very on edge. I could tell this wasn’t a very safe neighborhood, plus, in the city tour yesterday they explicitly told us that we shouldn’t go to La Boca (which I could identify by it’s fantastic colors) without at least one other person, even if it was still light out (we were told to just not go there at night), and unless we stayed on the main street where we were likely to get pickpocketed, but encounter no other serious violence. So…leave it to me to end up helplessly lost at a sketchy bus station in one of the top 20 most populated cities in the world.
Anyhow, after it was clear that everyone was supposed to get off at that stop I went and used my limited Spanish to ask the bus driver how I should go about getting home…he smiled at me and told me he’d help me, that I was on the completely wrong bus, and that, no problem, he’d drive me to the other bus stop because he was actually done working and the bus wouldn’t go back the way it came. I am certain that I would not be the only person in this situation whose mind would flash to that movie Taken and whose feet would feel a strong urge to get the hell out of there. It got worse. I got off the bus with him and he told me to get back on the bus…so I did. I sat near the doorway while he talked to a man who looked well dressed and was just standing at the bus stop. The man nodded a couple times while the bus driver spoke to him (all I could catch were the names of my cross streets, and by the way he pointed at me I knew they were talking about me.) The well-dressed man proceeded to make a phone call where he kept his phrases short and nodded a bunch. I was totally freaked out that maybe they were organizing a kidnapping or something. I was just a sitting duck… Eventually the bus driver got back on the bus, shut the door and started driving. I swear I could see my heart beating so hard it moved my jacket every time. He made small talk—asking what I was studying at the university, how long I’d been in the city, etc. but it did nothing to calm my nerves, only made me more nervous. When we finally stopped at a different bus stop and he let me off and told me where to take it I finally let go of the breath I didn’t even know I was holding. I arrived safely at the university still in time to take my placement test and Carmen (our API director) was waiting outside for me.
Probably not the most comfortable experience but now I know which bus to take to school…
Oh, and the picture of the sad neighborhood in La Boca is not my own–I would have been an idiot to take out my camera–but it’s near where I got lost.