Friday, February 20, 2009

The Earth is Heating

I am still, but still, my breath fights the asphyxiating heat, and I wheeze as though I have a white plastic bag tied around my head and the air inside is preparing to flee. I am melting, suffocating, but I am calm, calm and still on my stoop in Palermo, watching the tired feet in their strappy leather encasements as they beat the concrete.

A man and a woman pass. I am invisible to them as I blend into the almond hue of the tiles beneath my bent knees and bare silent witness as the man slips his left arm around the woman’s back, sliding his greedy hand inside her tank top. He cups her pointed, triangular breast because I am not there, because Porteño is synonymous with Public Displays of Affection, because the telo was full.

The earth is heating, my host mother explains, spreading her fingers wide and motioning upwards, bending from the wrists— a gesture that relinquishes any human blame and slaps it on something from above.

The earth is heating, and we are heating with it.

The rents may be high but the sidewalk in front of my stoop is cracked, and I imagine that a boulder once fell from the sky onto my square of cement. Or perhaps a little boy took a hammer and whacked, whacked, whacked in hopes of reaching China. And maybe this little boy is still inside the crack, asking if there is a colectivo that will take him to Beijing.

A VW bus, rust red and ancient, is parked on the curb across the street. He is human, with headlight eyes and a cool bumper of a smirk and I imagine he addresses me, testing out his English, overemphasizing the 'h' in hhhhhello good morning. He pulls out a white, hand rolled cigarette and implores me for a light. Sorry, no fumo, I reply. The VW frowns, sputters, and clunks away, our conversation unfinished, revealing a kiosko in his wake.

No cafés on my block, yet I’m certain I smell empanadas. In fact I always smell empanadas in Buenos Aires-- something to do with an overabundance of cow, ready to be slaughtered, sliced, rolled and baked, and an under-abundance of calorie-consuming women. The empanadas walk the streets, thrusting their doey hips out to the side provocatively like the hookers on Ave Libertador I saw last Saturday night. Eat me, they beseech.

Periodically the sun slinks behind a cloud and I find some respite in a lingering shadow. The air cools and without warning I’m in a postcard, squinting my eyes against the returning sun. Palermo shimmers.
It hurts to look.

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