It’s early and there are few people on the street. An old man hobbles by with a dog that pulls insistently on its leash, looking more like it’s walking his owner than the other way round, and a jogger pants by, earphones firmly in place, determination in her eyes.
Working from home I forget how slowly the city wakes up and how long it takes for the shops to winch open their shutters and the day of commerce to begin. The supermarkets are closed and the small neighborhood businesses show no signs of life, lights turned off and cerrado signs against the glass.
A car pulls abruptly out of a garage, missing me by inches as I walk, the driver unconcerned as I cast him a filthy look – car trumps pedestrian every time.
The leaves are starting to turn as they do at this time of year and the chill in the breeze brings the beckon of winter. The long sunny days splashing about at the pool and lazing on the river will soon be behind us as another season draws to a close.
Season by season, chapter by chapter, line by line, my life in this city is an open book. Some pages are missing; ripped out, never to be read again, while others I revisit from time to time, remember the moment they were written, the characters within them, the color of the sky or the smell of the rain.
As I pass along a part of the street I haven’t for a while, where I used to walk with Bruno, my heart jumps as I see the old English-style book store, Las Mil y un Hojas still there and the real estate agent where I rented my first apartment.
So young, so unaware of the years I would spend here and the people that would cross my path; that my dog would end up living in the USA (the same traveling spirit as his owner), or that I would find myself back here, eight years on, looking into the window at the apartments on offer.
This morning I can’t help but feel nostalgia for the last days of summer and the inevitability of time. Everything ends sooner or later, for as hard as we try to keep it slipping from our grasp. Arturo’s pizza place where we all used to meet; my loft in Cañitas; the three days I didn’t eat before defending my thesis and the friends that carried me home afterwards all slid into the past without my control.
The parties in penthouses; basements and campos, recitales and recuperation; the doctor that asked me out for dinner during an appointment and the ambulance driver who gave me his phone number; the corner of Libertador where I was knocked down by a car, and the German restaurant that’s now a Carrefour.
Teaching English to bankers that wanted to date me; taxi drivers who robbed me or took me on scenic city tours; asados with amigos and drunken philosophical debates… all the facets of life that happened to me here and only here all gone now never to be repeated.
This is the only part of the world I’ve lived in long enough to create lasting memories, as an adult anyway, and these familiar places I walk past make me feel older.
You can never have it all because you have to let go to allow somebody new to come in – and know when it’s time to let others continue on their paths.
I’ve been left in Buenos Aires and I’ve left people behind, but something always draws me back. And when I’m away I take comfort in knowing that the leaves will change color in the autumn and the pavements will be wet in the morning, that the bookshop will still be here and the city sleeps in until late.