Today was a crisp fall day, with a chilly wind blowing around and a grey sky hanging low over the capital of the United States. Walking to class on the usual route up Wisconsin Ave to Massachusetts Ave to Nebraska Ave, my walk was less a tour of the U.S. and more a stroll down memory lane. Red-golden leaves crunched under my Converse as I for some reason was reminded of friends back in Buenos Aires. I can’t remember why–maybe I saw a picture before leaving the apartment or was listening to a song that brought it up, but suddenly I was walking down some cobblestone street in Palermo or avoiding the potholes, narrow sidewalks filled with businessmen and women, and dodging traffic on the way to the office.
A half-grin instantly came over me while thinking of friends. I thought of Fer, from the BA Cast, and no matter how ridiculous of a story I had, he would smile and understandingly say, “Y bueno, es lo que hay!” Fer spent some years as an expat in Europe, and therefore he could relate to some frustrations in Argentina, yet could take it all in stride. He still loved his city very much, and the endearing way in which he defended his hometown always made it seem better.
There was Leo from the office, who wonderfully tip-toed the line of insulting me in an endearing way and never taking it too far. “¿Qué querés, estupido?” “Mirá a esta cara de pony” and “Sos un boludo” were common ways in which I could expect to be greeted by him. Vero would defend me and Matías would calmly tell me that I was a lost cause. The office environment, while at times totally aggravating and prison-like, afforded me the opportunity to build long lasting friendships and become familiar with Argentina in ways that many foreigners never do. I sat in quietly as my coworkers debated politics, vented and complained about societal issues, or discussed pop culture from the soap opera on the night before or a television series from the 80s. I usually said little and just listened, learning as much as I could. At lunch I would usually take a walk around the block and think it all over.
There was also Pablo, who became a great friend simply because he was interested in helping a lonely expat. He was another returned expat from Europe, returning to Buenos Aires around the time I moved in, so as he reunited with his old friends he invited me into the circle for pizza night and education on Argentine literature and movies, among other things.
So many other important friends to me still live inside my head and my heart, but the walk to campus is only about 25 minutes, so I don’t have time to think about it all. Instead of feeling down about missing them, the smile stayed and it made me glad to know that they were there and will be there. I’ll fantasize about a reunion, a big hug and catching up on the small things while simultaneously complaining about the transportation and heat/cold, like always. Every day gets me further away from Argentina, and though I’ve been back for over three months, I still feel that weird need to immerse in a culture that I no longer live in. I still want to drink maté with friends in a circle, or have a big asado, or whatever else. I think about taking that trip to the coast, but what coast? Mar del Plata?
The question is not if I’ll go back to Argentina but when. I’m aiming for sooner rather than later, but uno nunca se sabe what’s going to happen. For now, I’ll have to continue with the friends in my head and heart, and know that when we do see each other again, it will be better than any memory I quickly run through on the walk to campus.