My head drifted off and I went straight ahead instead of turning right. Onwards, to the riverside, the comfort of the open space right next to the city’s heart. Two guys were kicking a ball absent-mindedly, one of them smoking a joint. The usual dog walkers did their rounds, a few teenagers mangled Ramones and Nirvana tunes with battered Spanish guitars and creaky, overeager voices. I stopped right in front of the railing, eyes caught by the immensity of water.
It looked calm, but was raging beneath the surface. Brown water carrying tankers, cargo ships, a small white fishing boat, silt. Whirlpools, currents and counter-currents below where the drowned disappeared among the camalotes. I liked staring at it for hours, a river that fed the city and was in turn fed by it. The abandoned shipyards from back when the port welcomed you into the hustle and bustle, at that time a collusion of brothels and bars and rough sailors who became immigrants in time. It had been moved out of town now, out of sight, the current stories hidden from the common people and thus insignificant. I let my eyes wander and took it all in. Close to the other shore, a fisherman seemed to be asleep in his boat, water lapping at the worn white wood. I looked down the gully and dropped a twig I had picked up on the way there. The poor little branch floated downstream, blending into the brown.
“This is a suicide spot for dogs.”
A voice to my right brought me back to reality. The girl was somehow familiar. The blonde hair with blue streaks, the nose ring, the Smashing Pumpkins pin on her jacket.
It was my most articulate answer.
“They come here and jump, ten dogs last year. I read it in the paper. Thought it was shit, but I’ve asked around. It isn’t.”
“I guess they sometimes feel like people, then.”
“Maybe worse. They can’t do a lot of stuff we can.”
“Yeah, but they don’t have to work for anything.”
“Say you. They’re expected to obey, behave, and be good? That’s a ton of work if you ask me.”
“Never thought of it that way.”
“Nobody does. That’s why we have them as pets. Cats too, but they say fuck off without the need to speak. We do ruin many animals’ lives.”
“Are you vegan?”
“Trying to. Veggie. You?”
“Nah. Don’t have the patience.”
“Have a name? I’m Nadia.”
“What are you doing?”
“I was looking at the river. It tunes me out.”
“I meant every day. For work. Are you someone’s dog?”
She was quick. I laughed out loud.
“Retail. I work storage, the till sometimes. We sell overpriced Oxford shirts and khaki pants to rich old farts. You?”
“Also retail. Chain bookstore. Full of self-help and best sellers. Your 50-year-old divorced neighbor’s dream.”
“Sounds like another day in paradise.”
“Well, Phil’s voice is there every single day.”
We both laughed out loud. I felt clever for dropping the reference, happy because she got it right away. Yes, I knew how to do this.
The words brought me back.
“Sometimes. Can I bum one?”
“Shit, that was my line.”
“I guess we’re out of luck.”
She headed over to a woman who was walking a poodle. Her clothes looked expensive. She could have been one of the customers in the shop. Maybe she was, so I avoided eye contact. Natalia came back with a lit cigarette, blew the burnt tobacco on my face.
“Smoke wins. Fatality.”
“Not when it’s for free.”
I hated Marlboro Lights and worshipped dark tobacco, thought it made me manlier, stronger. A hoarse voice gave you mystique, a hoarse voice could turn any common post-adolescent wimp into a brooding man, wounded inside and still growling like a hunting wolf. Light cigarettes certainly couldn’t do more than leave stains of weakness in your lungs and on your reputation.
“Here, kill it.”
She extended her hand, cracked blue metallic nail polish glimmering with daylight.
“I’m alright, you do it. Told you I don’t smoke that much.”
“Fine. My shift starts in fifteen minutes and I have to change clothes, so bye. See you at the Cúmulo show.”
“How do you…?”
“You’ve been to the last three. And they’re playing at Teatro Mueca, you wouldn’t miss it.”
“R-right. See you Friday, then.”
She was already on her way and blending into the stream of shoes and sneakers and souls that went up the street, towards the shops and cafés. I knew now that I had seen her without noticing her, another voice in the two or three hundred that sung the chorus of Átomos malignos or Reto temporal five or six times a year. How had I managed to do that? She was not stunning in a mainstream way, but she was a presence, eyes that gripped you and a mouth that was waiting for its turn to shut you down, make you think or tell a joke, or everything at once. And she liked real bands, people who had something to say, people who could make you feel. I tried to look at the river again, but the brown water now seemed to reflect blue streaks and a subtle metallic glint, so I started walking back home.
To be continued…
In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)
Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey
January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan
February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan
March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez
April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Sarah Leah Pimentel
May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko
June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas
July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk
August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido
September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández
October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino
November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake
December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva
Background – Context
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
More work by Javier Gómez
The Canyon Inside Us – transposing emblem by Javier Gómez
Uncharted Bliss – transposing emblem by Javier Gómez
The Way of No Way – transposing emblem by Javier Gómez
Emblems and stories on Argentina
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from Armenia and other countries
Cover photo: Cordoba, Argentina – Receding – Roberto Michel (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed