The Argentina ground crunches, making small grinding noises, as I walk along the side of the road. It is fairly desolate now without cars coming and going alongside me. My chances of catching a ride on a Sunday morning are not too high. At least not until the local churches release their parishioners in time for the traditional noon dinner.
If I am lucky a family will come along, kind enough to offer a ride and invite me to share their meal. Once at their home there will be a host of activity, even some special preparations for their new-found guest. Somehow that experience is one of the most humbling for me. I could never imagine my family in the US picking up a strange young man and making such a fuss. But village life in Argentina is much different than home.
If I am particularly fortunate, the family will share my passion for Malbec, the intense red wine produced at the foot of the Andes. A discovery I made months ago when I first flew to Argentina. I have entries in my diary for them all, rating and evaluating the ones I love best. It has become a great quest for me to taste the varieties available, be it from a restaurant in Mendoza or a farm house close to Resistencia. There are days I can almost imagine spending my life in some quiet village – a beautiful woman and endless red wine.
I smile at the thought of that life, sure though the ideal dream would wake to a reality I am not yet ready to live. Too many roads to travel before I settle on just one.
I discontinue my walk, content to wait along the side of the road until fate gives me a ride. Yeah, fate I think. My life feels like a series of chance meetings – of people or places that come along at just the right moment. True to that thought, a tree with a wide canopy of leaves and branches is in sight, and conveniently a thick layer of grass below calls to me. Walking within the circle of the shade, I drop my backpack to the ground and quickly my body follows, using the backpack as a pillow. It is hard and lumpy against my head, a fact I ignore as I start flipping through my iPod. I am calculating the time difference between California and Argentina. Debating – too late, too early – to Skype friends or family members.
My plans for calling now on hold, I lay back and allow my eyes to follow cloud formations, watching the flow of two large clouds. Coming together and then parting in different forms, different shapes. Their hazy shapes moving quickly, offering only a small distraction. Contemplating cloud forms? I laugh at this thought. A million miles away from where I used to be.
A year ago I had it all by American standards. Two cars, a truck, the house and a job with the city. Complete security by anybody’s standards. My mother, only four miles away, daily searching stores and catalogs for the perfect items to complete my home.
“I can’t wait until you see the gorgeous end table I bought for your house,” her voice announcing new items on my work voice mail. Furniture, kitchen stuff, comforter for the guest room. The list of items she acquired for my home became overbearing. Each started to feel like an anchor. I dragged them throughout my day, making my twenty four years of life feel like eighty.
I shake my head at the thought of all the possessions and security I wrapped around my miserable life. One day I stood in my living room waiting for my mother’s latest purchase to be delivered. The notion overpowered me – what the hell do I need with a $400 end table? And for that matter, what do I need with any of this? The thought spread like wildfire throughout my house, claiming possession by possession. Like a madman I ranted at each unnecessary object, blaming them for my unhappiness. Mentally I began making notes, assigning item after item to the same fate – time for you to go. Each room I pictured empty, free of the excess controlling my life. And, once done, I collapsed in exhaustion, reality finally reaching me. It wasn’t the things that needed to go, it was me.
The seed of Argentina was within me then, given to me by some long lost magazine article I saw years ago. I never read the story, only looked at the pictures of the people along the beaches, glistening bodies with sunscreen and bits of sand along bare legs. Villages with brightly dressed women dancing during festivals; the crowd happy and laughing in the celebration. The nightlife in Buenos Aires, with young and old people moving to an imagined Latin beat in a steamy bar. The pictures flooded my mind, opening up new ideas, new possibilities.
“Why not?” I thought, rising from my overstuffed lounge chair. Standing in my perfect living room, I committed myself to life on the edge, traveling, exploring, throwing out the mundane. No logic, no emotional pleas would ever be strong enough to stop me. Deep into that very night, I planned my escape.
Laying now by some Argentina road, without a ride in sight, some, especially my mother, would call my life hell now. “From the frying pan, into the deep of the fire,” would be her expression. It wasn’t easy telling my mother. The pleas, the anger, all running the full gambit before her resignation came. I smile within knowing that from her resignation will come new plans, new attacks to get me home. She can’t help it, I know she can’t. Casting us to play tug of war with my life, her life. As I lay peacefully in this field, I am sure she is recruiting one of the many relatives in our town to air a story laced with guilt designed to get me back.
What is my life now without my home, without my things? Well, there is the freedom. I go place to place, travel with people or alone. I realize now how little I need to be happy. Festival to festival I wander, catching the dancing and the drinking. Young people, old people, adopt me in for an hour, a day. And if I am particularly lucky, a lovely young woman with fire in her body will be an intimate companion stretching a pleasurable day to a night of endless love.
Life opens up for me daily. I’m ready for a chance meeting, or the next place to go. When I first flew to Argentina, it was my only goal. Go and see the country. As the months went on, the idea of hitchhiking up through South America to Mexico formed. Who knows, perhaps there is a second or even third dream evolving at this precise moment that will hijack my life into a totally new direction.
The sound of cars now traveling on the narrow highway wakes me from my thoughts of adventure. I gather my things, all of which fit neatly on my back, and move to the main road. I skip a step getting into the rhythm of my hitchhiking, my thumb out signaling my desire to get picked up. A first car passes, then a second. No worries. It is only a matter of time before the right car, the right person or family, will offer a lift to their village. And if I’m particularly lucky, a glass of Malbec will be in my hand before the sun sets.
copyright DElarde 2012