“Happiness is not based on oneself, it does not consist of a small home, of taking and getting. Happiness is taking part in the struggle, where there is no borderline between one’s own personal world, and the world in general” Lee H. Oswald “Letter to his brother”
– Why are you sitting with such a long face? – Daniel asked me. – Is something bothering you? – No. Not at all. Why do you think so? – I answered honestly surprised, because although I could have looked slightly off-colour, I would never guess it was so evident and easy to see; especially for a person, who definitely didn’t know me well enough to notice that.
– Well, it’s obvious that you are thinking about something. You haven’t said anything for about five minutes. – Five minutes? – I repeated even more surprised, and drank my already cold cup of coffee. – I do not know, I got lost in thoughts. But actually I did not think about anything special. I mean I was not thinking about anything in particular. Some empty thoughts were straying like hungry dogs somewhere in my brain. – Empty thoughts? There is no such a thing as “empty thoughts”. So, where were you? – he asked again, fixing his gentle gaze on me. – Where was I? Nowhere. I was here and I am here. – Oh, if you were here, you would have been here, but you are not here.
I wanted to say something. I wanted to deny. In fact, we were sitting in that kitchen for two hours or so, we had dinner, we talked a bit, and kept silent for a while. And in fact, I may have not been very talkative, but I was tired, and suddenly it got very late. I did not used to having dinner before midnight, and frankly speaking, I was very sleepy, and yes, I could have been silent for the last five minutes, because I was actually thinking about something, but really, I do not remember now about what exactly, and I wanted to say it all aloud, and maybe even I did say it, but only for myself, and in the end, instead of my words, the warm man’s voice resouned over the table:
– Well then, I’m going to bed. You may stay here, if you are willing to do so. If you like, you may sit here for a while and wait a minute. Tomorrow you will be gone, and even today you are actually not here. Stay here a little bit more, this table does not like loneliness. Leave it a little of your presence. Words should float over it, not just silence. It will remember you, it carries all traces, every touch, even the most delicate ones. Look at its top, how much history it is written there, how many scratches it has, dents, fingerprints. Stay with it for a moment, and if not today, leave your mark tomorrow while having breakfast.
I already left Argentina, and I am spending that night at the Bolivian border in a town called Villazon. For the last two days I had been cycling with a very strong headwind blowing from the north. As if it wanted to stop me or to turn me around. But to whom? Did I miss anything? I didn’t leave enough of myself? It seems to me that I did, but maybe it is again only my wishful thinking.
In Quiaca I said goodbye to the last Argentine dog. He ran to me in the town and wagged his tail. I stopped for a moment, whistled, he came closer, so I stroked him. He kept up with me for another hour, and waited when I was doing shopping. He went with me to the pharmacy and then lay down under the bike which I had left next to the bakery. He looked so terribly sad. Even when I stroked him, even when he swallowed at once all the sausages I bought for him.
Argentina is not a country of tango, Maradona, papa Franciso, nor it is a country of beautiful women, fantastic landscapes, vaunted (but overrated) beef and burgers that are far worse from Polish chops, not to mention the meet my mother serves at home. For me, Argentina will always remain the country of stray dogs. Dogs with sad eyes.
I ate the last Argentine dough, which they call here “bread” and went to the border. I came to the bridge, I stopped and turned around. The dog disappeared. I did not even notice when he ran away.
I stayed for the night in a cheap hostel, which offered a windowless lair for an equivalent of three US dollars and went to get something to eat. Finally, you may find good, nutritious, healthy and cheap food. Finally, you may get soup for lunch. Delicious soup with quinoa and a floating pieces of meatbones in it, accompanied with vegetables. It is just a starter. Then, you get baked potatoes with chicken and tomato salad, dessert and a drink – the whole meal for an equivalent of less than two dollars.
You may walk along the street and buy pancakes filled with honey, fresh bananas and oranges for one-fifth of what you pay in Argentina. And there is much more stuff in the bazaar. Fresh mangos, pineapples, boiled corn, lentils, carrots, nuts, raisins and oatmeals. And that nicely looking buzz on the streets – you get used to all those colours, smells and even noise in an instant. You simply flow in it.
It is not so easy to be here and now. Although after all, I’m pretty sure that over the last few weeks I succeeded in that strange endeavour. I was exactly where I was and where I wanted to be. With all those people I had met, dogs, ghosts, spirits, and, surely, with myself. And even with you. The last time I could not. Or maybe I could but I didn’t want to? And now? Now means now.