Elena, the guide
The two of us rendezvoused regularly, often meeting on a bench in a small square named after Rudolfo Walsh, a writer who was killed by Argentina’s military junta in the late 70s. There we would watch people and pigeons, drink red wine straight from the bottle, and occasionally neck.
I made a point of knowing very little about her, experience having taught me that true attraction flourishes under the surface of words left unspoken. She, on the other hand, seemed to know everything about me because I couldn’t stop talking about myself.
Elena managed to stop me mid-sentence one afternoon to tell me she was going home to the coastal town where she had grown up. She handed me a guidebook to Uruguay and said that if I ever wanted to find her I should look inside. Afterwards she got up, kissed me on the nose, and vanished into a throng of passersby. I didn’t expect to ever see her again.
The next several months in B.A. were a drunk and lonely period. Every once and while I’d find myself hanging out with a group of kids in La Boca smoking paco or sniffing rubber cement out of brown paper bags, which managed to break the spell for an hour or two. Often I’d find myself lying in bed at the end of the night, strung out, flipping through Elena’s book. I thought of her more and more with each passing day.
Cabo Polonia. The name of the town was underlined in the book with an orange highlighter. Its description consisted of a single, yet remarkable, sentence: “Quaint and colorful, with no electricity, no running water, one horse, and herds of sea lions.” Instinctively I somehow knew this was where I could find Elena. In a fevered panic, I packed a bag and hopped a ferry to Montevideo.
As the sun came up over the Atlantic I imagined my mind a rising tide lapping against the shores of Cabo Polonia. Off in the distance I could see Elena, riding the town’s only horse along the beach through the fog, a lighthouse flickering off in the distance. I could feel the movement of her and her steed moving inside me through my poisoned veins. She coursed through my liver and kidneys, and rounded my heart. She tingled at the tips of my fingers and toes. Suddenly I was seasick and vomiting over the side of the ferry.
From Montevideo I had to take a bus to Punta del Este, where I caught another bus to a stop in the middle of nowhere. I managed to escape a crippling hangover by pounding yerba mate with an elderly sot named Mario. As he dozed off and started snoring quietly on my shoulder, I began daydreaming about ferocious spells of steamy afternoon intercourse on top of jagged rocks and fish pulled straight out of the ocean and roasted over an open fire.
I got off in dusty Cabo Polonia and was met with gringo eyes everywhere I walked. No one in town had ever heard of a girl called Elena, and she certainly wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. I found a quiet spot on the cliffs above the ocean and rolled myself a joint. As I smoked alone, watching a heard of sea lions 150 yards off, yelping and sleeping and fucking, I promised myself that from here on out, I wasn’t going to talk about myself so goddamned much.
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