Shut up already

– El Negro said to look for Villa Diamante, said around 2 am would be a good time.

– So what are those things he left for you at the hotel? Tickets?

– I don’t think it works that way, you know. I dunno, they look more like passwords or keys to me, he said as he pulled them out of the pocket of his American army jacket. They were in an envelope, not much bigger than business cards, black with an artsy B&W picture of the face of someone who looked like one of the piqueteros they had seen earlier on the way from the airport, a dark face with angry eyes, mouth and nose covered with a kaffiyah like scarf, like a bedouin or a bank robber. Rulo was careful, when pulling them out the envelope, to not lose the other gifts El Negro had left for them there:

– And you know, don’t take it the wrong way, but I’m too old for acids…

– Too old, eh. Anything you say, chief. I’ll keep the pepas in my pocket, raise a finger if you change your mind, I won’t go there alone.

They were walking more or less aimlessly around Floresta neighborhood, looking for a semi-clandestine rave, a madman guerrilla DJ and a posse of characters that, according to Rulo’s friend El Negro, was ‘the’ thing to check out in BA, even if very few people knew about it. Or maybe because of it.

Found it! A rundown warehouse, some kind of derelict old factory, graffiti, people outside as they approach the gate and Lily shows the cards. All eyes are on her, right there on the sidewalk, as the bouncers move to the side to let them in. She’s wearing a lot of black around her eyes, and her see-through top leaves little to the imagination. Small tits, but perky, beautiful hips, very white skin. She’s had her hair, as red as ever, cut short before this trip.

Lo que no nos gusta, no lo miramos… las boludeces, no las escuchamos… si tu onda no nos cabe, nos vamos…

Inside, the beat drowns everything, and it’s hard to describe. As far as Lily, with her vast experience in pop music, can tell, it’s a massive, fat, deep bass tropical cumbia base with a lot of remixes thrown into it, most of them unknown to her, of Spanish tracks. She spots some American hip hop lines mixed in as they walk towards the dancefloor, but it soon seamlessly changes to Argie pop, and the crowd goes even wilder.

Toxica… princesa de la quimica… toxica… super accion, la solucion…

It’s hot inside, and very dark, with explosions of white light in machine-gun rhythms. The crowd is very eclectic, and there seems to be no dress code whatsoever. The level of sound is truly brutal, and the air literally vibrates and shakes with the bass lines. Rulo and Lily are on the dancefloor, he’s taken off his green jacket and tossed it on the floor between them, and they are dancing, eyes firmly on each other’s. Suddenly, she smiles and raises a finger. He smiles back, and looks for something in the jacket. He has a tiny square on the tip of his finger as she opens her mouth and pulls her tongue out, eyes closed.

Si te llevo de favor me prometes que esta vez… no vas a arruinar la fiesta… apretados… microdancing… no esperes nada de mi, no esperes nada de mi, apretados, microdancing…

Minutes passed, or hours, and they kept moving to the beat and looking into their eyes. The whole warehouse throbbed and pulsated, fading away sometimes, becoming a smaller space others: that kibbutz pub at the Young Pioneers. They both felt they were there again at a certain point, and that instead of a crowd of hipster porteños dancing to some hard cumbia mixes, they were surrounded by some crew-cut young israelis out of army duty for the night, and foreigner volunteers, all laughing and drinking, and some dancing to old disco and 80’s hits:

In between “what I find is pleasing” and “I’m feeling fine”… love is so confusing… there’s no peace of mind if I fear I’m losing you…

Rulo grabbed Lily by the waist of her jeans, and roughly pulled her close to him, and for a second she looked at him, and her eyes said, “not again”, but he smiled and shouted into her ear,

– I like your dancing…

She smiled back, and yelled,

– You’re not bad yourself!

After that, they both laughed, he picked up his jacket and they walked out. Once on the sidewalk again, it took them a while to readjust to the silence and the night air. White flashes kept blinding them for a long while. The place, the faces, the sounds, everything looked completely foreign to Lily, and Rulo wasn’t having it easier there, as many trends and layers in his life were converging into that one night, creating powerful emotions and bringing back lost memories.

They started walking, Lily wearing his jacket over her top, with an idea to get to an avenue and catch a taxi back to the hotel. All of a sudden, Rulo stopped and let out a loud “JA!”, grinning.

– What’s up?, Lily said

– You won’t believe this, but I used to live here with our friend Xavier, right here, in this bookstore. Yeah, that’s right. The church right there, the Chinese supermarket, it’s here, this is it…

– You boys lived in a bookstore?

– It had been a shoestore before. Then my friend Enzo, in one of his chaotic business moves, rented it with an idea to sell vitamins and nutritional supplements he was importing from the US at the time…

– And, and?

– Well, that business never quite panned out I guess, his mind had already moved on to bigger and better, as he started thinking of moving into the US himself, rather than bringing goods from there… but anyway, Brandsen Palais was kaputt by then, the Enfant Terrible and me had finally clashed hard over I don’t remember what -my plans to leave the house and him and resume traveling, how gay-, the place had gone to the dogs, I had to stick around for a couple of months in BA as I was finally, finally completing university, and X was arriving soon, to spend some time with me, and then do some South American traveling together.

– Not very good timing on Xavier’s part, eh…

– Not good indeed, but we put some effort into it, some love, and ended up doing great, did in fact have a great time together eventually, only… it was a darker time than back then, darker than in Christiansands… we were both older, for one. I was under a lot of stress, getting that goddamned college out of the way finally, the Brandsen experiment ending up in flames, and also…

– What?

– Nothing. I was gonna say that spending time with him brought back a lot of memories of back then. But let’s focus on the fun. You know, we put up some cardboard to cover the street windows, brought a table and a couple of chairs, our sleeping bags, a lot of bad BA weed. When I say bad, I mean it’s paranoid, dark-vision-inspiring stuff, less suitable for Bob Marley than for Massive Attack, who knows why… and… JAJAJA!

– What is it, R?

– Just remembered the moped. A tiny purple 50cc moped that I used to have, and we both, fully grown men, would get on top of that thing and ride in the crazy BA traffic, high, dodging the buses and cabs, so close to getting killed all the time. And here’s what’s funny, that thing, the moped, would sleep with us in the store, we’d keep it inside, there’s this classic pic of X smoking a big fat joint, I know we had some trip hop on the boombox and were about to rehash the same conversation about you for the millionth time then play chess and drink, and the purple thing is right there in the background…

– How did you guys manage with the bathroom?

– There was a tiny bathroom there, with no shower but a sink, so I had found a length of hose and we’d make some crazy arrangements to get a cold shower now and then… insane times, Lily, he would come with me to one of the mags I was working at sometimes to check his email and keep me company, or he’d go and hang with my friends Laura and Vlad who had a little take-out place in La Boca in addition to their punk rock band, he’d help them cook at their restaurant and in turn they’d get him high on coke, snorting the stuff all day long right there on the shop counter, and the funniest thing is that their place was right across the street from a police precinct, and cops would pop in to buy empanadas and sandwiches all the time… I was reading like crazy, cramming for my final exams, high and drunk 24/7 of course… he got along with the program pretty quick, I’m proud to say that his old backpacker wholesomeness was definitely lost here in BA that time…

– Fucking hell…

– What’s this? Oh, look at this, Lily… an old-fashioned milonga!

– What’s a milonga?

– A tango dancefloor, basically… nothing like where we’ve just been… mostly old timers here, well, maybe some younger dancers too, but… hey… do you wanna check it out? I can’t dance tango, but we can look…

– Can’t you at least try?

– Nah, it doesn’t work that way. You either know or you don’t, if you don’t, better not dance at all. Come on, I’ll buy you a drink and we can look, you’ll like this. I promise you, if you don’t dump me again, I’ll take tango lessons with you at some point!

– OK, but I didn’t dump you.

– Yes you did. Come on, let’s go inside…

There were no strobe lights, no special effects, nothing of the sort there. It was just a big, spare room with some chairs against the walls and a bar and some tables, some mirrors on the walls, looked like a community center or a school meeting room. A big sign across the door said Salon Federal, and an old timer sitting on a tall bench there just waved them in, no cover charge of secret card to show. There was a small stage, and a 4 men combo played old favorites, 2 accordions, 1 violin, 1 guitar, no singer. Couples, mostly middle-aged but some younger and some older, partook of the ancient rite, and it looked like nothing Lily had ever seen, not like any films or videoclips, not like anything really. It was very subdued, very un-spectacular and intimate, just a complicated geometry of steps and counter-steps going on below the knees, but perfectly erect and elegant upper bodies.

They sat at a table and Rulo ordered their drinks. Lily was digging the music and curiously following the circles and sudden stops on the dancefloor, when, out of the blue, he said:

– I can’t wait until we’re older. I’ve got this place in Immokalee, you know – just a few acres of groves, a creek, some plans to grow veggies there, just got a secondhand prefab home and put it there the other day. You can spend most of your time in London, you said you never lived alone and maybe it’s time you did. You can visit me part of the year… be a snowbird…

– We’ve been over this, haven’t we…

– No we haven’t. Not really. What is it? Do you want to keep sleeping with Sean? You can, L, him or anyone else you want over there… you can do anything you want. You don’t have to say you love me either, or anything. All you need to do is show up at my place now and then and let me adore you. I’ll take your leftovers. I’ll take whatever you can give me.

– Oh, please, with the melodrama…

– I’ll go to London for a few days when I can, too. We’ll meet twice or thrice a year, fuck as much as we possibly can, hug, have a good time together, then go back to our lives, say hi on FB and Skype, wait for the next… I won’t be in your way… your hip friends will never meet me, I don’t give a hoot, I… I want you, you know that, come on…

– You’re high and not making sense… I’m here already, you stupid cretin, what else do you want?

– Don’t look at me in that tone of voice! I’m telling you, I… I want to… be your… special one…

– Be my what? Speak clearly, Rulo!

– Be your special man, dammit, Lily! I WANT YOU TO FUCKING FALL IN LOVE WITH ME! Seriously, come on… fuck it…

– So you’re asking me to…

– I’m not asking you for anything, woman. I asked once, and that’s it. I only ask things once, and you said no. I clearly remember, on that bus to Egypt, to the border, before the Land Cruiser you know, I asked you to come with me and find a beach somewhere and spend our lives there. You laughed at me and said no, but it really would have been in your best interest, because…

– Oh, stop it, please…

– You’ll lose it in the end, you will, you’ll see, I’ll make and effort and…

– SHUT UP!

A few heads turned, the band finished what it was playing, looked at them disapprovingly, and started on another one. Most dancers headed away from the dancefloor, except for an older couple, in poor and decent clothes, who stayed there and danced to an old tune, Nieblas del Riachuelo -Rulo recognized it-, very slowly and with the utmost care and consideration towards each other. Lily and Rulo looked at each other in silence, then at the old couple, then again at each other.

– I’m sorry, man, Lily said

– I just lose it around you, girl. Always have, always will. I need to learn to play the tough guy, say I don’t care about you and all that… and I can’t… you’re the only one, you always were…

– Oh, Rulo, come on, stop that…

– Look at those old birds, Lily… do we really have to wait until then?

– I’ll go, OK? I’ll go sometime, soon. Pick your oranges or whatever. Or you can come. You can come, and I’ll be waiting for you, show you a good time. I said it, are you happy? How the fuck I’m gonna do it, I don’t know, but something will have to be done IF YOU WILL SHUT UP ALREADY. I’m starving. Let’s get out of here.

– OK, let’s go to the Abasto, there’s all these little Peruvian joints there, you’ll like it… is that a… I hope you’re not…?

– No, it’s the acid or something. Let’s go. What do they eat in Peru?

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