Working in an Argentinian restaurant is pretty much a dream come true for me – I get to run around serving people empanadas and introducing them to the wonders of dulce de leche, while chatting to inquisitive customers about Argentina, occasionally practicing my Spanish… and they even pay me to do it!
Between the restaurant, skyping my sisters in San Rafael, and Argentina’s so-far-successful World Cup campaign, it seems like I can’t ignore the signs and I’m getting really itchy to head back over there. For now though, I just have memories to go by. There are so many and I could write about a million scenes – but here are a handful of piropos (pick-up-lines) I received when falling in love with Buenos Aires. For me, part of the appeal is the city’s grime and sleaze – but piropos are less about harassment than they are about wit, humour, and flattery. Culturally speaking they’re worlds apart from your average truck driver’s honk.
Tuesday. Abasto to Palermo, 11p.m.
Lavalle Street. Three balding men slouch into green folding chairs, forming a triangle as they set up camp for the evening in an empty parking space. One of the men tops up the others’ glasses with scotch. On a milk crate sits a shabby transistor radio which boradcasts a metallic, crackling commentary of a football game audible from several metres away. “Hey, redhead! If you played with my balls we could reach the World Cup.”
Santa Fé Avenue. A dark and muscular young man stands in a brightly lit, marbled alcove. He pushes the apartment’s intercom repeatedly and swears in frustration. Fully aware he is being observed, the man casually leans his shoulder blades into the marble and crosses one denim-clad leg in front of the other. His eyes rest on the strappy dancing shoes swinging from her hand, which prompt him to growl a famous tango out of tune: “If she forgets me/I wouldn’t care if I lost my life a thousand times/For why would I live?” He steps onto the footpath, blackened and polka dotted with discarded chewing gum. Loud comments reverberate off the concrete. “You’ve killed me, angel! I am dead at your dancing feet! Now can I take you to heaven?”
Wednesday. Barrio Norte to Recoleta, 11a.m.
Corner of Anchorena and Arrenales. An elderly man perches on a faded blue bucket, lit cigarette in hand. He wears a frayed, yellowing singlet and tweed trousers which are worn at the knee. The man’s brogues, however, are impeccably smooth and polished to a near-reflective shine. Beside him on the cracked bitumen is a collection of brushes, mottled rags, and dented tins of shoe polish. “Señorita, why don’t you bring those cute little cheeks over here, and let me take a look at your leather?”
Juncal Street. A rake thin teenager weaves between taxis, his orange scooter spluttering tufts of smoke into the already foul air. With an air of easy arrogance, he throws a u-turn across the narrow, one-way street. The driver of a beaten-up Fiat swerves and only just misses him, raising both hands in a universal gesture of angry disbelief. The boy on the scooter is obviously shaken, but feigns a cool demeanour and rides onto the footpath. “I’d better accompany you home, princesita, because you’re going to cause an accident.”
Pueyrredón Avenue. A group of thirty-somethings in mint green hospital scrubs are seated outside a cafe. They sip diet coke under white umbrellas, the cans leaving rings of perspiration on the table. Some have their faces turned towards mobile phones, while others watch customers entering parisian-style bakeries across the avenue. One elbows his colleague, who then draws the attention of the rest of the group. They begin a slow clap, the pace gradually quickening until they have risen out of their seats, cheering. “Aplauso for the lady in shorts! Today the hospital will fill with broken hearts!”
Maybe I’ll dig up some more creative writing soon, who knows!
What do you think of piropos? Personally, I find them more playful than offensive, but I know others feel threatened and I am seriously offended when I receive similar treatment back here in Adelaide. I’d love to hear your two centavos!