I Felt Ashamed

My first night in Buenos Aires I went to a restaurant with two Australians I knew from Cordoba. After our meal a 40’s-something woman with a stack of newspapers came inside the restaurant and walked to our table. Before she had a chance to open her mouth I told her we don’t speak Spanish. She said that’s fine because she speaks English, that she is homeless and selling newspapers for about 75 cents US. I ignored her, brushed her aside like she was nobody. You have people coming at you with some pitch so many times a day that it’s hard not to develop a shield to it.

Twelve days later I got a large cheese pizza for takeout and ate it at the hostel. The pizza was so good that the only thing to do the cheese grease justice was to wash it down with a coke. I went to the kiosco across the street and was second in line behind a woman. She paid and through the cage I asked for my coke. Trying to explain I wanted the mas pequeña size, my horrible Spanish accent got her attention and she looked at me. I recognized her as the woman trying to sell the newspapers.

I don’t remember who spoke first, but she asked me where I was from and said I looked Argentine. I joked how no Argentine guy has as much hair as me. We talked for about five minutes, about left and right brain differences and how she likes art and how my scientist gig didn’t do it for me and how her engineer friend has social issues. We were two strangers having an interesting conversation.

She had a large bag on her shoulder which had the newspapers. I was waiting for her to ask me to buy me one, which I was happily going to do. But she never asked.

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