D 5 12 19 26 L 6 13 20 27 M 7 14 21 28 M 1 8 15 22 29 J 2 9 16 23 30 V 3 10 17 24 31 S 4 11 18 25 32

miercoles 1 de enero

Destino: Miami, EE UU Modo: Avión y Taxi Distancia: 6,221 kilómetros

Buenos Aires a Miami

Dolores was looking and feeling a thousand percent better when we had our final breakfast together early on New Year’s morning. She apologized for keeping such a low profile the day before, and I assured her that everything was fine. My only concern was whether or not she was going to be OK, now that her adopted son was flying back home. Oh, Patrick, don’t flatter yourself, Dodo jabbed, Besides, I have a Harvard student coming to stay with me next semester. I bet he’s much more interesting than you. Six hours into the New Year and the señora had already nailed me with two zingers. For his sake, I hoped that my study abroad successor from Cambridge had a good sense of humor. Being a holiday, I had to call a taxi to take me out to Ezeiza for my 10:30 flight. I placed the call and grabbed my bags by the front door. On top of my hanging bag was a large brown envelope with Dolores’ unmistakable handwriting, Patrick, Podés abrirlo cuando estes en las nubes! (You can open this when you’re in the clouds!) She had been at it again. “What is this, Dolores?” “No, no, no...Read the note...You have to wait, Patrick!” This was frustrating because whatever it was, I wanted to be there in order to thank her for it personally. But Dodo persisted, and I reluctantly tucked the envelope into my Patagoniabackpack. I walked downstairs to the curb and my waiting taxi, and said “goodbye” to Dolores and Nelson for, what I assumed would be, the very last time. I gave Nelson an abrazo and thanked him for his friendship over the past five months. The six words that came out of his mouth were unexpected: Buen viaje, señor...No nos olvides. A final round of hugs, a long stem rose and gracias por todo for the señora, and it was finally time to go. The taxi raced through the empty Palermo streets and eventually up the ramp onto Avenida General Paz where I had been lying on my back in a white tent only four weeks earlier. Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the international departure concourse of Aeropuerto Nacional de Ezeiza. 185

Inside the terminal, I was floored to find a group of ten friends waiting for me by the LanChile counter. While only expecting to see Francisco and Pedro, word had apparently leaked that I was going back to the States. The group assembled was there to see me off, take pictures and exchange e-mail addresses. I appreciated the gesture and was reminded once again of the overwhelming importance that Latin Americans place on friendships. I was also reminded of something that my favorite professor, Mario Cantarini, had once told me about Buenos Aires over five months ago. Patrick, he explained, when and if you ever make the conscious decision to leave Buenos Aires, the city will sense it and make every effort to keep you from going. And even if you persist and are able to leave, a small part of you will stay here forever. As I rode the “passenger only” escalator up to the boarding area and looked down at my friends waving below, I could actually feel the escalator slowing down. Mario was right. The city was doing her level best. And even though my plane departed for Miami on time and brought me back to the States some twelve hours later, not a day goes by that I am not still sitting in a dark confitería at the corner of Colonel Díaz and Libertador waiting for the day that I return. If you happen to be in Buenos Aires and see me over there by the window, just give me a friendly wave or a reassuring thumbs up letting me know that one day I will be back. We would both really appreciate it. Soon after takeoff, the 767 banked sharply to the northwest carrying us 25,000 feet above the fertile Pampas below. I reached down into my backpack and pulled out the envelope that Dolores had given me at breakfast. There on a card was a drawing of Argentina, the Southern Cross and a short poem that read: When you return, Patrick to your great country, continuing your young journey, you will pass through a hundred climates and constellations, and between the colors of other flags, perhaps you will look for the Argentine blue, the máte, a conversation, the rhythm of a tango, the sky above the Pampas, almost always blue. And a friendly home that will be waiting for you...here in the South! Dolores. So here I was. Only hours away from a new chapter of life and career in the States. A chapter that would begin with no job, no apartment, no car and no savings to speak of. But at least I had one thing: A home in the South. And where I’m from, that’s something to be proud of. 186


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