postcards from jenna
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 BUENOS AIRES

Postcards by Jenna Matecki
Artwork by Toni Copani

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01

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The moon and the stars
Hang in the sky around  
The airplane's wing
I sit among them  
Looking out at
What should be 3am over Bolivia

The couple seated next to me
Seem very nice, they're huddled together
Sound asleep, wrapped in their blankets

The Panamanian flight attendant and I
Had a 2:30am conversation when I waited for the clean bathroom
This frequent flier had no problem with my subsequent
Unabashed consumption of all of the water that was in a giant bottle on the kitchenette shelf
We're among the only
People who are awake here and he knows
better than anyone
how dehydrated we all are

I wanted to be asleep but
Squishing my nose into the window indentation, and then into the armrest/tray table trying to achieve the level of comfort this couple has next to me
Rendered that impossible
You and your wife would be that couple -
Snuggled up together, cute and prepared for a red eye and somehow able to sleep soundly
The only thing missing would be your muppet dog splayed out across your laps, and perhaps a tennis ball rolling down the aisle, and that old gum box you use as a kibble holder stuffed into the seat back pocket in front of you

I'm more like the man belonging to row 16, seat F, who keeps on getting up to stand and  
Stare blankly into the abyss of an unknown point on the starboard side of the fuselage
Rubbing the back of his head

I find myself thinking about whether or not I should later ask you
What the blinking lights on the edge of the airplane wing do
And if there’s a morse code type of game associated
Kind of like the nonsense we made up when we were kids
I'm tempted to make one up anyway:

Ok,
Read this very carefully:
Every 14th blink you have to say the first thing that you're grateful for, as fast as you can
Go


And, as you already know,
The first thing that came to mind as I sit here and write this and stare out at those lights and listen to the engine
Was you and your wife

I need to record your sunny voices saying "Good morning!"
And set it as my ringtone

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02 

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You would have loved the charm
Of this backyard dinner party in Núñez
It was thrown by a friend of a new friend who wore
A denim apron

There was a canopy of string lights and giant green leaves growing everywhere
Save for a corner where a couple pink roses latched onto a white wall in a near fatal attempt in the name of beauty

At one of the long tables I sat across from
A legend who said much more with his eyes than his mouth
And an artist with short bangs and a septum ring
Next to another one with a surfing habit and a theory that hands have their own set of memories

What they all had in common
Was the way they made eye contact when they listened to you
How they leaned in real close when either of you spoke

Throwing an arm around you when flipping through beloved photos of Costa Rica, their outrageous electric bills, and kids

They made you instantly feel that  
You're part of the porteño club now
The induction ceremony occured when you walked in
Past locks and keys, through a sea of cheek kisses, underneath yellow hallway lights  
It ended the first time they lovingly made fun of you over sips of malbec

Before you know it you'll actually understand their version of spanish,
And start 'sending fruit' around  
Like a pro

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Mandar Fruta ‘to send fruit’
origin: porteño slang
meaning: 1) to bullshit 2) to say something nonsensical and silly

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03

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A security guard at an iron gate
Stopped two tween girls who were trying to walk in to
Cementerio de la Recoleta
Recoleta’s famous cemetery

The guard asked if their parents were around
It seemed a little strange to me –
That parental supervision would be required for a cemetery
But I guess the subject matter of WE ALL DIE SOMEDAY
Or THESE ARE A BUNCH OF DEAD PEOPLE
Could be a little dark and necessitate a parent to give a back rub at the right times or
Point out all of the beautiful details like

How the rows and rows of mausoleums
Are reminiscent of a library, an
Outdoor library
How the floor of the entire place is covered with square tiles that “clank” when you walk on them

How a bronze statue of a young woman and her dog
Is discolored from enough people
Petting the dog’s nose

How there are fun tourists everywhere, clamoring to see graves
Including a man who chose to wear a ghostbusters t-shirt

The only people that I caught a glimpse of at the cemetery
Who had a different kind of purpose to be walking around apart from aesthetics, travel guides, and Eva Perón
Were two old, thin women
They were dressed very nicely
They both had white, puffy hair and giant rimmed glasses
They were off to the side, talking loudly so they could hear each other
One handed the other a key while
Looking down

It made me wonder who they were visiting
Where the key led
What that person meant to them
If they felt their time was
Time left
I wanted to give them both a hug
I wanted to mention
That I saw a mausoleum at the other end of the aisle
It had delicate ferns inside that were
Well kept and alive
They were
Watered from the sky and
Big fat tears from
All the loved ones who still cared
That this person was once here and then gone, vanished
To a place above, below, or between these traces at Recoleta
Back
Into the good air
That we’re all
Still breathing

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04

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I’d love to say
That I have a stomach of steel
That I can travel anywhere and eat new food, in new countries, with no problems
But last night was evidence
That I certainly can’t

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05

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I called a car
Because I was running late
Gustavo pulled up in a 2-door pickup truck.
I climbed up and sat next to him

When learning a language
You try to converse with as many people as possible
This augmented by my general extroversion
Meant that we ended up getting into a conversation
That in the beginning centered on traffic,
the pizza in Buenos Aires
And Gustavo asking about New York

He spoke really fast and in large part, I understood
When learning a language
You concentrate so hard on each individual word and you start to recognize
Which words certain people like to use
Gustavo had a preference for the word lio – 
Mess.
Gustavo described almost everything we talked about as lio – 
The traffic?
Lio.
Buenos Aires pizza?
A lio of cheese with no sauce
Is New York a lio like Buenos Aires?
Yes, in different ways.

As we bounced around in his truck
We also covered what wasn’t lio according to Gustavo – 
After each of the things he mentioned I noticed that
I myself ended up using the same word over and over again –
fantástico.

Gustavo’s favorite Argentine city named Tigre where people party on boats all the time?
Ooo! ¡Fantástico! I will go.
The Bosques de Palermo park in the center of the city which is the only place Gustavo feels truly calm?
Yes, fantástico. It’s important to have those places.
Gustavo’s admiration of strong women who know what they want?
I’m sure they love you too, Gustavo. Fantástico.

Our conversation was
A variety of topics with no real coherence but
One could also describe it as
Un lio fantástico – 
A fantastic mess.

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06

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“This is one of my favorite places,” Sergio said
We were standing barefoot in the middle of
The world’s widest river
Looking out into the horizon towards
Uruguay
At that moment it felt like
Río de la Plata had me by the ankles
Our feet were covered in the softest wet clay, calm waves lapped up against our knees
As we both bent down to scoop up the river sediment in our hands and let it fall between our fingers
Sergio told me about his love of tango, the teenagers he teaches at the local university,
His son’s clear blue eyes.
As we took careful steps through the mud
Sergio pointed out reeds on the river banks, cranes flying in the sky
We both laughed when he joked that we were walking on water
Our conversation was the only sound apart from
The river pushing and pulling around our feet
We were alone in the emptiness that surrounded us
Save for capybaras that we couldn’t see in the reeds
Fish that we knew were in the delta
A profound peace for kilometers of shallow water, this
Río de la Plata, that gave life to millions of people under southern constellations
Gave us an empty palette
A place where each of our thoughts had a color
Where each silence
Was something you could hold on to 

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07

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They said Buenos Aires
Was the Paris of Latin America
I find this phrase to be misleading
Buenos Aires is the Buenos Aires of
Buenos Aires
Dog poop on the sidewalks included
Polluted harbors and confusing side streets and words that sound like ‘shh’ included

Don't get me wrong here
This far away place is growing on me
Kind of like mate tea or
Those stores in Palermo that sell only dried fruit (how do they make money?!)

There are things that I love
A martial arts school in Las Heras Park
The tree shadows on the pathways at Usina
My evenings with Wesley but especially when
He made a soup so we could pretend it was still fall

That is to say there are reasons
Behind why I lie to locals when they ask me how it's going
I wanted to immediately fall for this place
But what I've found so far is that this
Buenos Aires is a mixture of a bunch of other ideas
The people here collage and paste up the parts they choose
The mystery is in not what is theirs but what they adapted and why
What they found and glued together
Stickiness at the seams, bread without spice
I'm slowly peeling back the layers one by one
I'm looking for genuine answers in those papers
I'm coming up a little lost

Like a child peering into a kaleidoscope unable to focus on just one thing
Knowing it's supposed to be pretty
Trusting that with a deep breath and time
She'll start seeing patterns that match
The birdsong outside

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08

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Today:
Alarm clock
Mate tea
Sneeze
Keyboard clicks
Doors opening and closing
Chrome buses with neon lights
Pigeons talking to each other
Little boy running up the sidewalk
His mother running behind him
Professional call where I quoted a rate
Personal call where I yelled “happy birthday!”
A dog named Roquero breathing
Old fashioned can opener on a can of chickpeas
Yawns
Spring shivers

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09

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Electronic dance music was playing loudly
Bright lights were in my face
As I lay in the dentist’s chair in Recoleta
Living life a month at a time in a different place
Means you still have to have the mundane, yet important things done
Like getting your teeth cleaned, in Buenos Aires

The dentist and her technician
Sang along to a chorus
That would have been heard in Ibiza or at one of the many
Coachella-like festivals
It drowned out the hum of their toothbrushes and drill things
Or the whooshing noise that came from the spit tube in my mouth
The snap of a latex glove

I didn’t really know what was going on exactly between my molars
But I felt a kind of relaxed
That I didn’t expect to feel
When I had a giant plastic lip stretcher in my mouth
That rendered me unable to not smile

The funny thing is
Given how surprisingly enjoyable this was for the three of us
Among heavy bass beats and mint
I would have anyways

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10

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Toni is the kind of person
Who, if you walk into a room,
She’ll get up from her chair
And step over in her black sneakers
Just to give you a kiss on the cheek and
Wish you good morning

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11

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I was in line at the photo shop
Behind a bunch of photographers with cameras in hand
And that Beatles song “Because” came on the speakers
I can’t tell you how amused I was
That instantly everyone started swaying along
As if the entire room became candle wax
As if they were living inside the film they came to develop
And they suddenly found themselves in a bath
Of chemicals

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12

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The green footbridge over the train tracks
That connects Avenida Dorrego with Guatemala
Is my favorite place
In all of Buenos Aires
I discovered it while walking home
After a weekend afternoon spent with my hands covered in ink
During a magic hour when the sun set
And casted the sky and the bright green trees and gravel plants
All in a glowing pink, as if
One of those graffiti artists who tagged the walls here
Got a big can of neon spray paint and
Clouded up the scene
After she would stop and look at it with her head slightly sideways, admiring the view,
Proud that it came from her

The footbridge is suspended against two switchback ramps on either side
Creating an effect similar to the long lines at a stadium
Where the line snakes back and forth
So people walking up or going down pass by each other, slightly higher or lower

When I was making the climb
At one point I almost kissed a dog that was on the ramp ledge that was higher than me
We were at face height with each other
He kept on walking back and forth between the members of his group
Making sure everyone was together for the journey ahead

There was a baby girl in a stroller with a giant bow in her hair
Who I passed on my second turn up
She smiled serene, staring out at her little universe, kicking her feet

Once I was at the top
Walking across the straightaway, past the power lines
I thought of you, and I wanted to send this scene your way
So you could see how I’m living
This minute above the train tracks
Is what I want the answer to be for
What my day was like -
How I walked across
the hours before dusk

 
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13

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11pm night owls in
Reposera chairs on the sidewalk
Quick to laugh
Genuinely
Unafraid
of anything

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14

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I tied my shoelaces
Against a brick pillar with a plaque that mentioned
That a prison once stood here -

I was in a park that was filled to the brim with cheerful faces
Families picnicked and children played soccer in
A leafy living room sixty years free from
Pointless bars -

Where hopelessness once reigned
Friends now lay together in the grass
Looking at the sky and
Talking about their days

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15

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You're there between your arms,
The box around your face
Steady eyes that look back at me
Measurements from the color brown
You're a rebel with
A forbidden t-shirt
A class act in a place that's
Covered in dust
A patient leader for group of people in Villa Crespo who all know,
Because of you,
How to pack a punch

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16

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It’s the way a new friend nods when you tell them your life story
They knew your character upon meeting you
What they now learned is the way you put it together –
How your intricate feathers
Became a wing

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17

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The dance between
What we dream for ourselves
And reality:
A spider in a web
And a piece of hair
Love
And a world where people can be broken
Tango
And a couple busking on the street in San Telmo

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18 

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The women who founded Ushuaia
Swam in this cold, green water
Hunting for seafood
Their hands waved through the still
Of a crystalline shore
At the edge of the world before Antarctica
They made their homes on seashell bays, their
Stories lit fires
In a place where
A tree that is 89 years old
Is still a teenager
Where a sunset sings
Every shade of blue
Where a glacier holds
A cup of water

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19 

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Buenos Aires,
I sneezed out a lot of pollen
Yet tasted flowers
I looked for art and instead found
Datos de color
Colorful details
Positive notes
Like a well-timed joke
Or a good story that
Even at the end
Still feels
Unfinished

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##

…hay más?

Thank you for reading these stories. Thank you also for signing up to get a limited edition postcard in the mail. There’s another chapter from Barcelona. There’s also another from Mexico City, and Tokyo, but I’m going to assume you’re reading these in order…