Last Sunday I woke up to my first full day in Caballito and just felt cold and lonely. Fall really arrived that day...the light was thin and pale and the breeze was cool enough for a scarf and jacket. Everything feels different when the light is different, and I felt like I was someplace else. Philadelphia, New York, Madrid...it could have been any city. I didn't feel like sitting in the house but I didn't feel like being out in the world alone either, so I packed up my reading and journal and figured out how to walk over to Parque Centenario to go to the Natural Science Museum.
Sometimes being surrounded by people can make you feel the most lonely, and I know that. It has really been confirmed here a million times over, since there are few places in Buenos Aires where there aren't tons of people. I'm not naturally a lonely person. I like alone time, which is so different from being lonely. I've obviously had some great experiences, but I also feel like I've peppered Buenos Aires with a lot of loneliness. In my old neighborhood I had places where I purposefully went when I felt lonely, and places where loneliness had suddenly struck, and places where just walking by them made me feel lonely.
And now, strangely enough, it made me feel even more lonely to have to move and create my new lonely places again. The fact that in Palermo I had been lonely in them so many times before almost made them less so...now they were comfortable, worn-in, familiar. So I went to the Natural Science Museum, paid 3 pesos and wandered through dark, stuffy rooms filled with whale skeletons, bottom-feeder fish, and squids preserved in formaldahyde. I took videos of bubbles squirting out of fish tank pumps and looked at dinosaur bones. I watched kids run around and gasp in Spanish, and saw an aboriginal skeleton of some sort of pre-human that was short and thin but upright.
I started to miss things I don't usually miss, like the Zoo (since I saw stuffed birds that made my skin crawl) but it was just a big longing for familiarity, I guess. I exited and sat on the front steps eating chocolate con leche aireado (my chocolate intake here has been unprecedented...and obscene) and then wandered over to the park.
Going to parks alone on lonely days is not a good idea, in case you were ever considering it. I sat on the cold stones next to the pond and watched families and couples and friends. (I also watched an obscene park puppet show where a muscle-man puppet danced to "You Can Leave Your Hat On" and then whipped off his tiny Speedo to reveal a foot-long penis, but that's neither here nor there). I wondered why my friends hadn't called me, and missed my brother, mom and dad. I watched mate gourds be passed around and kids fight with their siblings and grandmas help grandchildren throw bread crumbs to geese.
Building a life in Buenos Aires has been the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I have pretended that it hasn't, even though I've known it has all along. One way of dealing with this has been watching hours of online TV and sitting in my room alone. Today at dinner my new host mom Liliana called me out on it. At my old house in Palermo I had gotten used to coming home and heading to my room, to never seeing anybody and having my host sister ignore me. She asked me why I hole myself up in my room. I hadn't even given it much thought...I'd just gotten so used to being alone.
Today, I stop being lonely.