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Guacomole and chili con carne

published: 2010-03-07

My friend from Argentina says she is 58 years old. I look at her pigmented hands, (“too much sun my whole life,” she quickly says), her boney body, the difficulty with which she descends a few steps (“I hurt my knee”), the anger as she snaps at the taxi-driver for not knowing the way when he is simply heading towards the street she told him to go. She herself has forgotten the name. She wants us to stop and take another taxi, but by chance I know the restaurant she wants to eat and manage to cover for her.
She had opened at least three locks while I waited for her in her hallway. This was after the doorman had called to ask whether he could let me through. As the door swung open I saw the woman I held so dear. The one who’s anger was passion, who’s temparament was pride, who hid a soft center behind a sharp wit and grumpy demeanour. Short jet-black hair. A tomboy in old-fashioned clothes: mint green embroidered skirts, ironed with starch. Chinese slippers. And white panty-hose.
It looked as if she were cut in half.
“I gained weight now but three weeks ago I still looked like an anorexic,” she said. This time she is wearing a black, silk shirt that she has buttoned up to her neck with a big necklace over it, the kind of necklace Frida Carlo could wear. Her long black skirt is layered and ruffled. Two patent leather shoes stick out beneath it.
“You can’t solve death,” she said, “everything in life you can. But not death.”
After having listened to her story about how her husband died, we headed to the restaurant. The one where she always ate with him. The one she forgot how to get to.
The waiter asks how her husband is doing. She mumbles in the grumpy way of hers that he has died. She doesn’t look at the waiter but at me and in doing so denies him the chance of expressing his sympathy.
“You see? In Rio nobody cares, ” she says, “my husband was the only family I had here. I shouldn’t have told that waiter. I usually lie. Why does he ask anyway? What if I am a lesbian and you were my girlfriend, what does he know?”
I treat her to dinner because I want her to eat, she needs to gain weight. But she orders only a main course, I guess it was how she did things with her husband. And one glass of wine.
“Do you cook?” I ask.
“I used to make guacomole for my husband,” she says, “and chili con carne sometimes.”

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