Walking along that Abasto…
hysicians say that walking is a good habit for the human body; but a healthier and better idea for the spirit is to walk the streets of one's neighborhood, and if the one chosen by life is the Abasto is much better, so they say.
And I, how fool, I dared to follow that piece of advice... and what for?
I wanted to see again the old sides of the streets of mine, as usual, always full of tired porters with heavy bales as if they were carrying terrestrial globes, lighted by languid lamps that made their shadows rebound with varied shapes against the ground as if pretending to divert them from so many fatigues.
I wished to meet again those old time tenders, «guys who aspired to become pimps», a special mixture of La Calabria with El Abasto, who bore boastfully watches with watchcases and gold chains hanging from their waistcoat pockets; the old Italian porters with a sash round their waists to prevent hernias, those who, at their breaks, had raw beans, bread and onion as their only meal, because their sole aim was to bring their family that had remained in their homeland waiting for the long awaited call.
Roaming the surrounding streets Anchorena, Lavalle, Agüero and Corrientes I wanted to meet again the noisy barrooms, eating houses and joints like El Progreso, Universal (el de mi viejo), Torino, Chanta Cuatro, Roma, Ideal, El Huevo Duro, La Copa de Oro, El Modesto, Internacional, El Morocho del Abasto, El 580, El de Pombo, El Chacarero, Dellepiane, El Abasto Bar, La Cueva, all them used as administration offices for payments and collections by consignees, tenders, traders at fairs and porters. Their corners were as well inhabited by punters, gamblers and tramps ready to cheat; their tables were full of characters from books of fantastic adventures with varied garments according to their tasks, but nearly all them except the latter, with hands marked by the signs of heavy work. They went there to enjoy the only daily vice allowed: playing cards with challenges already programmed by the losers of the day before.
I wanted to see again the carts fully loaded and the old horses dozing because of their fatigue and the night, placed slantingly on Corrientes, awakened by the streetcars passing very close to them shaving their muzzles if they did not put them aside.
I wanted to meet again the pizza vendor placed on any corner who, with just a shout announcing his arrival, like a magic act, was capable of gathering around him a crowd of hungry workers. They, in order not to waste time, came carrying their bundles, paid and devouring those portions went away stumbling with their loads, like tight-rope walkers.
I wanted to meet again the native industrial punters, who visiting locals and barrooms, far from the absent-minded eyes of the involved cops, were greeted by the smiles of the winners and of those with little papers full of hopes but with scarce future realities.
I wanted to meet again those traders at the fairs with their pinafores full of money collected by transactions with those who paid debts for cargo received without signing any paper as if it were something common and logical; picking dirty disarrayed money that they were cleaning, selecting and passing to the vendor, while among mutual insults they bargained the final value, as if the end of the world was coming for them, but it was only the last game until the next day.
I wanted to meet my grandpa Pepe again, the only one who wore a pinafore and collar, walking along Corrientes, with the pack of the sale in his hand, towards the bank as a daily habit, seen by all the passers-by as if he were carrying nothing. He entered, left it at the counter and went back to his job without waiting for the teller to count it, because it was not necessary; everybody knew that nothing had to be missing and nothing was missing indeed.
I found none of these things and even though I understand it has to be this way because you cannot be so naive to expect to be again with those you loved because life teaches us that we live leaving behind the loved things for pains and heartaches only leave you alone when you cease to exist.
I walked more slowly, head bent, dragging my feet and with tears in my eyes, quite aware that I was going to find nothing of those things I loved, even though I tried hard. And if the ones we loved passed away almost inadvertently in like manner life passed while we were looking for ourselves.
I wanted to meet even myself again...but now for what?
Coco del Abasto