My breath was shaken by the nearby explosions when I got off the ferry from Colonia. I could hear the cannons firing for Moyano’s strike when the cab driver picked me up at the station. I wondered what it felt like to live in a war zone.
“Luckily you’re going to Palermo, because el microcentro es un quilombo, esta todo cortado.” The taxi driver told me. “150,000 protesters today and it is only going to get worse.”
“Why are they protesting?” I feigned naivety, a young woman’s greatest secret weapon.
“It’s all for power. Nothing changes. They aren’t fighting for the Villa or the Obrero. They are fighting for who has the most power. It is always the same.”
“Are they mad with Christina?” I implored him in my poorly accented and stuttered Spanish to continue his rant.
“Christina es….,” he grumbled. “Last year I had to work 12 hours and today I work 14 to make the same money. Vos, how long have you been en Buenos Aires?”
“2 ½ years.”
He turned around and looked at me in shock and disbelief. “Pero, why? Seguramente you don’t earn the money that you could earn in Los Estados Unidos.”
I shrugged. “I guess I don’t care about money as much as I should.”
“Pero, mi amor,” he leaned over his shoulder to look me in the eye, and I looked away, careful to maintain the etiquette of non-engagement. “Without money, no anda nada.”
“I have to eat. I have to pay for my children. I have to have to wear clothes and buy petrol. I don’t even drive my own taxi, I am an employee. I have my own car, but I can’t afford the documentation to operate it independently. Taxes, inflation – they get you in one way or another. Igual, I live my life and enjoy it. If you think too much about money, you will go crazy. It’s like power for the protesters and politicians – no matter how much of it they have, they always want more.”
“I’m not sure any amount of money nor power could really satisfy a person.”
He rambled on but I got lost between his Spanish and my own thoughts and I recalled a passage from Steinbeck:
And Samuel could remember hearing of a cousin of his mother’s in Ireland, a knight and rich and handsome, and anyway shot himself on a silken couch, sitting beside the most beautiful woman in the world who loved him.
“There’s a capacity for appetite,” Samuel said, “that a whole heaven and earth of cake can’t satisfy.”