All I can do is watch this chaos out the window of Jimena's shoebox apartment. I was waiting for her to wake up to take me downtown. I need to buy new shoes to replace the ones I wore out hiking in Jujuy, but I’m very much distracted now. Dozens of people hucking vegetables, fruit, rocks, whatever, at this Supermarket front window. I stand there baffled, trying to get a sense of what’s happening. Staining my finger tips with chain smoking until they almost resemble tiger eye stones.
Jimena with her narcoleptic superpowers is still sleeping through all the ruckus. Two more cigarettes, as a few new vandals come and go in the damp heat of February. Some throw more fruit, one throws a huge telephone book which lands on a group of melons, one splatters its insides on the store window. Others spray paint the white brick walls and even the sidewalk with YA BASTA or local band names like Gaucho Rabias. I’m not sure what Ya basta means yet, it just reminds me of You bastards. I start laughing when I see this homeless kid pick up some mashed melon off the side of the widow and place it in his mouth. I laugh because he wears a ripped and faded SouthPark t-shirt.
Jimena finally comes to the window rubbing her tired eyes and I ask what the fuck is going on across the street ?! Her answer is Mmmph…necesito café… completely ignoring what I just asked, nothing new, probably too early to speak English anyway. Taking the decrepit old elevator downstairs she decides we’re stopping at the café a few doors down before we get my shoes. As we’re entering the place I try to ask what the madness is all about a second time. She shrugs her shoulders and just says It’s Buenos Aires.
We both sit and watch the calamity grow at the Supermarket, Jimena beings to tap her fingers on the table in a Cumbia rhythm. The horde of protesters are so loud that no one can hear each other in the café. I pull out a cigarette as Jimena nearly drops her coffee in her lap, cackling with psychotic laughter that won’t quit. What?….what?!…WHAT, FUCK!?!?” I keep asking, both our faces turning red for opposite reasons. She grabs a napkin and writes: Supermarket workers wear diapers so boss does not pay for toilet breaks is what they protesting for.
I share a few chuckles, but mine are garnished with confusion and nervousness. The police finally show up with their large plastic shields and batons to start herding all the rabid dog-protesters. I finish the foam from my coffee and we head for the bus stop. As we’re walking she tells me over and over that she can’t wait for me to get new shoes because the ones I'm wearing now smell as bad as Supermarket diapers. I let out a sigh thinking to myself …and I’ve got two weeks til I fly home.
R. Keith is the author of more than twenty collections of fiction, poetry and vispo.
His visual art has been presented in galleries in Canada, Malta and Russia.