Dear Buenos Aires (BsAs),
Do you notice how I spell your name like my friend from Bariloche? An extra ‘s’ after each letter instead of the quick and easy BA. Those s’s are important to me, they make you feel like my own, different from how everyone else knows you.
Ananda, equally, knows me.
I am sorry that I couldn’t make it out to Victoria Ocampo’s villa, where the 20th-century intellectual and feminist hosted Robindronath Thakur, the creative genius from Bengal whose stories my mother never fails to quote from.
‘He is as near to me as my life” – she had written about him.
He called her Bijaya — Victoria in Bangla.
A reciprocal exoticization of the other? A colonization pending? Or a new frontier in transnational literary collaborations that rose above the miles between Bengal and Argentina? I won’t know, just yet.
I tried my best, I promise I did, but I never had the time to make the twenty-kilometer journey, not with Spring semester, a broken heart, and a Capstone proposal looming on the horizon. When I made a desperate attempt right before the lockdown in March, I realized that I could not board the train without putting my health at risk. Now, the villa Miralrio of Victoria is like all other public monuments, “temporarily closed.”
I am sorry that I never reached out to the Argentine who was eager to tell me about the Palestinian roots of his name.
I am sorry that he will only be a face, and a label.
What of all the contacts in my collection? Details etched on a napkin, a crumpled piece of paper, anything that can absorb ink – always in a rush – but never compulsively.
“Call me if you need anything.”
“Come to my home next Friday?”
Friday never came.
I’m sorry that I had no time to prepare for my rendition of “Heart-Shaped Box” during the class open-mic. I was imperfect, and worse, totally unrehearsed.
I’m sorry that I never knew how to respond when someone called me señorita. It caught me off guard — (how) could I be one?
So many conversations we’ve had, just you and I.
I’m sorry that I was such a mess.
I’m sorry that I never came back to see the second floor of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano. What about the cashier who told me in late-February that she was going to visit Brazil, that also for the first time? Is she at the mercy of Bolsonaro’s incompetence? Is she safe?
And, when will you do something about the absence of Peruvian artists at your exhibitions?
Rushdie was not lying when he wrote in Midnight’s Children, “To understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.” Each face, a history.
I’m sorry that I don’t speak Spanish. I’m sorry that I came without knowing how to.