He hardly seemed to realize he was on a crowded, hot, and stinky bus. He was too consumed with listening to the hand-held transistor radio pushed up against his ear and sticking his head out the window to whistle at pretty girls passing by.

He was clean-shaven, clean-cut, wearing soccer shorts and a soccer jersey. He looked about 16 years old, with boyish eyes.It was a few minutes before he realized I had sat down next to him, too busy was he with the beautiful portenas walking the streets. But he took a breather from the cat-calls and noticed me scribbling away in my notebook next to him.

"What are you writing?" he asked in Spanish.

"Oh, just some notes for work," I said.One simple question turned into a harmless and kind conversation between two strangers.

"I live in the provincia with my parents," he told me. "For now," he quickly added, as if to imply that provincial domestic life was not at all the be-all and end-all to his future. We both laughed. It was a cute attempt to sound like he had the 19 years he claimed.

I know to keep boundaries firm and walls high in Buenos Aires. I don't carry anything with me on the streets, besides a few coins for the bus and a notebook, unless I absolutely have to. That day on the bus I had the bare minimum--my coins, my crappy cell phone, one barely-working pen, and a notebook. I was not in danger of losing anything valuable. Moreover, as for personal safety, we were on a crowded bus in the middle of broad daylight. I felt secure knowing I was surrounded with onlookers and bystanders. I felt safe enough to continue with a simple conversation. And I felt happy to continue this simple conversation. I thought that an exchange of words could only bring a tiny ray of sunshine to both our lives, as kind interactions with strangers so often have the power to do. So we chatted on.

And then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to face an Argentine woman, with long dyed blonde hair and eyes hidden behind large sunglasses. She was beautiful, but not in a Palermo-boutique way. More in a tough, don't-mess-with-me kind of way, if that makes sense at all.

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  • Sarah Maxwell

    I am a twenty-something living and working with my boyfriend in Argentina. We started in Buenos Aires, and are now moving on t…

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