Paradigm Shift

I stand in line at the passport control, sleep deprived, emotionally drained, eyes swollen, feet aching, hungry, numb. I don't quite believe the reality of this moment, the actual end of this experience which I had been anticipating but not really believing. I look around, are there others who are having a similar experience? Anyone else struggling with the finality of this? I suddenly acknowledge that they are playing a tango song on the airport speakers. My heart tightens a little more, I smile, I begin humming along, I feel my body dancing this song, I am transported momentarily back into the darkened space of the milonga, back into the embrace, back, back, back, back... Oh how I try to recall, to recreate, to reinvent the experience of that song, of that embrace. But of course, I am left empty-handed, on my way out, stepping on the path that will take me back "home."

It is my turn to go to the booth. As I step up, I find myself wishing that the clerk would ask me about my experience, about what I was doing here, "what was the purpose of your trip to Buenos Aires?" I think about what I would tell her. Would she appreciate the magnitude of what I feel? Would she believe me? I suddenly hear a voice rise above the white noise of all the standard airport procedures. It belongs to a young man a few booths down. In his deep and quite operatic voice he sings the lyrics of the song playing overhead. For a moment I feel I am acting in a movie and this is the moment when the camera zooms in on my face. Carefully illuminated, my mouth breaks into a broad smile. On cue, the singing clerk locks eyes with me, and, a little embarrassed but with a lot of recognition, he grins. The whole exchange is less than 15 seconds long but I know the significance of this scene. I can tell how it will fit into the narrative of the film and what it will symbolize. Nowhere else in the world is this particular scene possible. I think of this as I take my passport and make my way to the gate. As if to underscore the truth of the moment, I am suddenly bombarded with the overly sweet rhythms of an American pop song playing in one of the duty free shops. This is my journey in a nutshell, I think to myself. Leaving behind the dirty, crumbling streets, the pollution, the chaos, the mutilated history and culture and returning to the shiny, the new, the organized, the clean and vibrant, the self-conscious, the politically correct. I feel and examine the weight and texture of both places, how they occupy my body, how they insist on their validity, like carrying two hearts within one chest, each demanding more life.  As I find my seat on the plane, one more time, I allow myself to cry, to think of all of the loves I am leaving behind, to give into the melodrama of the moment, like a true tango song. I really cannot imagine not being in Buenos Aires...