Without Ezequiel in Medellin, I followed whatever sparked my curiosity into new streets. At Plaza Botero I saw bronze pieces of inflated human beings and soon afterwards I was at a rooftop of a building, contemplating the whole city from above.
All this with guitar in hand because making money was the main concern, boarding buses with it, entering fast food restaurants with it, and telling a little bit about myself to then pass the hat. When a heavy weight of change fell into the pouch it felt like winning the lottery (a small prize). I never shared much of a history any way, just let my accent carry forward. A rapper street performer told me: “You gotta make up something so they feel sorry for you. Say your mother’s sick—that’ll get them soft, you’ll see”. I never did any of this.
Buenas tardes damas y caballeros, soy de Argentina, estoy viajando por el continente y la única manera para moverme es cantando unas canciones para ustedes —así que acá va una de un hombre… un hombre al que se le acaba el dinero y su amante lo deja y dice así—the song had actually nothing to do with how I felt. It was a way for me to escape the hunting-never-resolved daily task of reinventing life, every day. Making the lunch, then making the room for the night, then if extra save it for Cartagena ‘cuz that was the goal now: the Pacific, white sand and lying under the sun.
I never had much idea who people thought I was. “A flower about to bloom, life in its beginnings,” a woman told me who sat by my side on the steps of a church. She had been crying and still had tears in her eyes. “Life is hard, life is tough,” she conceded. “You are young, you wouldn’t understand.” She left me a two dollar bill and her business card: “Foreign Trade Attorney.”
I was staying at the house of Ezequiel’s relatives still. I gave them whatever money I had left after buying myself a meal downtown and the train ticket back. Saving money had become impossible though. I caught my reflection on the door of the train one night—pale was my face and soon everything started to turn. I was offered a seat (dream come true) but I felt my blood was depleting from my head and gravity shifted: my guts were empty and my body light. Someone helped me out at the next stop and I collapsed on the floor. Two policemen helped me lean against a wall and gave me some water. I was thankful for their assistance and worried they’d be cruel, but they were both kind and showed concern for my well-being.
When I got to Aunt Rosa and Uncle José’s house that night I threw my body on the bed and sat still. Rosa was folding blankets as she came in.
—How was your day? —she asked.
Despairing, but I said instead:
—I don’t know what to do. I can’t make enough to go anywhere.
A silence fell between us until she broke it:
—You know you don’t have to worry about us, or about giving us money right?
—I feel like a burden to you guys.
—Does your mother know you’re here?
—Yes. (She did not know the details.)
—You can stay here as long as you need —Rosa said. And at that point I felt like any feeling of shame I could have had was irrelevant compared to the amount of solidarity she was delivering, no questions asked.
—I’m gonna try to find a cheap hotel where I can stay downtown, Rosa. It would be an incentive. —She didn’t respond, just stared at me with her two beautiful green eyes behind her black bangs―. The obligation of having to pay a daily rate is gonna make me work harder. I know it. Besides, being downtown already means I save money on the train.
With this, she smiled and she left.
From North by South: Postcards from a Continent | Top image by Hernan Jourdan
About the author
Hernan Jourdan lives and works creating encounter opportunities: from musical spectacles, live performances, co-creative installations, and virtual interventions. In 2010 he set out to hitchhike South America and traveled along the Pacific West-Coast, a journey that eventually took him to the United States. “North By South” is a chronicle of this experience and an evolving document of his passage through the continent and the stories he found along the way.