I returned to Buenos Aires from Iguazú and spent the day wandering around Buenos Aires. I thought I would need more days in Buenos Aires, but I’ve seen what I wanted to see, or at least what I’ve already sort of visited through travel books, travel shows on TV, and magazines: the obelisk, the pink palace, Evita’s tomb, theaters, and countless statues and monuments. I went to the requisite tango show last night that tore through my budget. I don’t need to continue down these busy streets to confirm the veracity of these images. What would be cheaper and more enlightening, I supposed, would be to journey down the quiet streets vacant of tourists and pedestrians but filled with colorful histories and character. Instead, I splurged. Again.
I needed to buy a Christmas gift to take to Aunt Belén in Montevideo but was quickly approaching the limit on my credit card, so I strolled the streets looking for something simple—perhaps some chocolates, a decorative box, or a picture frame. I made the mistake of turning onto Libertad Street. Block after block were filled with jewelry stores. I wasn’t interested in jewelry but the sheer number of these stores prompted me to conduct an informal count. They all looked the same, and I wondered how anyone chooses one over another. No one store is full of customers, yet no one is empty, either. I had reached fifty-two before losing count. Then I stepped into a side market that was really just a gutted building filled with a maze of yet more jewelry counters. With little airflow in the stifling building, I wandered aimlessly around the perimeter before gravitating to a booth with a fan.
The sheer quantity of gold made me think of her and the time we spent together in the jungle. I wonder how she ever made it. Then, fate put this particular necklace under my eyes: a delicate chain with a golden, bird-shaped charm studded with tiny emeralds. I felt I had to buy this. For her. But the price! The equivalent of five hundred dollars! Five hundred more than I could afford. But when you want something so bad, you find a way to rationally conclude you should have it. This was the end of my trip. Soon I’d be back at home earning money once again. Surely it’s permissible to splurge when it’s not on yourself. Buenos Aires is famous for its reasonably priced, quality jewelry—when would I be back here again? I was actually saving money on presents this year since I wasn’t in the United States and not forced to buy presents for every family member and friend of the family. Anyway, what is five hundred dollars in the grand scheme of life? It wasn’t like I was in the habit of buying exquisite things. A lump formed in my throat as the bald man behind the counter swiped my credit card, and I swallowed it when the receipt began to print.