Yesterday was a rare day in that I was downtown on foot. I prefer to do all business by bike, as it limits my frustrations to dealable levels. I will never get used to the pace at which people walk here (too slow!), or the fact that they spread out all over the sidewalk as though they were molecules in a super-cool liquid. So. not. cool.
And in being on foot (which I was because I had more time than journey to make, if you know what I mean), I saw a bunch of things I wouldn’t normally see. And I probably grumbled under my breath not just a bit more than normal as my individualism trumped my love of my fellow human and my fellow human would not just get out of the way so I could walk at a normal pace down the sidewalk.
And then I realized it was me, and not them, so I slowed down and moved to a pedestrian street (Huerfanos), where I noted that despite inflation, it still only costs 300 pesos (less than 50 cents) to get your shoes shined, which I have never done. And I also noted that the strange cold-in-the-morning, warm-in-the-afternoon weather means you will see people walking side by side who look like they are dressed for totally different weather, which reminds me of the David Sedaris short piece called “can of worms” if I’m not mistaken, which has to do with some nematodes which were found in a desert, and which he hears about while sitting in a diner waiting for his dessert to arrive, which he then eats not point-first, and loses an opportunity to wish for something. Which has everything to do with how distractable I am right now (ooh! shiny!), and nothing to do with the point at hand.
Which is that yesterday I saw a high-school aged kid crying. I could see from far away, his eyes were red, his lips dry and wet at the same time, and he was leaning into a pole and talking animatedly but quietly, painfully to his galpal. I craned my neck to see if she was crying, too, imagining a teenage breakup, a pregnancy scare, whatever things could make a young couple take time out on a busy pedestrian street to cry publicly in a place where people don’t cry. She was dry-eyed though, and only somewhat sympathetic.
And then I thought about that. People don’t cry here. I mean, of course they do. Everyone cries sometimes. But the number of times I’ve seen someone lose grip on their emotions in public seems disproportionately low. Chileans seem to have a much beter control of their emotions, or a much thicker veneer than I remember seeing in the United States. Which is why seeing a teenage boy crying on the street me dio tanta pena (made me feel so sad).
And then I kept walking, because that’s what you do in these situations. Hope he’s doing better today, or at least found someone to give him a big hug.