It could be said that every city is a labyrinth for a foreign visitor. But what is peculiar about Buenos Aires is that there is a Labyrinth within it: The neighbourhood of "Parque Chas".
Out of the humming bustle of its avenues and streets, there is a place in this city where not even the most daring taxi driver would care to enter. Not because it is dangerous, I can assure you it is not, but because once you enter you may not be able to exit again, at least for a while.
Like a protuberance out of some ill born animal, it grows out of a surrounding avenue. Like the remains of some forgotten river bank far far away, you are left there and oh no! “the horror, the horror” you are lost! But do not despair, if you are European, the familiarity of its street names will give you a breath of fresh air. The names fall one after the other: Cadiz, Marseille, London, Treveris are just but some of them. And among them all Gandara which flows like a river in between them or stands like a mountain blocking your way.
But beware avid consumers, because there are no fairs within, nor art galleries or posh designer shops. In fact there will be nothing you can buy with money except perhaps some refreshment and that if you are lucky enough to find an open Chinese supermarket of the three that there are there. On week days, jealous drivers would overflow the place with their cars, so close it lies to the last underground station. At the weekend, the smell of burning grills making the local favourite “asado” will fill your nostrils while you listen to the distant laughter and the clashing of happy glasses.
And all the while you are walking the streets in endless circles; you find that the same street crosses another for the second time. Far ahead you notice a man, sitting on a bench in a square just next to a humble football club “el Trébol”, the shamrock, he smiles at you and says “are you lost my friend?” and you, astonished that this man speaks your language, nod shyly and sit next to him. He would ask you for a cigarette, which you won’t have because you are modern and do not smoke and he would say “Never, ever take the capital city streets. They would turn you round and round in circles. They will drive you mad!” And then a little girl in a bicycle would stop in front of you and would laugh to see a person sitting in a bench staring at nothing. However, you would put yourself together and start walking following the old man advice, avoiding the capital city streets. In some twenty minutes you are out, but this time on a different avenue. You stop a bystander and, drying the sweat from your forehead, ask: “Can you tell me the way to the underground station?” and the person will reply “yes, go back and cross Parque Chas until you reach Triunvirato Avenue” but that was exactly the path you have just ended, would you dare take it again???
Copyright Guillermo Mathé Leguizamón 2012
This story was shortlisted for the Sketches by Boz program but not selected.