Travel Advent Dec. 12: Mid Morning Chivito

You meet the most memorable people in the middle of the night. My mom always said “Nothing good happens after midnight,” and while I agree I say the best stories happen after midnight.

Sometimes, these moments in the middle of the night feel just a little bit too perfect. Those moments when it feels like all the stars have aligned to form a constellation of success, directing a cosmic beam straight at your chubby little unsuspecting face that’ll blow you into the next dimension. For me, that happened late at night in eating Chivito in the Montevideo bus station.

I was trying to catch the last ferry of the day from Montevideo to Buenos Aires at around midnight. There was a long line, but eventually, I made it to the counter, where the small mouse-like man shriveled behind the counter told me the ferry was full. I would have to go take a bus to another city in Uruguay and take the ferry from there, and he pointed at a woman walking out the door and said, “Just follow her, she’s doing the same.”

I waved him away, pissed off by how late it was and how complicated my journey had now become. The street, lit only by the dim lamps lighting the budding dew, was not as welcoming as I was hoping. I stood by the side of the road, looking for a taxi that could take me to the bus station. But no taxis came. It felt like there was no one alive at all, no one awake at this hour, and my panic began to set in. Where would I go at this hour? I had no clue where I was. Then I reached into my pocket and realized, I had no money left either. I was fucked.

Just at that moment, a tall dark-haired woman seemed to approach me out of thin air. “Excuse me,” she said in a creamy Porteña Buenos Aires accent. “Are you going to the bus station?”

“I am!” I replied in my North American Spanish drawl.
“Great! We can share a taxi.” Just at that moment, it seemed as if the world was full of taxis. I stuck my hand out and countless taxis materialized like phantoms shining their lights through the fog.

We got in the taxi and shared some small talk — the kind of small talk you make when you just want to fill the silence and seem polite. In my head, I was preparing my speech to tell my new companion that I had ran out of money, and if we could just get to an ATM I could pay her back. When we arrived at the station, I had the words ready on my tongue, and as I turned to spill them she put her hand on my shoulder and said as if reading my mind, “Don’t worry, I’ll pay for this if you buy me a beer.” She was my savior, getting me to the bus station.

We entered the gigantic bus station, filled with people milling around to stay awake, and others who had given up to an uncomfortable few hours of sleep. “Let’s get some food, I want some Chivito.” Chivito is one of Uruguay’s best contributions to the world. A gigantic sandwich with steak, cheese, ham, and an egg. Even at this late hour, a small restaurant was open for us to fill our stomachs with a final Uruguayan chivito before heading back to Argentina.

“So who are you. What are you? My name is Julia.” She said with a certain suaveness as if she were perpetually holding a lit cigarette. I gave her my little life story. I was a tall American boy, still disgruntled with the world and not confident in my long gangly body and pimply little face. She listened carefully and shared her story back. A therapist from Buenos Aires with a past that only therapists can have. Therapists always seem like the people that need therapists the most, just judging from every therapist I’ve ever met.

Once our pleasantries were up, we shared a brief silenced that was sliced in half with her question “So have you ever fucked a guy?”

I was taken aback, surprised at her question. “N-No.” I stammered. “That’s a bold question to ask a stranger.”

“Never?! It’s fun!” She asked with a grin. “We should share our deepest selves with strangers, we never have to see them again so why not open your heart up and show them everything?”

I thought this over for a moment. She wasn’t wrong. “I guess because if you show everything up front, there’s nothing else left to show if you do see that person again.” I threw back her way.

“That’s true. But I guess if you show it all upfront, the person knows immediately whether or not you’re worth seeing again. And besides, you should fuck a guy. Why not? You’re young and tall and handsome. It’s fun.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I looked down at the grease left from the chivito on my plate and wished I still had a sandwich I could hide under by eating. Sensing my awkward response, she smiled at me and said, “You know, marijuana is legal here right, I’ve got a joint if you want to share.”

“I’m alright,” I said, still a bit perplexed where to go from there.

“Suit yourself. Well, Carter, it was a pleasure to meet you. You really saved me back there at the ferry, I didn’t feel safe in that neighborhood, and for some reason, I knew I could trust you.” She got up from her seat and walked into the shadows from where she game.

I still think about this moment. It taught me a lot and broke me out of my shell. My least favorite part about our North American upbringing is the masks we’re taught to put on from an early age. We’re always supposed to be happy, perfect, friendly. We have to ask how people are even when we don’t care, and when they ask back we have to say “Oh I’m doing just fine,” even though we are certainly not doing just fine. Sometimes we aren’t fine, sometimes we’re just feeling shit and there’s no shame in that. Sometimes we just want to suck dick, sometimes we just want to share a joint with a stranger, and sometimes we just want to tell a stranger that we appreciate how they shared a midmorning chivito with us and cracked us out of our think Anglo-American shells.

Who have you met in the wee hours of the morning?

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