“Where the fuck are they?” he grumbled while he opened all the drawers of his living room desk. He would absentmindedly leave his keys on the first place he found and therefore he needed to look for them in odd places such as the lavabo, the kitchen counter or even the fridge. He didn’t know why he kept looking in the fridge; he’d never found them there, but he kept thinking that he’d left them there while grabbing a snack after eight hours of Polish labor. He couldn’t really complain; he was fairly paid and he worked as much as his Polish colleagues, but “For God’s sake, these people are work machines!” he thought hopelessly of ever finding his pace in this new country.
He was going to be late; he knew it. He was the only one to ever be late, but his colleagues attributed it to his being Latin and they overlooked what they would otherwise consider a serious fault. “It’s nice from them,” he thought, and this always gave him some hope. “Poles are very strict with each other, but they’re more lenient when it comes to foreigners.” While rummaging in one of the drawers he found an unexpected object: a picture he cherished and which he’d thought lost. It was him with his father back in Argentina. They were lighting the fire to make asado. But his mother was also in the picture; she was the one who’d taken it, so she was also present. He needed to sit down, since memories started flowing viciously through the interstices of his mind. His sunny childhood full of swimming pools and charismatic friends. He hated comparisons, but Poland was rather a gloomy place, and people were rather dull, probably to match the weather. Tears started running down his cheeks. The picture held in itself happiness and sadness at the same time. It had been taken just a couple of weeks before the incident that changed his life. He didn’t want to remember it, but he knew he’d have to be late for work to mentally cope with his past.
It all came in a flash to him: the Retiro metro station on that fatidic Saturday night. The coldness of June and the dizziness of some glasses of wine in the head. The blonde who was drunker than him and who broke her high heel trying to step into the metro. The indifference of the passengers who were already aboard when she fell back onto the platform. She was smartly dressed and beautiful, which gave away her class. It was an odd scene, like seeing the pope in a football match. People just stared at her as if she was a fairytale vision or simply an annoyance which would vanish as soon as the metro started again. There was some poetic justice in the scene: a higher class drunk girl falling off the last metro of the day. She could surely afford a taxi to her gated community or her smart apartment in Recoleta. “But it is simply wrong,” he thought, “leaving a drunk girl in an empty place so late; whatever she might be doing there.” So he stepped out of the metro and the thought of the 700 pesos he would have to spend on a taxi home immediately soured his mood. He wasn’t poor, but he couldn’t afford a taxi without cutting back on other expenses for the week.
But as soon as he saw the distress on her face, he forgot himself. “Are you all right?” he asked, while lifting her up. “Yes,” she said. “Stupid shoe.” And she felt the sole in the part of the missing heel. “Where are you going?” he said. “To a party,” she said. “but without my boyfriend. He’s an asshole. I’m going there by myself.” “And where is this party?” he asked. “It’s in Moreno. Just in front of the metro station. A friend’s house. Once I said to her: I’ll come to your house by metro once, and she broke out laughing. And here I am, going by metroooo to her house.” He would’ve gladly helped her go there by metrooo, but the last one was already gone, so he said: “That was the last metro; maybe you could try by taxi?” and she started crying. “That stupid asshole,” she sniffed, “he prefers his polo friends to me. I told him we had Viky’s party today and he didn’t care. I’ll show him I don’t need him to get around. Anyway, could you call a taxi for me?” she said naturally, as if she were talking to one of her servants back in her house. “Yes, of course,” he obliged. “Do you have any particular number?” “Look in my phone,” she said. “Just type taxi.” And he did. “I would like to have a taxi in front of the Retiro station please,” he said on the phone. “Ten minutes, great!” he hung up.
He thought he could offer to go with her, but he didn’t know how to ask. “I’m going on the same direction,” he said at last. “What’s that?” she muttered, as she woke up from her stupor. “I’m going to Constitución. Maybe we can share the fare?” he said, but she seemed to have no idea what he was talking about. “Oh you’re going my way?” she asked, oblivious to the fact that both had almost been on the same metro. “Yes, you can come with me,” she said with a smile, and he felt she was the sweetest girl on Earth. “We should go wait outside,” he said. “It should come soon.” And they went outside. A police siren could be heard at the distance. “Hope they aren’t coming for us,” he joked, but she didn’t seem to get it. “And why would they come for us?” she said. “Just a joke,” he answered, “but you must admit that a police siren is never a good sign.” “Why?” she asked, positively dumbfounded, “The police are here to protect us.” “Yes, but protect us from whom?” he asked naively. “What you mean from whom? The lowlifes,” she said naturally, as if she were explaining it to a kid. And he took a few seconds to try to surmise what fell into the category of the lowlife. A few minutes passed without any words been spoken. At last the taxi came and he gallantly opened the door to her, but when he went around to sit beside her, the car just drove off. He was too astonished to react. Even if she’d changed her mind about them sharing a cab, she hadn’t even thanked him or said goodbye to him. It was only half an hour later, while he was still walking home to clear his head, that he realized that he’d forgotten to give her back her phone. He’d automatically put his hand back in his coat and there was still the phone, which he mistook for his. He’d actually forgotten his when he was leaving to his friend’s that afternoon. “She will eventually realize she’s missing something” he thought “and call me.”
Next morning the police knocked at his door. His flat mate opened and then woke him up: “The police are looking for you,” he said. “It’s about a phone.” Apparently she hadn’t realized the lack of her phone till in the middle of the party she decided to send a selfie to her boyfriend to show him how much fun she was having. At that moment she didn’t recall having been helped by someone in the metro station. She just remembered missing that metro and asking a stranger to call a taxi for her. Her friends told her she was too naïve to hand such an expensive phone to a stranger and that he surely saw she was drunk and took advantage of it. Even the following morning, when the police came to her house to take her statement, she would only remember having given the guy her phone and not getting it back. The taxi driver stated that a stranger had opened the door for her, and that he’d immediately realized she was drunk. He’d recognized her client and knew where she was going even before she mentioned the address.
He spent the following two years in hell, accused of the theft of her phone. In the end he was exonerated but by then he’d spent most of his days worrying about going to jail. He couldn’t focus on anything else and by the time he was at last free he couldn’t reconcile himself with his country. He withdrew all his savings and took the first flight to whatever city there was in the map and he landed in Madrid eleven hours after. Once in Madrid, he saw a screen with departures: Warsaw was written on it. “Let’s try another world,” he said, and he’d been living there since. Only once in a while he’d look at a nice picture on Facebook and feel nostalgic, but this picture he’d printed out in an act of nostalgia and then had forgotten in a drawer had a more powerful effect on him. It had the effect of transporting him back to his heaven and hell: Argentina.