here’s where I spend my nights

…and a fair amount of my days. (Ask and ye shall receive!)

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I love the color green of this room. It is that fifties-pastel gloss I used to make by covering my slate in chalk as a child. It’s a well-loved sidewalk’s color. It’s nice to wake up to, and to surround yourself with before you sleep.

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My God is small enough to fit in my pocket, and on my end table when I come home at night. My sponsor gave me the little triptych at my first Pascha as an Orthodox Christian. The little icon of Mary with seven swords comes from Windsor Castle, of all places. The books there are the Liturgy, in Spanish, which the priest gave me when I moved to Buenos Aires; the Bible, also in Spanish, which I bought in New York during Holy Week last year; and the little red prayer book that I’m still learning. These represent habits I’m trying to form rather than constancies, with the exception of grace. That even I can’t avoid.

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This is the only decoration on the wall here. My jaw dropped when I first moved in. I used to be rather obsessed with T.S. Eliot’s “hyacinth girl,” and now here one is above my bed!

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This is my normal POV: journal (new – I just filled up my first Buenos Aires journal last week), pen, glasses, and laptop. I was rewatching a movie I’m analyzing for my final paper in my Argentine cinema class, which will talk about the only two movies Fabián Bielinsky ever made. They’re both brilliant. You’ll hear about it soon.

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This is what you see outside my window. It’s night, so mostly televisions and lights switched, but the best parts of this view belong to other senses. I love the breeze stringing together this riverside spring-summer, and the neighbors’ dinner conversations that it brings to me. I like the noise of the city without the noise of the street, the more intimate kind, the buzz of the hive rather than the attack of the swarm.

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Emergency numbers: the doorman, the nearby daughter, the host.

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I keep my school books on the pull-out tray above the computer wires: Borges, cinema, and mitos (“invented traditions of Latin America”) from left to right. On the top shelf I’ve got my letter-writing materials – right now, one letter and one postcard await responses. Next to it, my thesis notebook is underneath the books I currently need to mark up (El papa que ama el fútbol, naturally, and two Roberto di Giano books on peronismo and soccer). Then my jewelry (little cross, big earrings) and comb (finally, my hair’s too short for a brush to be bothered with). Everything in its place.

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I tried to keep the packing minimalist, but I really let loose with the earrings. I want to have one of those unforgettable profiles, the shadow of my hoops featuring heavily.

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The top shelf is my host’s: eccentric bilingual editions of The Last of the Mohicans and a few Conan Doyle mysteries join mostly sociological and linguistic texts. In the middle, the Argentine constitution shines bright. I put it there, actually. It had been shelved normally, but it reminded me of the pocket constitution enshrined back in my house and so I had to in order for it to feel properly home.

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This shelf is mine. On top of the two orientation books we received (an introduction to porteño Spanish and the student handbook), I’ve kept my share of books to a minimum…for me, anyway. You can’t see them all from this angle, but here’s what I’ve got: two García Márquez novels, both in progress; two Cortázars, recommended by my Borges professor; two thesis references; two American novels, Gone Girl and To Kill a Mockingbird; Argentina’s national epic, Martín Fierro; two guidebooks; a map; and my recently finished journal. This is a tiny fraction of what I’ve read this semester. Frankfurt School essayists and sports journalists’ sociologies might not make it onto Goodreads, but they’re by far who I’ve learned the most from this year.

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The other half of this shelf has the flower and cross my host left for me, but with my own additions: a stack of letters received, ticket stubs, flyers, and the like, as well as the flag of Club Deportivo Palestino.

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My backpack sits on the chair in the corner, a bag of borrowed CDs ready to return at school tomorrow.

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Summer looms and we have no air conditioning. I love it.

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I didn’t bring many clothes with me, and since I just did my laundry, the whole situation is rather blissfully pristine. My favorite part of this is my top shelf of hopeful accessories, though: fingerless gloves made of alpaca wool that I picked up in Mendoza after the last days of the Southern winter had long passed; goalie gloves I’d brought thinking I’d have time for the amateur league; hats that don’t actually match anything in my wardrobe; and two church scarves, which I haven’t touched since it’s completely out of keeping with the local tradition here.

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Oh, and I’m here, too. And I will be for a good while – they’ve agreed to keep me on through May.

Published by Catherine Addington

I am a translator from Spanish to English and a writer on saints, myths, and icons in both religious and secular contexts.

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