Once, in a far away city called Buenos Ayres, I spent a Sunday in summer at the shores of the river, with my best friend Jasmine. We had brought bottled soda and cigarettes, and had folded up our tank tops so that our flat, teenage, stomachs could roast under the sun. The weather was dense and humid like it always was in Buenos Ayres; and people seemed to be somewhat happy to spend their week-end at the shore.
Parents were playing Frisbee with their kids and teenagers splashed water at each other, passionately, like if tomorrow there would be no more leisure, only the boredom that comes with a summer of general unemployment and crisis of a decaying country. A group of young men from the project housings nearby had brought their tambourines down to the river, and were beating drumsticks to the rhythm of a carnival song.
People gathered to see this show and even the teenagers had stopped splashing water at each other to go dance and shake their legs to the violent beats of that music. Little kids would run around, kicking at the sand dunes and looking for their parents who had ,ingeniously, planned to lose them, letting them play free for a couple of hours. It was a dazzling Sunday in the river.
I was complaining to Jasmine that evening, because my head had started itching after three hours of lying on the sand. I couldn’t stop scratching my scalp, thinking I had gotten some kind of scalp-burn from the sunlight, and kept on complaining about how it bothered me. Eventually, she paid some attention and sat down on a bench, pushing me towards her. She grabbed my head without even asking, and placed it on her knees to start inspecting my hair. After less than a minute she came up with the verdict:
“You have lice” she said.
“Oh! Take them out! Pleaseeee! ” I answered.
“We need vinegar or Kerosene” she said. “That’s how my mom used to get the lice out of my hair”
I debated what would be better: To have my hair smell like Italian dressing, or to have Jasmine light up my locks in flames by throwing kerosene on my hair, while forgetting to throw her cigarette out.
“Vinegar?” I answered.
Hopefully we didn’t use either of them, because I had a better, more civilized idea, and went to the nearest pharmacy to get lice medicine. It was a thick lotion that smelled like bug spray and I had to leave it on my hair for the next six hours. Everyone I ran into that night, would talk to me from a distance and I felt, somewhat discriminated.
“We should have tried Kerosene” Jasmine insisted.
“It would have killed them faster.”
She just had to keep on bragging about it.
But the lice medicine worked and after that incident, I never went back to the river again.
Oh, except once, later in the year when Jasmine had already left me to go to Art School in California, and I had decided to stay studying in the National University instead. But it was winter then: I sat at a bench staring at the water, thinking about arrivals and departures, and about the harshness of the rising tide over the land. There were no more tambourines playing, and I only saw a few boys who were left smoking weed on the shore, but no families, besides it was about to rain.