On Sleep, part I: Buenos Aires

We focus so much of our attention on the waking hours. But it is in our sleep when we rejuvenate, giving recess to our unconscious layers, allowing the logical mechanisms and flows of desire that govern our bodies to rest.

There are nights when I lay awake in Brooklyn, and it’s either too hot or too cold, the street is too noisy, and I’ve got too much in my head. On those nights, I think wistfully of the best night of sleep I ever had, in Buenos Aires.

I’d been romping around in the mountains for months: interviewing indigenous insurgents in the south of Chile, hiking in silence with Israeli backpackers who had not a word to say about their recent military service, experiencing bliss while trekking in the Patagonia, and all the while playing chess and drinking maté on long bus rides with fellow backpackers and traveling Argentines.

When the bus finally pulled into Buenos Aires, I was craving the relief of urban life, a hiatus for my blistered feet and aching shoulders, and a bed rather than the ground.

My friends from Virginia, an Argentine woman and American man and their two kids, spent half their time in the States, where we had met in an activist info-shop that we volunteered in, and half in BA, where they supported the urban piqueteros and cooperativas movements by making documentaries about their struggles.

They welcomed me into their home, a Spanish-style house on the south side (read: not touristy) of BA. I was exhausted and already overwhelmed by the grandness of the city: its boulevards, congested with traffic, its slums, replete with street children.

Sensing my fatigue, they offered me their bedroom and went to sleep downstairs with their kids, two beautiful, bilingual boys who astounded me with their sophisticated understandings of global politics. I gratefully accepted their offer to sleep in their room.

It was January, which is the middle of summer in Buenos Aires, and sweltering. I opened the tall French windows in the room and lay down on the bedsheets. The air coming in was sweet, and a strong wind carried it across my body, massaging its weight into my well-used muscles. I slept immediately and did not wake until the morning, but the breeze entered into my dreams and gently wrapped itself around the imprints that the mountains had left on me, thereby holding their place within me, forever.

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