The following morning, I called Juan, the taxi driver and his yellow and black “Fiat” pulled up at a curb outside the hostel. I carried a scribbled piece of paper as I read, “Yo quiero ir a Palermo.”

“De que parted de Palermo?” said Juan, looking to me across the console.

He saw my hesitation so translated, “Which part or Palermo?”

Palermo Viejo,” I read  from the paper.

“Palermo is growing every year?” Juan pressed the accelerator against his foot.

“How’s that possible?”

“The neighbourhood is like a brand name,” he replied. “Es muy chic, especially Palermo Soho.”

“Are you taking me to Viejo?”

“Yes,” Juan reassured. “They are just beside each other. Soho is like the Argentinean version of New York’s SoHo. It’s like you’re saying you’re wearing Gucci.” Juan turned his head to mine. “You know what I mean?”

The car speed ahead of pedestrians who travelled parallel on a footpath.

Juan continued, “It’s difficult to understand the boundaries of Palermo. It’s popular with the tourists, which is why it keeps growing. If you’re talking to a real estate agent he’ll brand any apartment that’s in a neighbouring barrio as Palermo something; there’s already Palermo Soho, Palermo Viejo, a Palermo Alto or Palermo Hollywood.”

“Is Hollywood like the one in the United States?

“Not really,” Juan replied. “It does have Argentinean film studios. You get cafes, bars and restaurants there, too.”

The car flew in and out of traffic For near twenty blocks before the street changed from tar to cobblestone and the meter now at “67 pesos” when Juan stopped the taxi then tapped his index finger on the electronic digits. I handed him a pink 100-peso bill, he held it up to the light, then placed it in his hip bag. He sat dead still after that.

“Have you got my change?”

“Excuse me?” Juan replied.

“I gave you a hundred. The head silhouetted in the note when you shone it against the daylight.”

Apparently his short term memory was troubled, or he’d failed to see the bank note’s pinkness. But I was sure he knew what time it was and his dummy act was one that’d catch me clear off guard if I wasn’t so certain. Nonetheless, he returned my change. I exited the car. He drove off. He seemed agitated before I jumped out of the car. That was strange as he’d kind of expected that my  money had become his. I could’ve been wrong regarding his act. Maybe it was a simple mistake. I watched his car fade in the distance to a dot as I yanked me bag a long the road.

Gaston Cavalleri is an Australian travel writer, author and screenwriter.

 

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