the comfort of strangers

Riding a bus in Buenos Aires yesterday, the elderly Argentine woman sitting next to me overheard me speaking in English on my cell phone, so she asked me where I'm from. Since I LOATHE and ABHOR hearing that question, I was about to snap her head off... when something about her made me relax and go with it.

So we struck up a conversation: it turns out she lived in New York for 15 years, then in Austin, Texas for another 15 years, and recently moved back to her country of origin because... having developed complications from a "pre-existing condition," she'd suddenly found herself unable to face her medical bills in the US.

"Do you miss the States?" I asked her.
"Terribly," she said. "All my friends are there."

She asked why I live here... and I explained that I left New York after 13 happy years when I decided to start a family, and didn't have the guts to schlepp it like my other freelancer friends had done: not getting insurance until their fifth month of pregnancy to save money... lying to qualify for Medicaid... fighting hostile corporations, whose plans never covered you when the shit hit the fan anyway...

Plus it was the post 9/11 Bush era: we marched against the invasion of Iraq - NO BLOOD FOR OIL - but the forces of darkness were in utter, totalitarian control, the panicked American citizenry, spellbound like rabbits in the headlights, bowing to their every abuse of power. It had become clear that no one was going to be able to stand up to the sociopaths in the White House...

...and the only real and present item on everyone's agenda was the next terrorist attack: not if, but when it would happen. We watched the carnage in Madrid, then London. Obviously New York was up next: every subway a potential booby trap, every elevator ride to my 25th floor office a Russian roulette... And I wanted to have kids. And giving birth in a hospital without health insurance could run me 20 grand if, let's say, I happened to need a Cesarean. So I left.

Shit! I had no idea anything remotely like Obama was in the cards; certainly not in my generation. And yet there were those pesky Americans, at it again: confounding everyone's expectations, they kicked the evil junta out of the White House in the most spectacular possible way...

...and night before last they passed a universal health care bill. And President Obama sent me a nice thank you email for my civic efforts - yes, I hassled all my American friends to step up for health care reform. And it worked.

(The President even invited me to co-sign the bill - they're gathering the names of everyone who worked on the campaign as we speak. I asked if I could sign it even though I'm not a US citizen... they haven't gotten back to me on that one.)

And, what the hell: it makes me happy, even though I'm not there in person to reap the benefits. And though I can afford health care in Argentina, I never did have children after all - long story, not worth going into here -

"You should thank God for that," my bus companion cut in firmly. "Argentine men are way too machista. Take my word for it. You must never, ever shack up with one."

"Oh, no," I replied. "I've learned that lesson too."

17 comments:

FoF said...

Interesting. Also left my 2nd country for BA, some years after seeing carnage in Madrid and getting insane. But I'm still looking for a new home to live, for a new heart to adore, and for you, only for you on this helpless time, and Bataille, and Rosemary, my maid.

Lillí said...

Me gustó mucho esto. Estábamos mirando una de esas series idiotizantes, cuando interrumpieron ABC para dar la noticia. Todos festejamos a pesar de que nuestros pasaportes tienen un I-20 y fueron emitidos por Nepal, Argentina, Bélgica, Irlanda y Mexico.

said...

pregunta que nada tiene ver con tu bello post:
alguien sabe que pasa con el widget nube de etiwuetas que no sale ne ningun blog?

by the way, bello tu blog Girl, ya te lo dije via mail, fotos increibles modelo sublime
besos mag

Tommy Barban said...

I stayed up last Sunday watching on CNN the closing hours of the House's debate. Passing the health care reform bill is a monumental achievement. And while Obama's leadership made it possible, the hero who got it done is speaker Nancy Pelosi (some Argentine men are in touch with the feminist within).

Marie said...

girl, esto está genial. como para publicar
en papel de verdad con tinta, i mean

girlontape said...

Lillí I know what you mean...

Hola Mag! fijate acá --> http://www.bloggerplugins.org/2008/06/label-cloud-widget-for-blogger-blogspot.html

Tommy es cierto, Nancy is our hero, y no olvidemos a Hillary, que tmb trató de hacer lo mismo cuando fue Pres su marido... I love Obama, also because se rodea de mujeres superpoderosas... como Zapatero, igualdad en la estructura del poder...

Marie: gracias, no sabría donde... ahora lo subo al blog de Obama...

Rob K said...

Tiene mucha humanidad esta entrada, no sabría decir otra cosa mejor. Conmueve el hecho puntual y también conmueve tu forma de contarlo. (Hell of a writer, you.)

la cámara lúcida said...

yo no entiendo todo, por qué no pegas una traduccion?

Mary Poppins said...

esta muy bien una medida de esta indole y de impronta tan socialista.

Va a ser very complicated to manage how to keep good doctors in public hospitals, though. They are already saying that many will get into plastic cirugy and areas like that to keep enjoying their great incomes.

A doctor in USA is a millonaire
Pero la Health Reform se encontrara con severos problemas with medical insurances, pharmaceutical corporations , doctor and nurses'incomes, etc

Still, a great step for the USA

fabian17 said...

buen post stef

girlontape said...

gracias chicos.

Camarita: por que este post es para mi público afuera, muchas veces no traduzco los posts en castellano x ser demasiado locales, el reves tambien es cierto

Melissa said...

I'm intrigued by your inner voice that told you to go with her question and, voila, a soulmate, at least in some respects. Wonderful when that happens. And wonderful about health care, too.

girlontape said...

I generally regret giving anyone here who starts off with THAT question an opening Melissa... in this case she seemed a little different, but also I just didn't have the energy to be standoffish... stressful to have to be a bitch all the time, you know what I mean?

Melissa said...

I do, indeed. It does take energy to pull ourselves away from others, to, I suppose, protect ourselves.

Ray said...

What I get for falling behind on you: I know now I asked the wrong question--but, I'm happy to have the answer. You make sense.

Good to catch up and enjoy it so.

Ray

girlontape said...

hi Ray! i wrote this post for you first! cheers Stef

toy said...

so...
where you from again?