Marcelo is a piece of work.
We met weeks after I moved to Buenos Aires, and for a short time, we were practically inseparable. He was everything I wanted at the time: cute, smart, refreshingly independent (as is so not the case with most of the mama’s boys I meet in BA, his family is kilometres away, in Misiones), and fun to be around. We spent hours listening to the U2/Mary J. Blige version of “One” on repeat, and sang along to ABBA. “Does your mother know that you’re out?” I asked him by way of singing the chorus to ABBA’s great 1979 hit.
But I was wary — and not just because his mother didn’t know. He played fast and loose with his emotions, uttering the dreaded L word about three dates in. He was 25 years old, and he acted it. He wanted to have a good time, and he didn’t know when to stop. I wanted to have a good time, too, but I always knew when the party was over (sometime around dawn). We had a number of false starts and stops and restarts until one night I decided to sabotage everything, and good. I left with another guy; he stayed with my best friend in BA.
For months, I was furious with them both. Naturally, it was the end of that friendship, and to prove to myself that I was firmly in control, I occasionally fooled around with Marcelo behind the friend’s back. I still liked him, yes. And I do know that I was the one who let him go. But my infallible instincts told me that sticking around would only postpone the inevitable. I noticed his eyes wandering as much as mine did. And the more his wandered, the more mine did in turn, and the tighter his grip became. I already had been down this road in BA: They’re terrified that you’ll cheat because they know that they will. Despite his confessions of love, I knew that neither one of us was boyfriend material. So I had to shake him off. But how dare he rebound with my best friend?
Other guys came and went — Leandro, Matias, Gonzalo, Alejandro (a few of them) — but Marcelo remained in the back of my mind. I’m not really sure why. Yes, I liked him. A lot. That we’ve established. But it wasn’t like I was in love with him. I think that in a sense, for me, he represented a more innocent time of my life in BA, when I still walked around in a dreamlike state, unaware of the cons of living in a city with such “special” citizens. Marcelo was from before my apartment was burglarized, before I’d let any guy get to me, before I’d really opened up my heart to the city or anyone in it.
After more than a year of not seeing Marcelo, one night we ran into each other in Amerika. He was no longer dating my ex-friend, and he apologized profusely for his part in what had gone down between us. I accepted, but deep down, I knew I hadn’t quite forgiven him, and I’d never forget. That didn’t stop me from taking him home. Unfortunately, our uneasy truce didn’t last long. I can’t quite remember what exactly set me off, but shortly after we arrived at my apartment, I asked him to leave. He did.
Many months, perhaps an entire year, passed, and one day, I received a text message from Marcelo. He just wanted to say hi. I wasn’t sure what his point was, but I chalked it up to typical Argentine behavior. They always come back. Usually, they don’t have anything pressing to say. They’re just testing the waters. I wasn’t taking the bait. We sent a few messages back and forth, but I expressed minimal interest, and that was that.
Then about a week and a half ago, I was walking down the street to an appointment, and I saw a familiar face about a half a block away. He was standing on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette and looking right at me. I didn’t look back, but I got a good enough glimpse through the corner of my eye to make out the face. I was already past him when I realized that it was Marcelo. I thought about turning around and saying hello. But I was late. And did I really want to go there again?
In the end, I did. Against all odds, Marcelo and I ended up together Saturday night at Human. I had gone with a bunch of friends, and by all accounts, I was in rare form. Talking, dancing, mingling with every body in the club. Somehow, though, at the end of the night, it was just us two: Marcelo and me, waiting for a taxi on the side of the road.
We ended up spending all of Sunday together, which is something I haven’t done with anyone in years — possibly since the night after we first met nearly four years ago. He made us dinner, and we talked and listened to music. It was the best Sunday I’ve had in a long time. In some ways, Marcelo seems so different. He’s 28 now, and he does seem more mature, more sure of himself.
But in some ways, he’s still the same Marcelo. Sensitive, charming, impulsive and flaky as hell. He told me that he’s liked me all of these years, but in the past — and even the night before — it was so hard to get my undivided attention. He’d practically had to drag me out of Human because I was giving a little bit of myself to everyone who crossed my path. I told him that’s how I am when I’ve had a bit too much to drink. But as I generally don’t go out more than once a week, and don’t go all out more than once a month, it’s a side of me that normally stays well hidden.
After telling me at least two dozen times how much he likes me, he asked me if I wanted to be his boyfriend now. I didn’t give him an answer. Part of me is no longer interested in having a boyfriend. I’ve been burned too many times. Isn’t it ironic? Argentina legalized same-sex marriage last week, and I’m suddenly completely uninterested in being tied to down to one guy. Anyway, I going on vacation to Australia soon, and I don’t want any possessive boyfriend stopping me from going full tilt while I’m there.
Another part of me simply does not trust Marcelo. And I wonder if I ever will be able to. He hurt me once, and I’ve convinced myself that he’ll do it again, if I let him. In fact, as I sit here typing, I’m not convinced that I’ll see or hear from him again this week, or this month, or this year. Perhaps it’s not Marcelo I don’t trust. Maybe it’s Argentine men in general. I’ve been burned enough times here to know that any relationship is only as valid as your last meeting, and you’ve got to treat every goodbye kiss like it might really be goodbye.
On Monday morning, standing in the doorway of my building at 2am with Marcelo, that’s exactly what I did.