I was walking down the street two neighborhoods away from mine when I found them. I never go to Flores, which is strange because I went to school there and spent my whole childhood, teenage years and early twenties wandering in the quadrant Puán – Rivadavia – Bonorino – Directorio. Right here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Even my first two boyfriends lived in front of our school. But there’s nothing left in Flores for me now, just old far reminiscences. Or I thought there wasn’t.
Six years later, I was in the neighborhood again. Although eight blocks beyond my familiar radio, on unknown territory, walking towards a new boyfriend’s house. And then I saw them, scattered on the road, below the cars parked in the sideway. Old slides, covered in dust and dirt, just like my first love recollections, some broken from the heels that run over them, others in perfect condition. What a gift. I crouched next to a black Volkswagen and picked them up. I already felt I was stealing someone’s memories.
The first and only time I saw a slide I was 10, at a family birthday party. I believe it was my grandma’s Elsa. Everyone was feeling nostalgic, so they dusted off a projector from the seventies and slide-showed vintage photos and videos to the yellow wall of my living room. There was mom, about my then same age and height, in a swimming competition at Banco Provincia Club, diving into what it seemed to me an Olympic outdoors pool; and there was grandad Alberto, in his late forties, wearing a white short sleeved shirt and his hair slicked back in pomade, serving as a judge.
I don’t know what happened to those films after grandad passed away and Elsita came to live with us. So, I haven’t seen a slide in almost 20 years and have no clue how to digitize one, but the curiosity was pumping out of my veins, so I lifted one up to the sun and watched the image coming through the light.
A professional soccer stadium, green hills in the summer, Iguazu Falls, a man in his fifties wearing a pair of too-tight white pants smiling to the camera with a mountain landscape behind. It all screamed seventies: the sepia tone in the negatives, the grainy texture, that man’s clothes. I felt dirty, a little bit from touching with my bare hands objects that might have been on the garbage and were definitely on the avenue for God knows how long. No one cared enough to pick them up. And a little bit from peeking into a stranger’s life without their knowledge. He, she, or they are gone. Why throwing out their memories otherwise? A dedicated grandchild that digitalized the family archive and got rid of the useless slides? I would never.
I sense someone died, and in the emptying out their home these weren’t significant enough to hold onto. They were as dismissed by their own blood as by strangers. Because if they were still alive, they’d still have that vintage projector, and if not, elderly just don’t throw stuff away. They cling into every belonging as if it was the only thing left for them to prove they once were young.
The slides are still on the supermarket bag I placed them. They are awaiting in my apartment’s floor -the ground once again-, for me to clean them up and treat them carefully for what they are: fleeting treasured moments of a precious life, just like yours and mine.