I was strolling down a street two neighborhoods away from my own when I stumbled upon an unexpected treasure. 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 right across from our school. But, over time, Flores had become a repository for distant memories. Or so I thought.
Six years later, I found myself back in the neighborhood. Although eight blocks beyond my familiar radio, on unknown territory, making my way to the home of a new boyfriend. And there, beneath the cars parked along the sidewalk, I saw them—scattered on the pavement. Old slides, cloaked in dust and grime, much like the recollections of my first love, some shattered from the wheels that had inadvertently crushed them, others miraculously intact. What a gift. I crouched next to a forest green Ford truck and picked them up. I already felt I was stealing someone’s memories.
The first and only time I had seen a slide before was when I was ten, at a family birthday party, my grandma Elsa's. Everyone was engulfed in nostalgia, dusting off a '70s-era projector and casting vintage photos and videos onto the yellow wall of my living room. There was my mom, roughly my age and height at the time, participating in a swimming competition at Banco Provincia Club, diving into what seemed to me like an Olympic-sized outdoor pool. And there was my grandad Alberto, in his late forties, sporting a white short-sleeved shirt with slicked-back pomade hair, serving as a judge.
I'm not sure what became of those films after grandad passed away, and Elsita came to live with us. So, it's been almost two decades since I last encountered a slide, and I had no idea how to digitize one. Nevertheless, my curiosity was pumping through my veins, so I held one up to the sunlight, watching the image emerge through the light.
A professional soccer stadium, verdant summer hills, the majestic Iguazu Falls, a middle-aged man in a pair of too-tight white pants beaming at the camera with a mountainous backdrop—it all echoed the '70s. The sepia tone of the negatives, the grainy texture, and the man's attire. I felt a peculiar mix of discomfort—partly from bare handling objects that might have been in the trash and sure been forgotten in the street for an eternity and partly from intruding into a stranger's life without their knowledge. Whoever they were, they had departed this world. Why else would their memories have been cast aside so carelessly? Perhaps a diligent grandchild had digitized the family archive and considered these slides no longer worth keeping. Sacrilege.
I had a hunch that someone had passed away, and in the process of emptying their home, these slides didn't make the cut. They were as dismissed by their own blood as by strangers. Elderly just don’t throw stuff away. Each belonging represents a piece of their past, a tangible link to their youth, and they hold onto them as if these possessions are the last remnants that prove they once were young.
The slides are still inside the plastic supermarket bag where I placed them. Waiting 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.