Avenida Florida that is. In Buenos Aires. It is a delightful walking street, filled to the brim with artists and artisans selling exquisite paintings with tango dancers in impossible positions which they will assure you are possible, beautiful lace and floral scarves, hand knitted vests of infinite varieties, precious gems to heal your aches and pains.

I sat down on the ground to test out an amethyst. I bought one for quince pesos, or the equivalent of four into fifteen, roughly just under four dollars. I asked the fellow if he was able to make a living this way. I noticed I was the only one buying. He laughed and confessed he did, yes, but only when a healer or practitioner came and bought a whole set.

Batya Weinbaum opens palms from Columbus to Buenos Aires
Courtesy Photo

He began demonstrating how I needed a quartz washed in moonlight or rainwater on each foot that was very tired, in addition to the one for my rump I had already purchased. I had explained it was the damn sciatica nerve that I had injured with twelve classes of tango dancing. You see the woman has to step backwards balancing all this weight while she turns her torso towards the leader…

He laughed again, knowingly, and we planned a demonstration for when I returned from Uruguay. I would lie on the ground, he would put crystals on different parts of my body, I would get up and scream, que milagro, puedo andar! Dios mio! And he would sell crystals. I would read palms next to him.

We turned from laughing together, and I pointed to the mannequins in the window of the department store leering out at us in frozen positions. “What happened to them?” I asked. They got petrified by the bite of a snake in the night. A different way of selling, I remarked. Then I walked away, looking forward to working when I came back to town in this street full of life.

Then, wandering further down Florida, I had to dodge a marching band playing off key with signs proclaiming in Spanish something like, “we want to work, to throw us out is not to make a living.” I asked the local policeman what the demonstration was about. He shrugged his shoulders. I had already learned that asking what a protest was about was useless; people want to minimalize conflict.

I wandered again, and spotted turquoise. A seller came hurrying back to her territory. She explained animatedly how the stones carried the energy of the sky and the sea, how if I bought a necklace for fifty I could have the bracelet and the earrings for free. I said I did not wear earrings, but I would read her palms for the bracelet. She took me to a stool. I took her through the usual routine, how she could pull her little finger up to make more money and so on. Then her health — it looked good. Then she wanted to know about her coming changes.

At that moment the off-key marching band came by. I had to strain to hear what she said. They were protesting that in two days all the vendors would be off Florida for good, she volunteered. Well, for the changes, I could read the story in the center of her palm, but I usually charge forty five US dollars, so she volunteered the necklace as well.

I looked in the center of her palm. I saw a red camioneta, a little red pickup truck, going north with all her possessions. “Do you have a red pickup truck,” I asked? She shook her head no. Well, it is a symbol then, or someone is going to help you. But you will go north. And you have to stop smoking. Your health lines are good, and you will live a long life, but I see all this gray smoke leaving your body where it is clogging your pores and your cells. You have to imagine a red rose where your head is, and a green stem going down your spine. Visualize this with a great force. You are a flower. Force the smoke out.

She admitted when I was finished with the reading that she had two children in the north who had invited her there when they heard she had to leave Florida. But they were young. How young? In their thirties, and they had their families. Well that is where I saw her going, I reminded her, in the truck. So just visualize going north in a red pickup truck and write about it in a journal, I suggested. And I donned my necklace and wandered off, wondering if I would find my theatrical healer partner when I returned.


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