This stain on the carpet, this drink in my hand.


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Buenos Aires was blurring into dawn. George had been walking for an hour

on the sweaty black cobblestones

of the city waiting for night's end. Traffic crashed past him. He covered his mouth

and nose with his hand as five old buses

came tilting around the corner of the street and halted one behind the other,

belching soot. Passengers streamed

on board like insects into lighted boxes and the experiment roared off down the street.

Pulling his body after him

like a soggy mattress George trudged on uphill. Cafe Martinez was crowded.

He found a corner table

and was writing a postcard to his mother:

Die Angst offenbart das Nichts

There are many Germans in

Buenos Aires they are all

cigarette girls the weather

is lov--

when he felt a sharp tap on his boot propped against the chair opposite.

Mind if I join you?

The yellowbeard had already taken hold of the chair. George moved his boot.

Pretty busy in here today,

said the yellowbeard turning to signal a waiter--Por favor hombre!

George went back to his postcard.

Sending postcards to your girlfriends? In the midst of his yellow beard

was a pink mouth small as a nipple. No.

You sound American am I right? You from the States?


The waiter arrived with bread and jam to which the yellowbeard bent himself.

You here for the conference? No.

Big conference this weekend at the university. Philosophy. Skepticism.

Ancient or modern? George

could not resist asking. Well now, said the yellowbeard looking up,

there's some ancient people here

and some modern people here. Flew me in from Irvine. My talk's at three.

What's your topic? said George

trying not to stare at the nipple. Emotionlessness. The nipple puckered.

That is to say, what the ancients called

ataraxia. Absence of disturbance
, said George. Precisely. You know ancient Greek?

No but I have read the skeptics. So you

teach at Irvine. That's in California? Yes southern California--actually I've got

a grant next year to do research at MIT.

George watched a small red tongue clean jam off the nipple. I want to study the erotics

of doubt. Why?
 George asked.

The yellowbeard was pushing back his chair--As a precondition--and saluting

the waiters across the room--

of the proper search for truth. Provided you can renounce--he stood--that

rather fundamental human trait

he raised both arms as if to alert a ship at sea--the desire to know. He sat.

I think I can, said George.

Pardon? Nothing. A passing waiter slapped the bill down onto a small metal

spike on the table.

Traffic was crashing past outside. Dawn had faded. The gas-white winter sky

came down like a gag on Buenos Aires.

Would you care to come and hear my talk? We could share a cab.

May I bring my camera?

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Very beautiful, excellent pacing.

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