I leave my house every day at 8:15 and walk three quarters of a mile to the Rio de Janeiro subte station. There’s a closer stop, at Castro Barros, but I like the walk. I pass the same parents walking their kids to school every day–for the last 3 weeks I’ve been behind a kindergartener with a Strawberry Shortcake backpack and her mom, every day, until I cross the street in the opposite direction at Rivadavia. That’s how I know I’m going the right way: the people and the graffiti.
I pass a garage painted electric blue a block before the ORT building, where I cross over to Rio de Janeiro. 5 minutes up the sidewalk until I get to the bridge with portraits of a woman with long, blue hair and a man on the other side of the bridge looking at her. And on the cement walls of the tunnel under the bridge, scrawled in orange and black, are the words that have caught my attention every day for the last two weeks.
Sin igual te amo siempre.
“Without equal, I love you forever.”
That could mean a lot of things. I love you more than I love anyone else; I love you more than anyone else does; I will always love you more than anyone else ever has or more than I will ever love anyone else. And who is “you”? Who is “I”? Does “siempre” mean “te” and “yo” are always the same as when those words were put on that wall?
Because here’s the thing: siempre is a long time. People can’t promise siempre like a cement wall can. Cement walls don’t sleep and think and worry until their stomachs churn, which is why it’s so easy for cement walls.
But the words didn’t just write themselves, and I have no idea when they were written. I don’t know if the person who put the words there meant them then, or if that person still means them. But I’m realizing that that’s not important, because people aren’t cement walls; they’re not supposed to be.