Once again, it started at the Retiro bus station, in Buenos Aires. This time, we had our gear with us. Destination? Rosario, Santa Fe, Central Argentina, a mere 300-kilometre ride from the national capital.
“There is a bus at 11 a.m.,” I told Feng.
“Nope, we’re gonna miss it.”
He had a point. Retiro is huge, walking from the ticket office to the boarding deck would take close to ten minutes.
I bought the tickets, we grabbed water and waited, yes, Mark, it’s a double-decker bus and yes, Mark, we will sit upstairs, don’t thank me, I didn’t pick the seats.
I had no idea how Mark was going to deal with the four-hour ride. As a baby, he slept, the pacifier in his mouth. The pacifier is gone and there was zero chance he would doze off.
I sat with him and opened my laptop. “Just enjoy the ride,” I advised.
“Glad you like it, Mark.”
We drove by Buenos Aires’s harbour.
“Look at the boxes! They have toys in them. Like, maybe LEGO.”
I glanced at the giant containers.
“Are we in Argentina?”
“Are we going to another … city?”
I explained Mark the difference between a country and a city using a metaphor: a classroom is a country, the kids are cities. I have no idea if he really understood the concept but he knows that daddy comes from China, mommy comes from France and we all live in Canada. Like, he tells everyone who shows interest in us.
However, this morning, he did suggest going to France by bus, so maybe he didn’t quite get it.
I started sorting out the pictures on my laptop and Mark played with the tablet, taking dozens of selfies. The passengers in front of us, two twenty-something Brazilians, were also taking selfies with their cellphone. Mark was only missing a Facebook account to be a cool guy.
I checked the time. An hour had gone by Mark had been quiet enough, he deserved some attention.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m writing a story.”
“Can you tell me a story?”
I tell Mark stories. Stories of anecdotes that happened before he was born, like when Feng was bitten by dogs in Salvador, stories of us as kids, the story of how he was born (an abridged version…), stories with silly monsters.
“I can tell you a story, if you want, mommy…”
Mark’s stories invariably involve a monster and a sword. The ending is predictable.
“Did you see the cows?”
“Look out of the window, you’ll see them.”
Unfortunately, parilla meat was happily munching on grass on the other side of the freeway so Mark started counting trees instead.
“Can you use your quiet voice? Like, count in your head?”
“That would be silly. I have a mouth to speak.”
Feng, Mark and I are together 24/7. We are getting to know each other, once again. We have different personalities. When Mark is tired, he is loud and overexcited. Feng is moody while I need peace and quiet and some time for myself. I get ready quick, Mark takes forever. Mark and I both like taking hot shower even if it’s 30º C outside, Feng likes cold showers. The guys love ice cream but I don’t. Mark and I both like to be reassured and praised once in a while, Feng is more confident.
Mark is both Feng and I. Life is freaking magic.
I see Mark differently now. Despite my flaws, the tough months and years, the crying, the tantrums and all the mistakes we made as parents, he actually turned out okay. I’m amazed. He is smart, kind and curious. Oh, he is annoying too—he moves and talks all the time, and I really don’t feel like playing “rock, paper, scissor,” why did I even teach you that game, oh boy…
“P-I-Z-Z-A is pizza.”
“Can I see your ear things?”
“Yes! One, two, three, four, five, six…”
“Eight. I have eight. Four in each ear.”
My teen years, what can I say…
“Can I see this one? The belly button?”
I take my piercing out. “Ooooh… That’s funny. Can I have one too?”
“Do you know how it works? You take a big needle and it goes through the skin.”
“Uh … no, I don’t want it, then.”
“That bus takes a long time.”
“Almost there. An hour. Look, we are getting close to the city.”
“Rosario capital del helado artisanal” the sign said on the freeway. Feng and Mark will love it.
We finally arrived in Rosario just before 4 p.m. We rushed out. This was just a five-minute stop since the bus was going all the way to Córdoba.
After four hours in a bus with air con, the heat felt unbearable.