It’s the damned lock. As cutely antiquated as the key is, the lock doesn’t respond to any form of manipulation. I rotate the thing clockwise in the keyhole until I hear the click, and then twist the doorknob. But there is no response. The door doesn’t budge. Damn. I try an anticlockwise rotation, hear another click and twist again. Nada. Damn it! I make four more attempts. Five. And now I find myself fighting mild panic. It wouldn’t have been such a big issue if I were trying to get into my room. The simple fix to that would have been to seek out the hostel admin guy with the fuzzy fro. But no. It is my first morning in Argentina and I’m trapped inside my blasted bedroom. And if the door has any say in the matter, I’m not going anywhere.
A journey is essentially the act of getting from one place to another. But for me to get anywhere in Buenos Aires, from my room to the corridor to the door stoop and beyond, I have to overcome the issue of that latch. Some journeys cover miles. Mine requires a single step, from inside my room to the outside.
I step back a moment, take a deep breath, and survey my options. They are limited. To my right, my shuttered window overlooks a courtyard. Across from it is another window, and linking the two rooms is an open-aired corridor on my left. I could play the role of distressed damsel; wave my arms wildly until I attract the notice of a passerby in the corridor or a peeping-tom from the room opposite. But my independent nature scorns this suggestion. For me, there is only one face-saving option.
The shutters open with a creak and I fling them right back. Mounting the table beneath the window, I swing my legs over the ledge. My feet hit the ceramic tiles of a short roof that slopes down to a courtyard cluttered with pot plants, glass tables and wiry chairs. When I’d first arrived at the hostel, I’d hoped to spend some mornings relaxing in that courtyard. But I had always planned on accessing it by ground, not air. I gently test my weight on the tiles. Some shift beneath my feet, and as I move about I can hear others crack in protest. Keeping my right hand on the window sill and leaning out with my left, I can just grasp the edge of the corridor wall. I am suspended there, splayed on the roof of my hostel. Should my peeping-tom look out his window now, he would have a good view up my skirt.
My feet scramble for traction. And I wonder, what now? This is my test of faith, the moment to trust in the strength of the phalanges of my left hand and the muscles of my arm. My right hand has to let go of the window sill and swing around to the corridor. My bottom has to lift from the tiles to give my arm the reach it needs. I close my eyes. It doesn’t seem the smartest thing to do, but in the circumstances neither does climbing out of a second-floor hostel window so I cut myself some slack. I summon my inner gorilla and swing. The motion makes my feet slip momentarily down the roof. But my right hand is clutching the corridor wall. I scramble ungraciously up the tiles and vault over the ledge. Phew.
I am in the corridor. Success! Triumph! But only seconds after my feet hit the pavement, I feel that something is amiss. I quickly survey my property and assess the arse-kicking, head-butting comedy of the situation. I’ve left that stubborn key in the keyhole inside my room.