pages Me vs You

by Olaya Barr

Published in Issue No. 216 ~ May, 2015
Luca Grisa

Artwork by Luca Grisa

Before the crash, bang, deafening crash…


You said you were a baby at FoodTown, a baby at Burger King, a baby at Lincoln Cinemas. I imagine you slurping a big blue drink on red velvet seats at the movie theater.

I was a baby at the beach primarily, in Spain, and I was a little kid there too, eating big crusty sandwiches with Nocilla (Nutella) or oily chorizo inside. I was also a baby in bar-cafes with linoleum table tops and wooden bars. There were cigarette machines with the cowboy Marlboro Man and abuelitos drinking agua ardiente in their cortados. “You could smoke in cafes then?” Yeah, you still can.

You wished you were a baby next to cows, a baby licked by dogs, a country bumpkin baby speaking French and drinking from an udder. Your idea of Europe is very different than mine. I wanted to be a baby under a coconut tree, eating fresh pineapple with my teeth, no churches anywhere. A baby with a tropical lei, or a baby belonging to the cowboy Marlboro Man. A North or South American baby.

So we both weren’t the babies we wanted to be, but we’re the people we are now. We have excess time to talk about when we were diapered.


We compare ourselves by how we see things. We watch women in saris play tug of war. They remind you of samosas; you’re hungry for the ones from Back At Home, in New Jersey. The women remind me: that muddy river in India where ashen corpses float like canoes parting chocolate water. Who is the romantic?

But these women are in Prospect Park. The response to such a sight is “What are you celebrating? Is it a national holiday?” Woman says “Simply a family reunion.” But there are hundreds of these people eating watermelon. How did they all get there? Maybe in a boat, like the canoes parting chocolate water. Maybe they got there on Viking boats, though, bigger ones. Left, right, left, right, left, left. I laugh at imagining them arrive on boats from deep in Queens. You did rowing in college. Maybe they arrived on horseback like the Marlboro Man in the Spanish cafe-bars.


Then you ask One wish: bird or fish?

To eat or to be?

To be.

We face the arch at Grand Army Plaza. The fountain behind showcases a well-sculpted couple, but you can barely make out the details of their muscles through all the mist and spray.

I thought fish, but I said dolphin; you said bird.

My pet goldfish became translucent after spending all of August at your house and now he looks unpleasant. (He? Yes, I can tell he has a penis). I think I can see its brain, too, now that he’s all clear, but then maybe goldfish brains are so small I’m not able to see it. You aren’t the best of pet sitters, but I know you are better with dogs, anyway. You like tongues beckoning for you.

Dolphin, I said, over a fish or a bird, because of a trip to Panama when I was eight years old. I was on a little motorboat with my mother and a native man named Anselmo. Out of nowhere, about a dozen dolphins started swimming alongside us. They jumped over our boat in big arcs (at least, that’s how I remember it). The water was so clear and the dolphins were so white. I have never yelled with so much glee since, and afterwards, I ate mango and papaya.

“Damn. You have a thing for Latin America, don’t you?” It’s not a fetish, but yeah. Latin American men treat me well. I’m just saying, when I was in Mexico, jalapeño was easy to avoid. Simply ask the formal, clean, and delightful waiter with the gel-raked, Zen hair, Y esto verde? Es jalapeño? It will be Si, señorita, and he’ll remove it a mis ordenes. It’s always a sus ordenes and como usted desea, like I’m the señorita boss of the restaurant. The Queen, The Reina del Res Rancherito Rellenito, call me that. “That sounds indulgent, to me,” you say. It’s just nice to feel nice. We get political.

Bird, you said, so you can fly and see everything from above. Plus, you say, I had pet finches growing up. I like birds.

“Where would you fly to?” Let me guess: Paris, Rome, Madrid, cobble stones, croissants, fields of tomatoes fresh for picking. I am correct. You want to be a classic man, the opposite of someone who will pick out jalapeño from my chilaquiles. I sing to you Bruce Springstín. What happened between being babies and now?


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Olaya Barr is a New York photographer and writer who integrates multilingualism and visuals in her work. She is inspired by children's conversations, new streets, and the sea. You can follow her blog at and browse her photography at