The Rest of Her Life
Translated by Gwen Mackeith
he other day I went to see a Western. I hate Westerns. Plus it went on for an eternity. Ricardo wanted to go and I went with him, out of fear he’d go with someone else. In the cinema I was so bored, so extremely bored, that I got the jitters in my legs, my feet and neck. What am I doing here? My husband isn’t going to stay with me because I go with him to this bollocks, I thought. That’s what it is: a load of nonsense, said Monica, while she looked at a pasta sauce stain on her brown suede shoes. She was lying down on the couch of Andrea’s consulting room, her psychoanalyst. The tip of her shoe was the first thing which appeared in her field of vision.
Andrea heard a sound in the hallway. Pedro? Pedro no longer had keys. A week ago, she herself had taken them from him. But it was him. Andrea knew well her ex-husband’s imposing way of walking, the slow and drawn out way the floorboards creaked as they gave way to the weight of his body. She had heard him so many nights, so many early mornings, so many mornings ... Over eighteen years she had measured Pedro’s love for her by what time those noises were made on his arrival.
‘Actually, I thought, if Ricardo likes Westerns so much, we shouldn’t be married. Ultimately, your taste in cinema defines you. I know the kind of person who is entertained by Lethal Weapon 2 perfectly well, I’ve suffered it first hand. Or the kind of people who like horror films. What kind of person goes to see a horror film? Remember Silence of the Lambs? I left the cinema after twenty minutes. Then Ricardo told me that I had missed one of the greatest films he had ever seen in his life’, Monica went on, with the slight suspicion that her analyst wasn’t paying attention.
Andrea was looking intently at the old keyhole in the door of her consulting room. From the patio, Estrellita’s barks of delight finally convinced her: Pedro had arrived. Somehow, he had dared to bring his body into what had been his house. Andrea looked at her watch; still fifteen minutes to go.
‘In truth, the cinema is a detail. Lately, I find Ricardo so narrow minded, so uninteresting ... more than just his taste. As if time had taken away what once made us close.
Better to be alone than in bad company, Andrea was about to say. But a pain which left her voiceless spread from her stomach to her throat. It was the same feeling of being unwell which had shaken her every morning since Pedro had left her. Suddenly she believed the opposite: better to be in bad company than alone. This went against her principles. She preferred not to say it. She knew that very soon she would have to help Monica admit that her second marriage wasn’t working (a situation which she herself had never had the courage to recognise). Andrea had a deep desire to throw that vile man out of her house. She tried to understand how he’d got in. Did Pedro have another set of keys? Why didn’t she change the locks when he’d left the house?
‘I’m going to have to cut the session short by ten minutes. I have to sort something out ... I apologise. The next time you come, if you’re able to stay, we can add the ten minutes then’, said Andrea.
You tell me now? asked Monica. ‘You’re throwing me out, like a dog? No, not even that, I can hear your dog barking from the hallway. You love her more than you love me. And I have to go, this is worse than going to watch a Western with Ricardo. I come here for you to understand me ... This has no therapeutic effect whatsoever. Bah! Are ten minutes next session going to be the same as the ten minutes you’re taking away from me now?
‘... it’s true, they won’t be.’
‘Then stick them up your arse’, Monica forcefully tried to open the door and the door knob came off in her hand.
‘Yes, it’s true, I should have warned you beforehand. I forgot to’ Andrea replied, still staring into space.
‘Sorry, the screws need to be tightened on that handle. I must fix it, without fail!’
If, for a woman over twenty-five, the chances of being killed by a terrorist are greater than her chances of getting married, at forty-two ... I didn’t even have the good fortune of being killed by a terrorist, Andrea said to herself, as she walked to the kitchen.
‘What are you doing here?’ she asked Pedro, with her eyes wide open.
Estrellita was incessantly licking Pedro’s face. She was wagging her short little tail like a pendulum sped up. Pedro had got down to stroke her white head of wavy fur. The poodle was jumping around him with shrill barks.
‘Dad came to visit’, said Sofia smiling.
‘Who opened the door to him?’ Andrea asked her youngest daughter with impatience and with an unexpected trace of happiness in seeing him.’ ‘Actually ...’, Pedro answered. He was looking at Andrea with guilt, relief, pain and resentment.
‘Dad called and said he was coming’, Sofia added.
Andrea was about to tell her daughter that she didn’t have to open the door to her father. She contained herself. She was filled with regret. Why did she have to run after Pedro yet again? Why had she abruptly ended Monica’s session? Her aunt Felisa had insisted that she should not pay any attention to Pedro. She had done the opposite.
‘Sofia, off you go, I’m going to say something to your father’, Andrea ordered.
‘Come to the kitchen afterwards, Dad, I’m going to have tea!’ said Sofia from the door in the hallway which led to the bedrooms. Andrea waited for her to go away. ‘I want you to talk to me before you come! I don’t like you using the kids!’
‘Don’t be ridiculous ... ‘
‘Stop treating me badly.’
‘Listen: I’m leaving because you’ve got me seething; I wanted to talk to you, but now I don’t feel like it anymore.’
‘Some things you don’t feel like anymore very quickly, except going to bed with the first girl you come across ... ‘
‘If you go on like this you won’t get to fuck even the most pathetic of sods!’
Pedro slammed the door. Andrea came back to the kitchen. She had said everything she would not have wanted to say. She wrestled the cafeteria open and put milk to warm in the little red and white jug. It’s screwed, I should buy a new one, she thought.
Andrea knew she had made one mistake after another. She wished she could go back to the moment when she heard the alarm go off that morning and start again. She remembered that she was dreaming about reading a letter from her mother: she told her that she would travel to Cariló. It was about the house which they actually had in Cariló. Soon after the death of his wife, her father had sold it, arguing that, without her company, he wouldn’t be able to bear other summers there. He had sold it without consulting her. Andrea concluded that her father had never been interested in that holiday place and that he had made the most of the situation and got rid of it. Indignation was added to the irritation. Depression added to gloom. Fear for the future to unease about the past. And the present? The telephone rang. Andrea tried to dry her hands with the tea towel and dropped it on the floor. She ran to answer it and saw Sofia sitting at the table. She was reading a magazine. Her light brown hair down to her waist was falling to one side. Imposing and ethereal at the same time. Two white coffees and four pieces of toast were steaming beside her.
‘For dinner?’ Andrea asked.
‘What about Dad?’ asked Sofia without lifting her eyes from the magazine. Her mother was talking on the telephone with an absent expression.
‘Has he gone already?’
Andrea nodded at her daughter with an uncomplicated smile.
‘He didn’t even say goodbye to me! ... I was waiting for him with the tea ready’.
‘Sofia can stay with Guido’, Andrea assured.
‘Are you going as well, Mum?’
‘I’m going out for dinner with some friends, and then I’ll be back’
Unlike that brute of a father of yours, she thought, but this time she didn’t say it. She had promised herself that her words would be measured in front of the kids. Although she didn’t fully understand why she bothered. It was all so obvious.
She had never felt so exposed in her life. To have to tell people that she’d separated from Pedro filled her with horror. She preferred to isolate herself, not to see anyone. The separation would definitely be worse than her mother’s suicide. When she had each of her two children, all the nurses had kept on asking about her. No-one asked about her husband, who Andrea was proud to introduce. She had had to explain that her mother had died. The pains of childbirth weren’t nearly as hurtful as those questions. The first night in the hospital, she didn’t stop crying. From the moment the nurse took the baby away until she brought her to be breastfed, at four in the morning. It was then that she felt useful. Because in the face of the death of her mother, above all she had felt useless.
ndrea pushed the revolving doors of the restaurant hard. Even though she hadn’t run, her heart was beating fast. She looked at her watch for the second time. She swept back her hair. She fixed her gaze on each one of the nearby tables, on the red and white chequered table cloths (with a few blue lines). Her friends weren’t there. Her face dropped. She smiled when she saw them sitting at a long table, almost at the back of the room. They chose badly, too close to the toilets.
‘What are you having? Ooh, look, here’s Andre! It’s been a million years since I’ve seen her, it’s great that you thought of doing this reunion, Flor’, said Silvina, as she twiddled her CND sign earring back into its place.
‘I look at the puddings first and, depending on what I’m going to have, I then decide on the main dish.’
‘Oh, I don’t, I ... Hey, how are you, lovely’, Silvina asked.
‘I also told him to go to hell.’
‘We’re waiting for Ceci, Tere and Andre. Here’s Andrea coming, right now. In case you don’t know, she’s just separated.’
‘No way, poor thing, how is she?’
‘How do you think? Like shit, no less.’
‘Well sometimes these things can take lift a weight off you. You never know.’
‘’Melon with prosciutto’, announced Silvina, as if she was telling a taxi driver where to take her.
‘I don’t like that.’
‘You don’t like melon with prosciutto?’
‘And now they’re privatising everything, did you see the story of Maria Julia selling off the telephones?’
‘That woman’s repulsive.’
‘Now they’re under Menem, which I think’s extraordinary ...’
‘But it was all planned beforehand. We’re the ones who didn’t know that Alsogaray and this new Peronism with those huge lamb chop sideburns which he started shaving bit by bit ...
‘And what about all the Arabs in government?
‘Shall we ask for a mixed grill?’
‘No, they give you the left overs, better to get individual servings.’
‘Boring! Okay, I’ll have the pork flank steak.’
‘You never deprive yourself of anything ...’
‘Do you think the ribs have less fat?’
‘A bit less, definitely.’
‘You’ve got that wrong, the other day I read in a magazine that beef and pork have the same amount of fat in them. What’s got a lot more fat in it is lamb, that’s what really gets you.’
‘You know, I’m sick of dieting. It’s not that I’m going to start eating like a beast but I’m sick of these eternal extra three or four kilos. I’m not going to be able to lose them, so I’ve given up. It’s after forty, you see? What you haven’t been able to lose by then, is beyond the realm of possibility. Pointless suffering. Better to give yourself realistic goals, giving up smoking, for example.’
‘Che, Andrea doesn’t look so bad!’
‘I have no doubt that she wouldn’t have been able to suffer much more of Pedro, she’s been putting up with him for years ... I didn’t tell her it was eating her up because I thought, as a psychoanalyst, she can’t be failing in that area in her own home. She always makes it seem like everything’s perfect.’
‘And with her mother’s story, what do you expect?’
‘What a lovely necklace, Andre! Che, let me see.’
Andrea touched her necklace made of turquoise, turning the beads with the tips of her fingers. For a moment she stayed lost in thought.
‘Girls, I want to tell you that I’ve separated.’
‘Good, about time.’
‘Don’t be nasty; you, just because you’ve divorced three times.’
‘Well, yes, it’s terrible, most of all now when it’s so recent, you must be feeling really bad. I’m going to say something to you that can sound clichéd, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true: you’re going to get through the distress, you’ve got resources inside. You’re not a woman who has depended entirely on her husband. You’ve got three children, darling. And don’t tell me that that’s where an old woman finds solace because the last thing I’m trying to do is console you. What I am going to give you is a piece of advice, listen to me carefully: don’t even think about getting back together, not even in the worst of circumstances, or in the deepest of depressions. At some point, Pedro is going to want to come back, the same thing happens to them all. I don’t know of one who hasn’t been through this, the relationship with the stupid cow is not going to work: that’s a tried and tested fact.’
‘Do you think that’s why they come back?’
‘When Fabian and I split up, there was no stupid cow in the middle, in fact, we were the morons and Laurita was only three years old ... ‘
‘Yes, we’re going to order now, do you want white or red?’
‘Salad, lots of salad.’
‘She’s still looking at the puddings.’
‘It’s not about the stupid cow, but the stupid prick that guys have within them and can’t get rid of.’
‘What’s got me totally stunned is the story of The Love Boat ... we’re really in the middle of a crazy world, it turns out that customs was being run by someone who didn’t even speak Spanish. The article which came out the other day in the papers is hilarious. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, whether to run away or ... ‘ ‘I don’t know if it’s because Pedro left home.’
‘Forget Pedro! Ceci’s right, if you go on talking about him all the time, you allow him to go on being the centre of your life. That’s the problem we women have, we let men become the axis of our lives and then we complain to ourselves about how they are. Look, all the time we waste talking about our partners, ex-partners and all that, men use to ...’
‘Talk about football and petty politics’
‘Nooo, that’s exactly what my grandmother used to say.’
‘They put it into their work. While you’re spending it crying because he left you, he’s about to premiere his next play.’
‘The worst thing is crying in front of him.’
‘I think that impulse to ... ‘
‘Watch out! He’s practically dropping the mixed grill on your head.’
‘Ah, she got it her way.’
‘We’re going to give you some, don’t worry.’
‘The other day a patient told me that her 15 year old son was going to bed with a friend of hers.’
‘I kept thinking that it’ll happen to me before long.’
‘Last Tuesday Fernando got in at midnight and declared: ‘I’ve got something to tell you’. As it’s been ten years since he hasn’t told me anything, I asked myself what it could be.’
‘He wanted to take me to Pinamar for the long weekend. I didn’t get it, given it’s a month away ... Well, of course I said yes. In the end, I didn’t know whether to take it as something promissory or something negative, I was left with a few suspicions, I’m telling you ... ‘
‘It must be horrible to say it but the truth is that you have good reason. It must be about roles, I agree, but when they change so suddenly ... For instance, if your husband never gets you presents and one day he arrives with a parcel, you say, ‘what the fuck’s going on?, instead of being happy about the gift.’ ‘Who said the word gift just then?’
‘There you go, Flor, from all of us to wish you a very happy birthday.’
‘Ooh, how exciting, thank you! What a big box!’
‘You know what, the other day one of my teeth fell out, look at the hole. I was so sad! I almost fainted, I didn’t know that a tooth could fall out just like that. I’m forty five. Do you think that everything’s going to start dropping now?’
‘Teeth have nothing to do with age.’
‘Girls, this shirt’s fantastic! It’s great, see-through and everything. Beige and black, I love the combination.’
‘Let me see it.’
‘Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you!’ they sang in unison.
‘Wait until the cake comes, what’s wrong with them? They’re going to throw us out of the restaurant.’
‘Because we want to sing happy birthday, what can you do, the years that go by don’t stop us wanting to. Honey, in a canteen in Barracas they’re never going to chuck you out for singing happy birthday. On the contrary, if there comes a day without it being someone’s birthday, they’ll shut down.’
‘How lucky I came! You know what, since that thing happened which I shouldn’t mention, I’ve been ashamed to go out. I started to understand so many things ... I have the feeling that I’ve spent years in a glass box, which wasn’t actually made of glass ... I allowed myself to go on being fixed to certain ideas without seeing any of the ones I didn’t like. It’s a relief, I’m telling you being here is a tonic.’
‘A crisis is also a possibility. I understand your pain, it’s not that I’m a brute but you can create another relationship, or do things which you didn’t do when you were married. You got married when you were very young, too young, you took everything so seriously, you don’t need him anymore, your children are pretty grown up. You remember when you couldn’t go out to the end of the road without there being somebody at home to look after the kids? Those years are tough; to a certain extent you’re tied hand and foot. It was such hard work, and you did it! That’s what I want to say to you.’
‘At times I seem able to raise my head above water; but at others, I’m not far off wanting to die. Such a huge feeling of distress invades me ... I don’t remember ever having it before, not even when Mum died.’
‘Maybe you went on choking on all that sorrow, no?’
‘Since when don’t you eat meat?’
‘Since a cow kicked me. Remember I told you I went for a long weekend ... ? The 17th of October, no, I mean, August ...’
‘The 17th, of course, you’re thinking of October ...’
‘It turned out that the really fun thing was to go and see how the cows were being milked; with me being totally urban, I tried to give the kids some contact with nature, you know? But the cow seemed to be in a bad mood, or she didn’t like how they were touching that huge tit, the problem was that she kicked me. Luckily I moved my head out of the way otherwise she would have taken out my eye. She kicked me in the thigh, hardly and I mean it was hardly ..., the bruise it gave me was the biggest I’ve ever had in my life. Now it’s kind of green. See? Well, it’s been through every colour: red, brown, blue, purple. To hell with cows, I don’t even want to see them dead ...’
‘But a steak isn’t going to kick you ..., on the contrary, you should delight in being able to eat them ...’
‘Since I went there, to the countryside, I don’t eat pork either. The way they live is so gross! They eat the plastic containers. Never again, never again will I eat pork, the Jews have got a point, so have the Muslims, I now understand. You’ve got to see how these disgusting animals live ...!’
‘It’s because we’re city creatures: we cohabit with cockroaches.’
‘I’ll stick with the cockroaches. What can I say? They’re cleaner, even though you don’t believe it. Do you realise that it’s possible cockroaches have been in an operating theatre?’
‘Che, we’re eating, why don’t you stop talking about all of this?’
Andrea ran to the restaurant kitchen to put the candles on the cake. It was two months until her birthday. It would be the first one she would celebrate without Pedro. She tried to mentally count how many of her birthdays she had celebrated with her ex-husband. She couldn’t, and cast that idea aside. What was the point of counting?
o you remember my wedding?’ Andrea asked her aunt Felisa.
‘You didn’t want anything conventional. It’s because at that time anything common was frowned upon, it had to be strange’, said Felisa from the kitchen. ‘In ’74 ... I’d completely wiped it out, until the other day I noticed the ring when I took it off. First I threw it in the bin, then I looked for it in the rubbish. I thought to myself that the gold must be worth something. And, who am I to throw it away, right? I can give it to Sofia so that she can make an earring out of it, one because it won’t be enough for two. But as she has two holes in one ear, it could be good for her.’
‘I think that was the same year that they burned down the National Theatre ...’ Felisa commented as she put the kettle on the hob.
‘That was crazy, yes!’
‘It was because of a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, imagine! But I can think of so many crazy things in this country. We could make that into a game, I’ll start: El Caño’s coup.’
‘You can’t imagine how hard it is to get up in the morning. Me who always used to jump out of bed ...’
‘Now it’s your turn to say one, I’ve just said Caño’s coup.’
‘Err ... , don’t know. Do you want me to talk to you about stupid things? After what’s happened to me? Can you tell me what El Caño is?
‘That’s what they used to call Onganía as he was hard and straight on the outside, hollow on the inside, don’t you remember? How old were you?
‘Why does it just have to be about Argentina? There were other absurdities at that time - the Vietnam War, for example. I associate secondary school with the Vietnam War and that evil man, of course, what’s his name? ... I took the 152 bus at a quarter to seven in the morning; there was a guard who made us kneel down at the school door, on that cold worn marble step, typical of public buildings. We had to show that our skirt covered our knees. But you know that now ...’
‘Don’t get upset. And don’t even think about crying in front of him! It’s the worst thing you can possibly do, as I’ve said to you several times. There are so many people who genuinely believed that the military ... That was worse than the military itself ... I’m going to buy a whistling kettle, I’ve been promising that for years. Yes, of course, the thing is that I didn’t have time ... Here you can be poor but cultured, that’s what kills me about today, now it doesn’t matter to people, darling, they don’t care at all.’
‘You reminded me of a happening in the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella arts centre, the first one I went to. The one with sixty people with sixty radios, with sixty televisions ... What was it called? It was very ingenious, really good. But I prefer not to remember anything about my adolescence at that time ... It makes me angry, I had hopes, in spite of things with Mum ... And what is my life now? What a disaster!’ said Andrea as she looked at her legs.
‘What happened between you two ... I understand that today it seems like the end of world, but it isn’t. Marriages break up, in your generation it’s like that. Mine was different ...’
‘What are you saying, that what’s happened to me is really common? So I shouldn’t be complaining because it’s happened to so many women that ... There’s something to what you say, you’re right: I feel ashamed. Because Pedro has left me for a twenty-five or twenty-seven year old, whatever ... I tried so many times to help patients detach themselves from what people say and now I feel like there are people laughing at me all the time. The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot ... eh?
‘Don’t you believe it, I felt the same when Ernesto left for Spain, and when Juancho died too, you know. It seems as though you’re a typical widow, the typical mother with her son living abroad, it’s that no woman wants to be run of the mill. That’s life, see? In the long run we end up alone: believe me. And we’re alone in the middle too.’
‘But there are ways of finding yourself on your own ...’
‘See? You go on about that, with what the neighbours will say. You’ve spent your life saying what everyone else says doesn’t matter, that what’s important are your own ideas. I think that’s good, I wouldn’t tell you any different. It’s therapeutic. That’s why now ... I don’t understand: you should use it for yourself. Don’t go yet, wait a bit until I take out the cake.’
‘Stop, Mum ... oops! That’s incredible! Nothing like this has ever happened to me.’
‘You see, now that is sad, she left us so suddenly ...’
‘I swallowed it all down, when mum died I put on a brave face. I wanted to be grown up all of a sudden.’
‘Oh, don’t start blaming yourself now, how can you criticise yourself for that. It was her decision ... Made in the most absolute kind of solitude there is.’ ‘Yes, I know, you’re going to tell me that it’s ... In the end, we’re nothing more than a compendium of clichés.’
‘As I see it, the ways things were before was terrible, but now they’re even worse. Impunity, this is the era of impunity, people are enthralled by looking at rich people’s houses in magazines, the ones who are robbing them to make themselves millionaires. Juancho lost sight of that. With everything I yelled at him the day he defended the military coup, I think nothing could ever surprise him again. Who knows whether he was more frightened of, the military, or me. The thing is, people arrive at drastic solutions.’
‘Like Pedro ...’
‘Will you give Pedro a rest? You can be sure, very soon, you’re going to feel like a weight has been lifted from you. I always say that when one person leaves the other, deep down, they’re doing the other person a favour.’
‘That’s very wise of you. I always thought you should have been a psychoanalyst.’
‘Don’t even think about it, people telling me their sob stories all day, and strangers at that, no darling, it’s not for me, you’re good at that. You’ve got patience, woman. I couldn’t, I’d tell them to get lost ... I’ve already got my plane ticket, did I tell you?
‘It’s great you’re up for flying!’
‘You should be telling me to stay.’
‘You’re a crazy bitch, as Sofi would say.’
‘Of course, there’s your problem, too good. Now you’re going to have time to dedicate to yourself. Husbands take up an incredible amount of time. Do you realise the number of women who spend their lives dedicated to their husband?’ said Felisa, while she passed the mate tea to Andrea.
‘He’s coming today to take a few things. But I’m telling you that I have the feeling that it’s never going to end. How can a house be split in two? How do you know whose is whose after so many years.’
‘And are you going to be there?’
‘It wouldn’t have even occurred to me not to be.’
‘What for, to suffer? Go for a walk.’
‘I have to see patients.’
‘Then don’t even think about making an appearance.
‘But ... you, who do you think you are?’
‘I’m going to have to put an awning over this little balcony. The sun’s going to destroy my parquet floor. It’s such good wood! You see? Pale brown, the colour I like. A lot of time goes by before you get to know a house. But I’m happy, you know? With all it took me to move ... I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. That’s why I’m saying let him take his things. It’s a dreadful job, I had to do it on my own. What does it matter where he takes them?
‘Knowing who is who after so many years is even more difficult ...’ said Andrea, lighting a cigarette. ‘I can’t give up, I’ve already given in. When a little bit of all this is behind me ...’
Andrea took a white ashtray which she found on top of the little mahogany table by the side of the sofa. She felt like talking to Pedro. Talk about what? If they don’t have anything to say to each other anymore. She read out the inscription Hotel Las Cumbres, Pcía. de Córdoba in her head. What was still left to do about the financial side of the relationship could be resolved through other people: solicitors, willing friends, relatives. The kids were old enough to express themselves, she said to herself, and shook her head.
‘There were good things too, Feli, I don’t know, the pill, for starters, that was wonderful, a liberation. We didn’t have carry to the diaphragm around with us everywhere ...’
‘It made you put on weight.’
‘You’re just saying that because you’re jealous.’
‘The other day someone came to fix the washing machine. My neighbour downstairs bought herself an automatic one. She christened it Maria. She says that since she’s had Maria, she no longer bothers with laundry ...’
‘Why are you so sure that I shouldn’t make an appearance when Pedro comes?’
‘Don’t think anymore about him, you should forbid the image of Pedro to enter you mind. Like in yoga exercises, remember? When they tell you to allow your thoughts to pass, that if some obsession surfaces you let it go...’
‘Those are formulas ...’
Felisa kept silent. She observed her bookshelves. Her gaze rested on the Complete Works of Federico García Lorca. She herself had covered them in leather. She concluded that that had only been a fleeting pastime and that the important thing was to classify the books.
‘You realise that people take sides? Marina is totally on Pedro’s side. It makes me despair. It was obvious. But I didn’t realise that it was going to be like this. A crisis situation lends itself to anything. Everything which has been covered up comes to the surface. I’ve seen it so much in my consulting room ... I’ll have to go back to studying, find new readings of the texts. These days I’m lost ...’
‘Okay, but that doesn’t matter now ...’
‘What? I’m seeing patients all day, I don’t believe in anything I say to them and you think it doesn’t matter either way!’
‘You have to make more of any effort with your appearance. Throw out those shoes. You have to chuck them in the bin, right away. If you leave them in your cupboard, you’ll wear them again. Once I hid some slippers and I went to look for them at the bottom of the wardrobe to put them on. That’s how we are. There are women who spend their time in the hairdresser, buying clothes and drinking tea with friends ... Then there are ones like us who always put off what is ours, goodness knows in pursuit of what.’
‘Maybe ... The thing is you get so used to attending to your kids’ every need that you completely forget your own. I leave what I have to do for me until later on. Now I propose writing it down in my diary.’
‘It’s a step. Then you have to look at it.’
‘No, I’m being serious, you think because you write it down then you’ll do it, but when it comes to it, you don’t. I’m old, come on, I tried many different ways, but this is what I’m telling you. I’m thirty years older than you, if I hadn’t learned something in all that time we’d be doing really badly ...’
Felisa swiftly tucked the lining of her black skirt underneath. It looked proper: straight cut, black, made of wool. It wasn’t new, but nor had it lost its colour. Her yellow V-neck sweater was reflected in her light brown eyes even turning them the same colour. Her slim figure refused to betray the seventy years she’d been alive. She cared for her appearance as if she hadn’t given it much thought, as if she feared that it would brand her superficial. Despite her age, her husband’s recent death (it happened three years ago) and being retired in Argentina, she hadn’t let herself go. She was also writing her memoires.
As she took small steps to get nearer the window, Felisa tried to drag from her memory the year that she had started at the University in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. She pushed a Thonet chair towards the table so as to be able to get by, looking at the woven palm seat which was about to give way. She lowered the blind by a few centimetres. She remembered the boredom that the first class in Spanish grammar had brought out in her, and the excitement, in contrast, with which she had scoured the shelves of the library.
For Felisa, writing her memoire was a liberation, from who knows what, a door which had opened to her in an unexpected moment of her existence, in a sudden way and at an age which she would have expected to merely go on living. Felisa had taken notes as much about personal things as about the political, social and even the everyday things throughout her life, without any apparent motive, the tremor and the urge of not forgetting always passing through her. She had kept it a secret. She thought, it wasn’t her domain to get involved in areas for which she wasn’t prepared, writing books was one of them. According to Felisa, one should not enter into anything which was not strictly one’s own, possibly the precursor to specialisation? It’s clear that life had been intent on showing her that it wasn’t like this, so it was better for her to be more flexible.
‘Are you still writing your memoire? I’ve always loved your anecdotes about Borges, our Che, Alicia Moreau de Justo! I’ve spent my life telling them to my friends’, said Andrea.
‘I was reading Bill Gates. He’s bloody intelligent, don’t you think? Listen, to introduce a computer into every home. And to win the case against the computer company with the little apples, you see? They say they’re even more creative, that they invented everything ...’
‘Vil Gueits? Who’s that? A pretender? I learned that word when I was fifteen ... I thought it was a really funny word.’
‘Yes, I’m writing. At my age it’s better not to leave any project ... You think that I don’t pretend to enter the literary world ... It’s spilling out of me like something uncontrollable.’
‘But life expectancy for women these days is something like 85! You’ve just turned seventy ... And you look so good, it’s enviable...’
‘That’s for developed countries. Here anything can happen to you. You remember that period of black outs? A neighbour of mine, at the other house, had a miscarriage going up the stairs. Another neighbour died, because they didn’t get to him in time; we had no electricity and on top of that ...’
‘Stop Feli. Why do you get taken up with those things, morbid fascination?’
‘It’s reality, that’s why I chose a flat on one of the ground floors, at least they can get me out of here quickly’, said Felisa, pointing to the window of her living room which looked out on Caseros Avenue, five blocks from Parque Lezama. ‘But come into my bedroom, I’m going to show you something.’
‘What’s this? How fantastic! You’ve done it up! And the desk made of light wood ...’
‘I was convinced that I was not going to access cybernetics in this life, I even resisted the predetermined fate for these machines in the library. What it is not to know ... I used to believe that a typewriter was all I needed. I learned to use the programme Word and Word Perfect. But they’re too fiddly. A friend of Ernesto installed everything, imagine. He sent the money from Spain. It was my seventieth birthday present. At first I got annoyed, I thought that ...’
‘Now I do have to go. You don’t know how difficult it is for me to move. It’s as if I had an elephant sitting on top of me all day. And I have to move like this. It’s difficult like my fucking mother.
‘At least, you’ve got quite a lot of work. Every time I call you’re seeing a patient.’
‘Well, let’s face it, it’s not as if I’ve had a perfect life, nothing close, my marriage wasn’t that wonderful either, as you know, but I had to believe that it was better than it really was, or, God knows why, it gave me a feeling of protection. A false one, that’s for sure, I don’t know from what kind of crap I felt immune. Immune because of being married! That’s absurd! Don’t you think?