A space of multiple falls

Mi hermana, Diana Andrade, tradujo este texto mío que apareció en la última entrega de la revista de Punto de Partida, Un espacio de múltiples caídas, al inglés. Interesante ver como cambian las sensaciones de las cosas leídas en otro idioma. Pasen a leer (o a practicar su inglés, con Larousse en mano) y manden kudos a Diana, para que se anime a traducir más cosas, más ahora que su plan de vida ya involucra adentrarse al oscuro mundo de las Letras y la Lingüística y prepararse como traductora. ¡Yey por un post positivo para el futuro! También no olviden leer todo lo que hay en la revista. ¡En serio una lectura imperdible!

How nice it is of me to be writing to you,
when you’re not writing to me.

Virginia Woolf to Vita Sacville-West,
July, 1927.

It rains. I walk down to the meeting point: from my house to the busiest downtown avenue. I carry my mother’s umbrella, the mint colored one with red flowers. It looks like she bought it in some Chinese store: it isn’t sturdy. It’s not cold, it only drizzles from right to left, in spite of being mid September.

We agreed to go for coffee to our favorite bakery, near the Cathedral. Then to maybe go to the movies or to visit the art exposition in local crafts market. Nothing set in stone. “There’s a really interesting film in the local cinema”, he said. “¿Did you know that that person will be at the exposition?”, I answered.

To get to the avenue, I must go down a cluster of stairs that starts at the edge of the church and ends on our meeting point. I say cluster because said street is parts stairs and parts ramp, and then the unevenness of the garage ramps from the houses. So the railing comes and goes. The alley gives the feeling of have been sketched by Escher. Towards the end, the stairs bifurcate: left and right, a hole opens up in the middle which –for the sound of constant running water– gives way to the sewers.

I go downstairs carefully. I recall the lights of the ambulance and people circling a spot on the floor: a long time ago, a lady rolled down the stairs to her death. After that, the local government renewed the alley. Before, it was just stairs.

In total, there are two hundred quarry steps, the edges gone and now a liquid roundness makes the most accomplished feet slip. Sometimes those feet are mine. I stop by the church’s closed gate. My boots are sinked in a black puddle that reflects the exact greenish glow of the glossy umbrella. It’s early still, he won’t be here for five or ten minutes.

I fell here when I was thirteen, or maybe a few more steps towards the center of the stairs. I was late to the end-of-school mass and I ran downhill without measuring the narrow space of the step. A twisted ankle, hands inside the pockets of my sweater. I fell sideways and hit my head to the edge of the sidewalk. I woke up between the embrace of a neighbor and the screams of the nuns coming out from the temple. Until I arrived to the hospital I could see myself in a mirror. Inside the restroom of the ER, my head and half my face were soaked in blood that matched my burgundy uniform, which smelled like iron. I looked like a heroine, like an amazon. It didn’t even hurt. I’ve never looked more beautiful.

When I told him about my incident, he laughed: “only you would be happy to crack your head in two”, he said. I informed him that the sidewalk displayed my blood for three days before the neighbor who found me washed it with water and Pine-Sol. “It was the most interesting moment of my life”, I added faking hurt. Sometimes, in the darkness of his room, he runs his hands through my hair and his fingers stop for a moment on the six-stitched scar. As payment in kind, I kiss the scar in his knuckles that he got on a fight. “We’re the same”, I tell him. “Marks of war.”

We have walked these stairs up and down many times. He likes them. “I see you at the stairs”, he texts me and I obey. I wait for him and watch him arrive from the avenue. Sometimes we go up to my house or even farther. Sometimes we go inside the church’s patio and sit between the pepper tree and the shrine of the Patrocinio’s virgin. I then share pieces of me: “There was a fountain before. I was baptized here. There, they threw the coins. They fell like gushes from my father’s hands, like streams of silvery water. There, the children rose their hands thinking of spending their coins on orange juice and cookies. It was filled with sound. It is filled with sound now, even though there’s only you and me whispering secrets.”

On one occasion he tripped on a ramp. I caught him by the sweater before he fell. “What would I do with you and your head cracked open?” We laughed like fools. I imagined him in a puddle of blood the whole evening. It wasn’t the same heroic image that I had seen in the hospital’s restroom.

The water of the puddle trembles when a group of women walk downstairs to the avenue in a rush.

I have dreamt of that place as well. At night, the entire city is mine. Its ruffs, the parks and the treetops, the hills and the alleys. He and I, sitting on the ancient stairs. Calmly, he says: “We can’t see each other anymore” and I don’t cry. His face darkens even darker than the night surrounding us. “¿Do you remember that time when I went through town, all the way to your window and tapped gently because I didn’t want to fright you? I couldn’t stop looking at you, even if I wanted to”, I tell him. Sometimes I dream that we dance and music comes through the stones. Sometimes we’re not ourselves: we have different faces, different lives, and we find each other in that middle point. One going up and the other going down.

Although the question remains: “What would you do if it weren’t me and you weren’t you and we found each other?” He answers that probably nothing because we wouldn’t even meet. I reassure him that what we share has the same essence as any elemental force, that if we find shelter in the idea of those stairs as our inhabitable place, we are destined to something more than a relationship that will eventually end. So we choose corners between buildings, balconies with view to the city, trees that bloom with time, I take all the places we shelter on like sparrows in winter.

I see him turn at the corner. He’s smoking, in spite the rain. His hair is wet. If he sees me under a green umbrella besides the church, he doesn’t show it and leans in the wall. Throws the cigarette butt to the sewer and I descend carefully. The stair opens up in two. He’s in the right side. I go down to the left to surprise him, but he begins climbing the stairs. I shout his name from below. He turns, with a grimace. Confused, annoyed. “What were you thinking, huh?” he tells me, maybe without meaning to. While he starts coming down to where I am, I take the umbrella off me, thinking of giving it to him so that he stops getting wet. And I –with all the intention– say: about gravity.