Wednesday, August 2, 2017

the last book I ever read (My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain: A Novel, excerpt fourteen)

from My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain: A Novel by Patricio Pron:

Among the things I was remembering were the stories my father’s comrades told about the flurry of activity in the city of *osario during that period and how students and workers marched side by side in their demonstrations. Tapes of speeches by Juan Domingo Perón that he recorded in exile in Madrid and that periodically, through more or less mysterious channels, came into the hands of members of the organization, who spread them around the neighborhoods; by this I don’t mean the content of the tapes—which I seem to remember my parents’ comrades had forgotten—but rather their physicality, the tapes in their reels and the devices used to reproduce them, including one particular device that I used during my childhood and was black and white and often didn’t work. A monument in the shape of an inverted spider that my parents and their comrades called the Mandarin, in a working-class neighborhood beside a stream of polluted water filled with prodigious fish. The stories of belonging to the organization, of its members’ private lives, including the story of one comrade who had been expelled for having gone to bed with a member of a rival organization. The defections of some of its members, described with indignation but also with something like bafflement and compassion for their former comrades. A statistic—one hundred fifty members of the organization dead during the illegal crackdown—that had been determined by human rights organizations. My mother explaining to me one day how to create a barricade, how to unhitch a trolleybus and how to make a Molotov cocktail. The memory, real or imagined, of my father telling me that he had a press pass for the box where Perón was supposedly going to speak when he arrived at Ezeiza (this is the real part of the memory), and that, when the crossfire began, he hid behind the case of a double bass in the orchestra pit (in what might be the imagined part of the memory). Also my mother’s stories about her march to meet Perón on his first return in 1972, her crossing the Matanza River with its thick rotten water up to her waist and some white pants she’d had to throw out, her stories and the stories of her girlfriends about Perón’s death on July 1, 1974, and the lines to bid farewell to the great man in the cold driving rain that covered their tears, and the people approaching the young folks to give them food or a cup of coffee as they waited their turn out in the rain, more exposed to the elements than they’d ever been before; and later, the return by train, a train with broken windows that let in the cold and rain and all the death that would take place in the months and years to come; and the sadness and the crying and the feeling that everything had ended. I also remember the death of one of my parents’ comrades, which they had once told me about; it happened in January 1976 and sent my mother into hiding at my paternal grandparents’ house. When my father took her there, he told her: If you haven’t heard from me in a week, don’t look for me, and my mother stayed there, in that town, with my father’s parents, drifting through the days of that week with her eyes closed. Then, the powerlessness in the face of everything that was happening and the fear, which as a child I’d thought my parents didn’t feel and yet they felt much more than I’d thought: they lived with it and fought against it and they held us in it like one holds up a newborn in a hospital room so that the baby becomes one with the air that surrounds him and will surround him and therefore lives; and the lack of an organization, which in those years meant a lack of boundaries and of direction and of binding ties, and friends who couldn’t be seen again because of the risk that such meetings would be interpreted as a return to the struggle, and the loneliness and the cold. Also, the private rituals that were going to end up leaving marks on all of us, particularly those of us who were children at the time: the ban on parties, the precautions in using the telephone, the compartmentalization, my father walking to the car every morning, my siblings holding hands and avoiding objects on the sidewalks, my walking against traffic and lowering my head whenever a police car passed, sharing the silence with my parents and my siblings, being somewhat perplexed every time that—but this happened many years later—my parents got together with their comrades and the painful memories and the happy ones were layered in their voices, along with the nicknames or noms de guerre that they still used, and got mixed up and melded into something difficult for me to explain and perhaps inconceivable to their children, and that was an affection and a solidarity and a loyalty among them that went beyond the differences they might have had in the present and which I attributed to a feeling that I too could have had toward other people if we’d shared something unique and fundamental, if—and this, of course, sounds childish or perhaps metaphorical, but it’s not in the least—I’d been willing to give my life for people and those people had been willing to give their lives for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment