Optic Nerve by María Gainza (Translated by Thomas Bunstead):
I am a woman hovering at the midpoint of life, but I still haven’t lost my touch completely: it is within my power, for instance, to flit from the Schiavoni painting in the National Museum of Fine Arts to the Miguel Carlos Victorica they hold in the Sivori Gallery. In other words, to make the shift from childhood to old age in an instant. In Victorica’s Aunt Cecilia, we see a woman in her seventies, gray dress—the gray of photocopiers—and about her shoulders a fox-fur stole that looks stuck with thistles. She reminds me of Miss Brill, the middle-aged English teacher in the Katherine Mansfield story who lives in a small town on the French Riviera. Miss Brill goes for a walk every day in the Jardins Publiques, but the morning on which we join her is cooler than usual and she decides to take her fox-fur stole out of its box. At the park, she finds a bench and sits watching the couples strolling arm in arm: “They were odd, silent, nearly all old, and from the way they stared they looked as though they’d just come from dark little rooms or even—even cupboards!” Like Miss Brill, the Victorica produces an uneasy sensation in me, akin to trying to breathe underwater.