The history upside down
From that time, the first, he saw her smile between heads and faces in the crowd. He didn’t know her, but the meeting had already been planned and labeled as necessary. “Are you Mariano?”, she said. Her voice was accompanied by warm eyes, a small nose, and abundant dark hair. She smiled when he said: “Mariano, at your command,” and he not only took her hand, but kissed it, without taking his eyes off her. She could not do anything else but let out a laugh, but that slight brush of his lips on her skin shook her. The people returned to move them away, but the idea of the meeting already noted in his agenda gave him the peace of mind to not keep looking for her in every angle of the room.
At that meeting, nothing new was being said, she kept looking at his eyes, that calmed her down and at the same time made flutters in her chest. Will it be correct to ask, “let’s go out for a coffee?”, she thought when he did not look at her. It was obviously impossible that they could have a moment alone to talk together. The meeting was a morass of details recorded in minutes and he ran away because, however advanced the night, he had another commitment later.
The day of the parade for Fiestas Patrias she almost did not see him, a lot of press was called, as the protocol act required. She had a hard time going in a dress, she thought it was silly, she felt uncomfortable with high heels. I with a heel!, she was recriminating herself. But it was the cost of being a public figure. She looked beautiful to him, even though her discomfort was noticeable. It called to a great tenderness that combination of obedient girl with revolutionary spirit.
She forced herself not to think, to forget the nervousness and the glare of his gaze. To walk down Avenida Abancay, trying to get to the bus stop as soon as possible, she felt that someone touched her arm, turned around angrily and raised her fist.
He was startled to realize that she was about to hit him, he covered himself with hurried hands and shouted “it’s me.” It was the only time he heard her say anything rude. “Shit!” She rebuked him for not passing the voice. “If I’m screaming at you two blocks ago,” he explained. But she could not hear him between the old engines roaring and the incessant murmur of people coming and going. They walked to the Cordano restaurant. A good conversation, a coffee and a bread with buttery cheese were enough to relieve the anger.
That casual outing on Monday afternoon, when she was returning from the community house became daily and he from the office where he did piecework. Although it is hard to believe, they did not touch beyond that kiss on the hand, that first time. Both fled to contact because they knew that the encounter would be determinate.
He scanned every pore, every freckle, every invisible hair of her skin. She enjoyed his smell of cinnamon and shampoo, of his apple-toothed breath, of the low tone of his voice. He was excited by the passion with which she expressed her ideas, the indignation that made her cheeks pink and the strip of her bra that appeared and disappeared according to her movements. She was interested in the calculating way in which he analyzed the situations, how he found the source of the conflicts and a possible solution. They laughed like a cover-up of crying. He told her after a bad joke of priests, a cold August afternoon: “I love you”. She was not surprised, nor did the words make her happy, the same words that she had stopped on the tip of her tongue so many times. She could not stop repeating that, despite loving him, that love was impossible.
He understood the situation; she had a partner, he too, they had to face them and society, to prejudice, to lack of understanding. Impossible no, complicated. Many people involved. Pains that would dull the joy of being together. “I love you too,” she replied after she averted his eyes, but it sounded like a sad phrase. It was. He missed her playful smile lost in the crowd, where she apparently belonged.
They ventured to that truth that they could not avoid. She tried in many ways to tell Susana, her wife, but there was no way, the words did not come out. Before the rodeos of Mariano, Julio was the one who rebuked him “have you be in bed with other guy, right?” When he spoke of Liliana, he shrugged off, went back to the book, to the semi-darkness on his side of the bed.” It will pass,” sentenced him. When Susana found her crying, she thought it was cancer. No. It’s Mariano. Susana said, “thank goodness, I thought it was something serious.”
The decision had to be made once and for all. They left each with a small suitcase and they stayed in a room far from the center. They were left without work, without friends. They touched several doors and they were closed. Every day they dealt with the desperate calls of Susana and Julio, respectively. They were exhausted, hungry, indignant.
She had obtained a position as a waitress and he as a clerk in a bookstore. As living in isolation did not work to persuade them, then psychological reasons came. Surely it was a moment of confusion in his identity, perhaps a childhood trauma or some self-destructive drive that led them to live that abjection, to get away from the natural attraction that people felt for their peers. Reproduction was a separate thing, pure necessity of survival, for that were the banks and the obligation that every healthy man and woman donate at least once their seeds. An uncomfortable procedure, but necessary. Joined moved by love and run the risk of generating kids was scandalous, the number of babies that would populate the earth!
It was not bad for them. They took what they needed to live, but that was not the life they wanted. They had handholds. Soon they began to fight among themselves, to pay attention only to the small annoying details. It’s that simple. They reached the deepest, the darkest, the darkness of the hat.
As they were key parts of the government, those from below forgave them and those at the top turned a blind eye. Again they saw themselves in a very busy meeting, each on one side of the room, with their eyes well placed in the notes. At the exit, two parked cars awaited them to take them home. Neither of them looked at each other.
That Monday, in the Cordano, in their last meeting alone, the bread with cheese remained intact,the coffee cooled. He wanted to kiss her hand and she refused that contact. Any possible approach would have been fatal to history.