A Weight on My Shoulders

June 1, 1978

Our entire lives have been consumed with fear. Each day I leave work trembling, afraid that today will be the day that I am taken from my home that night. Each day I watch my students leave the classroom in the afternoon, wondering if that was the last time I get to see them shuffle out of the room, all of them quietly staring at their feet. I can see it in my students faces, even though we never talk about it. The empty seats in the classroom, the constant revolving door of substitute teachers, it all goes without comment. The teachers all sit in the break room mostly silent with sporadic conversation that wilts under the palpable tension, and occasionally one of us will start crying. We discuss which assignments to cut out of our lesson plans, scrutinizing our own work more and more as time goes on. If any book has the slightest hint of revolution, we can’t teach it. It breaks my heart, but I know I must make these decisions not only for myself, but for the safety of the school and my students.

Living in Argentina is so frightening and unsettling yet somehow forcibly normal. I wake up in the apartment that Alicia and I share, make coffee, the two of us go to work, come home and have dinner. We go out on Saturday evenings, have drinks in downtown Cordoba, chat with friends about the World Cup. But the heavy feeling never leaves, even for those tiny moments of laughter or a quick smile. Then the dread seeps back in. Imagining all the people coming from all around the world for the matches, cheering for their teams, clueless to the unfathomable suffering going on just outside the stadium. It’s as if an invisible weight is permanently strapped to my shoulders, and a hand around my throat. There is no use in calling for help. There is no one to help us. The tears come from frustration and confusion, instead of anger. There’s no point in being angry, because there isn’t anybody to be angry at.

That inescapable weight comes from guilt just as much as fear. To think that so many of us wanted this just a few years ago. How naive we all were. We wanted this to happen. We truly thought this would fix Argentina, that the military would come in and do what they were supposed to do- protect us, repair what was wrong, give Argentina the order that we needed. We could not possibly imagine that our world would become the stuff of nightmares. And still, we all get up in the morning and go on with our day. Are we supposed to blame ourselves? Are we supposed to feel guilty for wanting Isabel gone, praying for some semblance of stability, only to have this instead? Are we supposed to blame Vidal, for shoving words down our throats, demanding we be real Argentines, when he is the most artificial of us all?

1 thought on “A Weight on My Shoulders

  1. ssvolk says:

    It seems to be a moment in which many Argentines are trying to figure out just what does it mean to be Argentinian. Are we somehow destined to be buffeted between right and left, decade after decade? Wasn’t it better in the past, or was that just for the rich?

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