January 14th, 1976
Mamá got a letter about a week ago, and burst into tears. It had no name attached, no return address, but she knew it was from her little brother, Ramon, who is closer in age to us than to Mamá. He, like Felipe is full of fire, and has been playing with matches, we heard at University in Temuco. Abuela has been scolding everyone like crazy. She’s so terrified that we’ll end up who knows where. We watched Mamá open the letter, and everyone’s heart imploded.
But Ramón didn’t get disappeared in fact. Instead his letter is full of birds cut from newspapers, stamps of airplanes repeated like tiles on the kitchen floor. Ramón is an artist. He paints beautiful murals on sidewalks and retaining walls, mainly without permission, at this point. Cityscapes alive with light in the nighttime, la Virgen María in a halo of gothic twists, heart aflame, and more recently darker things. He showed up on our doorstep a week later, and the tears flowed again. He smiles and gives everyone hugs, but something has happened, and the older of us can feel it.
Oscár is disgruntled because his uncle has taken his bed, and now he sleeps on my floor. Not so many years ago the snappy older sister in me would have told him to be grateful that he has such a clever lively uncle to share his home with, but the fear is too present and I can’t get the words across my lips. Oscár, still only sixteen, hasn’t accepted our sibling truce, and continues to pester me about how I’m not married. “I’m an independent woman!” I say, but really I’m burning inside. On one hand, what a time to start a family, with everyone constantly in and out of hiding, changing names, and making midnight trysts that if something should happen to Bélen or Damien or Liliana, that the others will take their children and keep them safe. The thought makes me sick, and I’m glad not to have a husband or child to lose. Only three brothers and an uncle.