It’s 12 April, 2014, and I turned 59 yesterday. It rained today for the second time this year, which means tomorrow la Cordillera should be visible for the whole city to see. Amalia and I moved to Santiago in the winter of 1992, I had just turned 37. I was so excited to live in such a beautiful big city, but my friends in Rancagua kept warning me of the ugly esmog, telling me the city was super feo sin las moñtanas lindas. And they weren’t wrong. The city begins to turn to gray starting in April, with the thick smog matching the industrial tones of modernization and progress on seemingly every building exterior.
But after it rains, Santiago es increíble. It rained for the first time about three weeks after we moved here. I was sick of the smog after two days, but Amalia kept reminding me that the city was trapped in a valley and we lived among 4 million other people…esmog was to be expected. Three weeks in, it finally rained.
After it rains, Santiago es sorprendente. I snoozed for too long that day in June, and hurriedly drank my cafecito, brushed my teeth, and headed out the door in order to make it to school on time. I ran to the micro stop a few blocks away, worried I had missed my bus; I looked east down the road, hoping to see the bus a few blocks down. It was the first time I saw Andes from Santiago.
After the rain, Santiago es hermoso. I started crying when I saw the mountains. The micro was a few blocks down the road, and my tears hadn’t stopped by the time I signaled for it to stop. I stood on the crowded morning bus, silently crying all the way to Recoleta. When I tried to explain my tears to Amalia that night, she told me that she too had cried her first winter in Santiago when she was 18. She laughed and reminded me that she used to rave about the mountains when she was in university here, and would always tell me that I wouldn’t fully understand the beauty until I joined her at La Chile. She was right.
The day after it rains, I usually wake up for the sunrise, in order to spend as much time with the Cordillera as possible. Amalia started to join me after the first few times; we’ll sit on the balcony of our departamento for as long as we possibly can, until one of us has to run to catch the micro to work. A few years ago it rained a lot in July, so we bought an extension cord so we could bring our estufa out with us during those frigid mornings. On these early mornings, I often think about what the mountains look like from Cuicolandia, or even el Centro. They are so clear from our balcony; I can’t imagine how beautiful they must be the closer you get. Or maybe, the people there are too close to see the beauty.
I don’t think I’m going to wake up for the sunrise tomorrow morning. The year’s first rain came last week, and I eagerly anticipated my time with the Cordillera the following day. The next morning, Amalia beat me to the balcony, and by the time I came outside with her tecito, silent tears were streaming down her face. We sat in stillness as the sun slowly lifted itself over the enormous mountains and revealed the Costanera and the rest of the tall buildings in Providencia. I let Amalia cry.
She eventually whispered something that I didn’t hear. I murmured “no te caché”, and she repeated a bit louder, “no quiero recordar”. The sun continued to rise, the magnificence of the Cordillera was brilliant. We sat in silence again. I let Amalia cry.
I don’t think I’m going to wake up for the sunrise tomorrow morning. After the last sunrise, I returned to my bed, and stayed there for almost two days. Amalia thought that I had gotten sick and tried to take care of me, but I couldn’t look at her. I had never before seen my incredible sister so broken. Not after she was forced to return to Rancagua without finishing her carrera, not after Mata was disappeared, not after we lost Papá and Mamá within six months of each other. Never before. I saw her face like I hadn’t ever seen it; when did she get so old? I didn’t dare to look in the mirror. Have we been wearing our buried pain on our faces all this time?
Tomorrow, the Cordillera will be radiantly lit up by the sunrise. But I cannot bear to watch it. I am not ready to confront myself with her pain, or my own. I have deferred to my older, smart, beautiful, perfect sister for as long as I can remember, and I’m unsurprised when her pain resonates with my own.
I wish I couldn’t remember.